Two (More) Biden-Related Thoughts

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From TIME’s Amy Sullvan:

1. The selection of Joe Biden as Obama’s running mate means one thing I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere: The return of Mrs. Biden! Not the Senator’s wife, Jill, but his feisty 90-year-old mother, Jean. She lives with the Bidens in Delaware and was a hoot on the campaign trail during the primaries. As Chris Matthews reminded viewers this afternoon, Biden gets his fighting spirit from his mom: when he was a young boy with a stuttering problem, one of the nuns at his Catholic school criticized it for him, which led Mrs. Biden to tell the nun that she would “rip your bonnet off” if the nun ever spoke like that to Joe again. Do I hear any support out there for a debate between Jean Biden and Roberta McCain? Those two ladies would show their sons how it’s done.

2. During the weeks of endless veepstakes speculation, a number of people wondered whether a pro-choice Catholic pick would cause problems for Obama by drawing the same kind of attacks from conservative Catholic leaders that tied John Kerry up in knots in 2004. And there are undoubtedly some Catholic bishops who will declare Biden a “bad Catholic” because of his support for Roe. But the fact that Biden’s abortion position is not clear-cut may mute some of the criticism. In a mostly-positive statement earlier today, NARAL noted that they have given Biden a “mixed choice” mark for his voting record, and he is a strong proponent of the “abortion reduction” approach that appears in the party’s platform for the first time this year.

More importantly, though, concerns about a pro-choice Catholic centered primarily on someone like Kathleen Sebelius, who hesitates to speak about her faith and uses the Kerry formulation that “it’s personal.” That’s a perfectly reasonable stance, but in practice it has translated into a reluctance to push back against attacks from conservative Catholics. Biden doesn’t have that problem. At a 2005 event, Biden vowed that “The next Republican that tells me I’m not religious, I’m going to shove my rosary beads down their throat.” Something tells me that if church leaders give Biden grief over his abortion record, he’ll give it right back.