SPRINGFIELD, Ill. When presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate, he chose someone who aligns with him on most issues, differs on a handful, but can possibly boost Obama's foreign policy credentials.
Obama and Biden appeared together for the first time as running mates Aug. 23 in Springfield, Ill., with Biden wasting little time in taking the traditional attack role. Biden and presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain are good friends, but Biden said he'll point out their disagreements. Biden, 65, serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"We can't afford four more years of a foreign policy that has shredded our alliances and sacrificed our moral standing around the world," Biden told an enthusiastic outdoor crowd in front of the Old State Capitol, where Abraham Lincoln served. "... We don't have to have four more years of George W. Bush and John McCain. The next president of the United States is going to be delivered to the most significant moment in American history since Franklin Roosevelt. He will have such an incredible opportunity ... not only to change the direction of America, but literally literally to change the direction of the world."
Biden added, "You can't change America when you supported George Bush's policies 95 percent of the time."
Both Biden and Obama support withdrawing troops form Iraq, although Biden voted for the 2002 Senate resolution authorizing forces in Iraq. A state senator at the time, Obama was critical of the war. Both men support repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers. Both men also voted against confirming President Bush's two Supreme Court nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. Biden, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972, also voted against President Reagan's failed nominee, Robert Bork, in the 1980s, and against Clarence Thomas successfully nominated by the first President Bush in the 1990s.
On abortion rights, Biden and Obama support abortion rights and Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Their only difference on the issue has come on a partial-birth abortion ban, which Biden supported on the national level and Obama, as a state senator, opposed in Illinois. Biden, though, later criticized the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.
Biden ran for president but dropped out in January after a fifth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. During a Democratic debate last year, he said he would support only Supreme Court nominees who back Roe.
"I would not appoint anyone who did not understand that Section 5 of the 14th Amendment and the Liberty Clause of the 14th Amendment provided a right to privacy," he said. "That's the question I'd ask them. If that is answered correctly, that that is the case, then it answers the question, which means they would support Roe v. Wade."
Obama and Biden hope to make the economy a winning them of their campaign.
"We cannot afford to keep giving tax cuts after tax cuts to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans while ... middle class families are falling behind and their wages are actually shrinking," Biden said. "We can't afford four more years of a government that does nothing while they watch the housing market collapse."
Obama, speaking in Springfield while introducing his running mate, called Biden a "rare mix" of a politician who "has brought change to Washington" although "Washington hasn't changed him."
"He's an expert on foreign policy whose heart and values are rooted firmly in the middle class," Obama said. "He has stared down dictators and spoken out for America's cops and firefighters. He is uniquely suited to be my partner as we work to put our country back on track."