DENVER — Joe Biden used his speech accepting the Democratic vice presidential nomination last night to signal the roles he’ll likely play until Election Day: loyal messenger for running mate Barack Obama, liaison to the working class and aggressive attacker of the Republican rival.
“Millions of Americans have been knocked down,” the Delaware senator said. “And this is the time as Americans, together, we get back up.”
Biden has served more than 35 years in the Senate, but he fully embraced Obama’s change theme and asserted that John McCain would continue President Bush’s policies.
And though during his own unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden questioned Obama’s readiness to be president, he testified Wednesday to Obama’s judgment on foreign policy — a perceived weakness for Obama and one of Biden’s strong suits.
Biden also reached out to the blue-collar voters whom Obama struggled to win over during his contentious fight with Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Biden’s 20-minute address was sandwiched between Bill Clinton’s much-anticipated call to unity and a surprise appearance by Obama that sent the convention hall crowd into a tizzy.
Biden, who was introduced by his son Beau, the Delaware attorney general, cast himself as a scrapper who’s persevered through tough times and a devoted family man who has never forgotten his blue-collar roots.
And he said his apple-pie upbringing imparted to him the same values as Obama’s more exotic background, which Republicans have sought to portray as somehow less American.
“Barack and I took very different journeys to this destination, but we share a common story,” Biden said. “Mine began in Scranton, Pa., and then Wilmington, Del. My dad, who fell on hard economic times, but always told me: 'Champ, when you get knocked down, get up. Get up.'”
The “knocked down” line resembles closely one Hillary Clinton used often. And Biden hit other themes that echoed her stump speeches, including recollections of family instilling the value of hard work and — a message Obama also has embraced — how Bush’s economic policies are putting the American dream out of reach for many.
“I’ve never seen a time when Washington has watched so many people get knocked down without doing anything to help them back up,” Biden said.
It was about the closest that Biden came to asserting that Washington is broken — a major aspect of Obama’s message. But Biden did testify to Obama’s ability to bring change, touting the ethics reform legislation that Obama cites as his top legislative accomplishment and predicting that Obama would reform the tax code, education system and energy portfolio.
“That’s the change we need,” he declared after listing each.
Though Biden referred to McCain — with whom he’s served for more than 25 years in the Senate and whom he once identified as “one of my heroes” — as “my friend,” he unleashed a series of harsh attacks seeking to link McCain to Bush’s tax, energy and Iraq policies.
“That’s not change; that’s more of the same,” he said after each.
On foreign policy, Biden chided McCain for opposing timelines for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and opposing diplomatic discussions with Iran. Obama's position on both issues is the opposite.
“John McCain was wrong; Barack Obama was right,” said Biden, who had criticized Obama during the primary for supporting discussions with rogue leaders without setting preconditions.
“These are extraordinary times. This is an extraordinary election,” Biden said. “The American people are ready. I'm ready. Barack is ready.
“This is his time. This is our time. This is America's time,” he concluded to rousing cheers that drew much louder when Obama joined him on stage.