My guestimate was that it would take about 48 hours for this story to come out. And here it is, right on schedule:
During the years that Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. was helping the credit card industry win passage of a law making it harder for consumers to file for bankruptcy protection, his son had a consulting agreement that lasted five years with one of the largest companies pushing for the changes, aides to Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign acknowledged Sunday.
In other words, when Biden gets up there and talks poignantly about the typical American family sitting around the kitchen table late at night worrying how to pay its bills, and then twists the dagger on John McCain's seven kitchen tables, it's a great line politically. but....
It's a total crock, and Biden ought to be embarassed. The sad truth is that Biden not only supported but aggressively pushed for a conservative, anti-working class bill that made life a lot harder for that family that he talked about. Here's a little of the background:
The financial services industry began seeking relief from Congress in the mid-1990s from an increase in bankruptcies that was cutting into its profits. Its initial support came from Republican lawmakers, who repeatedly introduced bills to make it more difficult for consumers to erase their debts. During that time, executives at MBNA, which was bought in 2006 by Bank of America, began donating heavily to both major political parties and many national politicians, including Mr. Biden.
Consumer advocates say that Senator Biden was one of the first Democratic leaders to support the bankruptcy bill, and he voted for it four times — in 1998, 2000, 2001 and in March 2005, when its final version passed the Senate by a vote of 74 to 25.
Travis Plunkett, legislative director of the Consumer Federation of America, a consumer group that opposed the bill, said that Senator Biden had provided a “veneer of bipartisanship” that eventually helped the credit card companies win over other Democrats. “He provided cover to other Democrats to do what the credit industry was urging them to do,” Mr. Plunkett said.
Making this even worse, as the story emphasizes, is that Biden's son Hunter was signed up by the company in a lucrative lobbying deal. On the surface, that really stinks -- but watching these things unfold over the years, I predict that Hunter Biden is probably just another candidate for the Sleazy Relatives Hall of Fame, a long list that includes neer-do-wells in both parties like Roger Clinton, Neil Bush, Billy Carter and Donald Nixon, and these usually only cause minor collatoral damage.
Of course, Delaware is also the credit-card capital of the world, and so you can make the case that this is another example of another fine political tradition -- supporting the big-money interests (and, yes, employers) in your home state over the broader interest of people in all 50 states. That was arguably sort-of OK, maybe, when Biden was just a Delaware guy, but now he's got to explain his bankruptcy vote to families around the kitchen table in places like the hard-hit Mon Valley or California's Central Valley. Good luck with that.
So why would Obama go ahead and pick someone with this kind of baggage? The answer is simple: The Republicans can't attack Biden on this issue, because their record is even worse. John McCain voted for this same sad sop to corporate America (Obama opposed it) and as the Times article notes, executives at MBNA (which has since been bought by Bank of America) were even more enthusiastic about supporting George W. Bush than backing Biden.
Can you imagine a negative ad with satanic music, grainy slow motion shots of Biden, and a narrator saying: "Joe Biden: Sleazy Tool of the Same Corporate Interests That We Support 100 Percent of the Time"? Of course not -- they can't attack Biden for backing something that McCain and Bush also supported. It just means that now Obama, who was on the people's side on this one, now won't be able to hit this issue as hard as he could.
No wonder the greatest enthusiam for Biden is not from party activists but from the usual chattering classes in D.C. As Glenn Greenwald wrote:
Ever since it became clear that Obama would be the likely nominee, the political establishment has been demanding of him more and more proof that his "change" rhetoric is just that -- rhetoric, and not anything meant as a genuine threat to the prevailing order of things. Obama, arguably out of political necessity, has repeatedly obliged, eagerly trying to offer proof that he is no threat to them, and the Biden selection is but the latest step in that campaign of reassurance. In sum, Biden is a reliable supporter of virtually every prevailing bit of conventional wisdom within the American elite political consensus, which is why his selection has been widely praised by the establishment, whose principal concern is that their fiefdom not be disrupted and that their consensus not be challenged.
The bottom line is that Biden's shameless kowtowing to the credit card companies won't hurt him or Barack Obama. The only ones getting hurt are you and me, and that poor struggling family at the kitchen table.