Joe Biden has decided that he is going to serve Barack Obama as a sort of senior advisor that will be “the last guy in the room when he makes these critical decisions.” At least that is how the BBC is reporting the matter. Biden also assures the BBC that his vice presidency will be a “break with the past.” Of this Biden is no doubt correct, at least where it concerns the recent past.
But, what is Joe Biden really going to be doing? We are all aware, of course, that Biden has been telling anyone that will listen that he won’t be like Dick Cheney. Politico reported last December that Biden imagines he will “restore” the vice presidency to its proper role in the White House even though it didn’t seem that Joe had a firm grasp on what the Constitution actually says about the office. And to the BBC, Biden is tryig to foster the notion that he’ll be like some respected father figure for the young Obama helping the president make the big decisions as the administration moves forward.
However, let’s face the facts here: Barack Obama has not said very much about Biden, this putative father figure. Additionally, Biden had not been featured by any media reports as filling a substantive role in either the transition or the first week of the new administration. In fact, even in appearances he’s had with the president — mostly in the days since the election — Biden has served as more of a master of ceremonies, introducing Obama to his waiting public. Like a local DJ introducing a rock band, Biden has been relegated to the warmup act yelling, “And heeeere’s Barack,” as the young president bounces onto the stage to cheering crowds.
Now, for the man that told his wife he had his pick of any office he wanted because Obama was so keen to grab him up, Biden has seemed less “the last guy in the room when [Obama] makes these critical decisions,” but more like the only guy left in the room because the real decision makers went out for diner.
Think of Joe as the dorky kid in high school that everyone always ditched, laughing while they did it, Joe standing there saying, “Guys? Where’d ya go?”
In any case, what we have to define Joe Bden’s role in the White House thus far is Joe Biden’s pronouncements but little proof otherwise and certainly no solid evidence that the president thinks Joe is an important part of this White House. And, again, we’ve seen no evidence that Biden has rendered any real service thus far to the decisions currently being made.
So, I’d have to say that we will surely see that Vice President Joe Biden will not be any such thing as a “break with the past.” In fact, I’d have to say that it is likely that with Joe Biden in the office, the vice presidency will actually return to type and become a perfectly representative version of past vice presidents. Meaningless, unheard from, and out of the loop.
Joe Biden will be the next Alben Barkley… or even the next William Rufus deVane King, for that matter. (King never even set foot in Washington the whole one month or so he was vice president) Instead of being some important senior advisor, it is far more likely that Joe Biden will be the next VP that will serve up such important policy advice as: “what this country needs is a good five cent cigar.”
The “warm bucket of piss” that FDR’s grumbling VP “Cactus Jack” Garner compared the office to as he went off to Texas terminally ignored by his president will certainly be inherited by Joe Biden.
Joe is right about one thing, though. He will not be a Dick Cheney. Nor will he be a Richard Nixon or even an Al Gore. Joe will continue to be the affable goof that everyone is familiar with, but he wont wield the power or carry the level of gravitas that Dick Cheney did. Sadly, this won’t be much of a role of “change” for the vice presidency. Or, since it is Joe Biden we are talking about here, maybe it isn’t so sad after all?
Anyway, welcome to Washington Joe Biden. Your “warm bucket of piss” is waiting, sir.
(Photo credit: washingtonpost.com)