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The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works....(Barack Obama)

Monday, June 05, 2006

What Elected Office in Delaware Does Beau Biden Really Want?

I wish I could have stopped thinking I was watching the kickoff of Beau Biden’s bid for the US Senate in 2008 as I stood in the packed and sweltering Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday, June 1, 2006. The lineaments of the much speculated plan are obvious. Beau’s father, US Senator for Delaware Joe Biden, has all but etched in stone his commitment to run for Presidency in 2008, probably hoping that a run for the White House will create an opportunity to trade a withdraw from the race and an endorsement for the nominee-apparent for a cabinet position, especially Secretary of State. (A wild card possibility has Joe Biden running for VP with John McCain on an independent fusion ticket after it becomes clear to McCain that the power brokers in the Republican Party’s will pull out all the stops to crush his nomination.)

In short, the “plan” has Senator Joe Biden not seeking reelection in 2008 and Beau, after serving two years as Attorney General, runs for the seat. And it does have a certain sentimental appeal:” Son following in his father’s footsteps, continuing the family tradition, and we can all participate in this great American story by putting Beau in the US Senate in 2008. Such manipulation of the political process to create a political family dynasty would be enough to make the discerning political observer wretch if it in fact occurs in 2008.

The “plan” could be discounted merely as speculation, however, if there wasn’t detectable misleading manipulation going on in Biden’s campaign for Attorney General. But there is. That’s a pity for the people of Delaware. It is also a pity for Beau Biden himself.

Beau Biden’s Proposals

I have heard Beau Biden speak twice. The second time his delivery was far better than his first. He is obviously a quick study. It’s also clear that Beau Biden probably could make an effective politician. He’s smart, dynamic, and engaging.

At his campaign kickoff he discussed a few interesting initiatives that he would like to implement as Attorney General:

"The new century has brought with it new types of crime that traditional methods find hard to deal with," Biden said. "An attorney
general must be an advocate for change when he sees where the law may be falling behind the needs of the community." …

Among the initiatives Biden vowed to champion:
  • A child predator unit of specially trained investigators and prosecutors.
  • A strike force made up of members of the Justice Department's elder abuse unit, its Medicaid unit and its consumer protection
    unit to fight abuse of senior citizens.

  • A task force to combat identity theft.
  • "Community prosecutors" who would work closely with neighborhood-based police to fight crime.

"That's not a new idea," Biden said. "It's being used in other states and I think the [deputy attorneys general] will be receptive to it." (link)

He intends to protect our children, elderly, pocketbooks, and troubled neighborhoods. That just about takes in everyone’s interests, which was undoubtedly the point. On Friday, June 2nd, on the WDEL talk radio program with Gerry Fulcher, Ferris Wharton wondered if it would be wise to dedicate prosecutors only to specific task forces and take them away from their current duties. He believes the prosecution of the bulk of the crimes in Delaware would suffer unless new prosecutors were added to the AG’s office. Perhaps so; perhaps not. The answer probably depends on the numbers in each of the types and severity of crimes that occur in Delaware before one could determine if Biden’s proposals make sense relative to the number of prosecutors available.

My question about some of Biden’s suggestions is more fundamental. Unless there is some evidence that the AG’s office has a bad conviction rate against child predators, elder abusers and identity thieves, what could these task forces do to prosecute more of these perpetrators? The Deputy Attorney Generals (i.e., the prosecutors) don’t arrest perpetrators. The police do. Unless I’m missing some facts, I don’t see how having task forces in the AG’s office will generate noticeably more arrests of these kinds of criminals. Although I thought there might be some merit in Biden’s community prosecutors’ proposal, I wondered his other proposals were tendered only because they sound better than they are in fact.

The Manipulation

Much of Beau Biden’s campaign is geared to making things seem exceedingly better than reality. Here is what Biden’s website says of his experience as a Federal Prosecutor:

In 1995, Beau served as a Counsel in the Office of Policy Development, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. (“Main Justice”). Beau worked on a variety of legal and policy issues, working closely with counsel from the FBI, the ATF, and the Criminal Division. Additionally, Beau reviewed new criminal legislation and assisted federal and state prosecutors with questions regarding recently enacted legislation….

From 1997 until 2002, Beau served as a Federal Prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a Federal Prosecutor, Beau investigated and prosecuted a variety of criminal cases including violent crimes, narcotics, firearms, and ophisticated financial fraud. Moreover, Beau handled all phases of the federal prosecutions, including the investigation, the grand jury, the trial, and the appeal. (link)
That sounds fairly impressive, but according to the research done by the Delaware Republican Party, Beau Biden has only prosecuted 3 cases in his career. Notice how Biden’s website is worded so that it leads a reader to believe he has prosecuted far more than 3 cases, but it is also worded in such a way that it is perfectly consistent with the claim that he has prosecuted only 3 cases.

So if Beau has only prosecuted 3 cases in 7 years as a federal prosecutor, one must wonder if he really has a passion for the job. Wouldn’t he have asked to prosecute far more cases than three? Would any of his federal-branch supervisors have denied the request of the son of a high-ranking member of the US Senate Judiciary Committee?

Now compare Biden’s experience with someone has a passion for this line of work:

Wharton has been a member of the Delaware Bar for 27 years. A prosecutor for over 25 years, Wharton has successfully put hundreds of murderers, rapists, and other dangerous criminals behind bars. He has prosecuted at the state and federal level. Wharton is widely praised by Delaware leaders for his expertise, diligence, and competence in fighting for victims. (link)
While we all are fairly certain we know the answer to the question why does Beau Biden want to be Delaware’s Attorney General, it’s perfectly clear that Ferris Wharton probably won’t be salivating over a Delaware’s open US Senate seat in 2008. The evidence strongly suggests that Ferris Wharton wants to be Attorney General because he loves the job. But Beau Biden, it seems from his resume, wants to use the Attorney General’s office as a springboard to some other elected office.

At this point in the campaign at least, makes voting for Wharton a no-brainer.