Budowsky: Biden or Beto: Where's the beef?

Budowsky: Biden or Beto: Where's the beef?
© Getty Images

With former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) campaigning across the nation offering high-sounding slogans and much talk about himself, and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says he will rejoin WHO on his first day in office Tammy Duckworth is the epitome of the American Dream Mexico's president uses US visit to tout ties with Trump MORE poised to present himself as a candidate to lead the nation and free world, it is time to ask big questions.

In 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale effectively but unfairly asked about then-Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), a brilliant and exceptional candidate for president: “Where’s the beef?” This is a fair and vital question that will be increasingly asked if a Biden announcement clashes with the manic attention now surrounding the O’Rourke campaign.

ADVERTISEMENT

O’Rourke immodestly believes he was born to run for president, suggesting some higher authority granted him a destiny to become the most powerful man on earth. For now Beto O’Rourke provokes endless fascination. Where is Beto today? Why does Beto wave his arms frenetically? Did Beto emerge from his funk? Will Beto film another visit to the dentist? Does Beto look like Robert Kennedy? Look how much money Beto raises! What does he stand for? Is he a liberal or a centrist? What did Beto mean when he said his wife raises their children, sometimes with his help?

Unlike Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTammy Duckworth is the epitome of the American Dream On The Money: Deficit rises to record .7 trillion amid pandemic: CBO | Democrats sidestep budget deal by seeking 0B in emergency spending | House panel advances spending bill with funding boost to IRS Biden-Sanders unity task force calls for Fed, US Postal Service consumer banking MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Progressive activist Ady Barkan endorses Biden, urges him to pick Warren as VP Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE (D-Mass.), O’Rourke has not spent a career championing great progressive causes and proposals. Unlike Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases The Hill's Coronavirus Report: DC's Bowser says protesters and nation were 'assaulted' in front of Lafayette Square last month; Brazil's Bolsonaro, noted virus skeptic, tests positive for COVID-19 Hillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates MORE (D-Minn.), he has not repeatedly won reelection to high office and worked at high levels promoting big plans to make America better. Unlike Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats awash with cash in battle for Senate Tammy Duckworth hits back at Tucker Carlson: 'Walk a mile in my legs' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump wants schools to reopen, challenged on 'harmless' COVID-19 remark MORE (D-Calif.), he has not been elected to state office, and the Senate, and proven a passion for strong values and far-reaching proposals. Unlike Biden, he is not widely admired by Democratic leaders around the world, nor does he have vast presidential-caliber experience.

ADVERTISEMENT
What exactly has Beto done that qualifies him to be leader of the free world? If Beto is the leader to prevent the world from being destroyed by climate change, why has he accepted massive donations from the oil and gas industry while claiming he does not accept special interest money?

Where’s the beef with Beto?

Marketing himself through his first name nickname, Beto aspires to be the Madonna of presidential politics, though unlike Beto in his chosen field, Madonna has an enormous repertoire of brilliant work and career achievement in hers.

Whether they favor these candidates or not, voters and commentators will not be asking of Biden, Sanders, Klobuchar, Warren, Harris or other candidates what some have begun asking of O’Rourke:  Where’s the beef?

In 2018 I was an early, strong and proud supporter of Beto O’Rourke for the Senate, but with all due respect cannot find any outstanding achievement, accomplishment or qualification worthy of the presidency in a dangerous world. By contrast with other leading candidates, he announced for president without having thought through a candidacy about much more than a cult of personality and appealing platitudes without presidential-caliber substance or depth.

Biden ably served as VP under a popular and successful president, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNeil Young updates song 'Lookin' for a Leader' opposing Trump, endorsing Biden Bellwether counties show trouble for Trump Trump may be DACA participants' best hope, but will Democrats play ball? MORE. By contrast, Vice President Pence often acts like a simple cheerleader, fervently nodding approval for statements and actions reasonable people might believe he privately deplores, done by the president who repeatedly insults even great American heroes like John McCainJohn Sidney McCain Senate outlook slides for GOP Juan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden Democrats lead in three battleground Senate races: poll MORE.

If Biden is nominated and gives a speech at the site of the fallen Berlin Wall, he — or any Democratic nominee — would be greeted by what could be the largest crowd in human history, by European believers in democracy cheering the return of America to the leadership of the free world and cheering the values of freedom, justice and democracy that our president, nation and allies must always stand for.

My favored candidate was Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities IRS chief pledges to work with Congress on examining tax code's role in racial wealth disparities MORE (D-Ohio).  It is sad for American democracy when a leader like Brown chooses not to run while a politician like O’Rourke believes he was born to run. The candidate Democrats need will offer big plans for the greater good with the depth and appeal to win, without asking: “where’s the beef?”

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.