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Joe Biden proves an essential weapon for Obama as he maps out second term

Joe Biden proves an essential weapon for Obama as he maps out second term

Biden recasting the role of vice-president – and his long career in Senate is invaluable to the Washington-averse Obama camp

Paul Harris in New York;, Friday 18 January 2013 10.54 EST

Trying to pass new gun control laws is perhaps one of the hardest things any American president can attempt, even in the wake of a tragedy like the mass shooting of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown.

But when Barack Obama decided to push back against the mighty National Rifle Association, its cohort of Republican allies and America's entrenched gun culture, he chose one man to spearhead the effort: Joe Biden, the vice-president. He delivered a set of proposals that Obama presented in public this week.

It's not the first time Biden has come to the fore recently. In the hotly disputed talks over the "fiscal cliff" raft of tax hikes and spending cuts that threatened to plunge America into a new recession last December, it was Biden who led talks with the Republican opposition and struck a last-minute deal. And, during the election campaign last year, when Obama fumbled badly in his first debate, it was Biden who rode to the rescue with a strong performance that rallied Democrat morale.

Biden's high profile is now recasting his role as Obama's number two and turning the vice-president's office into a core part of the Obama team as it maps out a second-term agenda. "It is slightly unusual in American history to have such a high profile as Biden has had," said Professor James Josefson, a political scientist at Bridgewater College.

Indeed, through much of American history, the vice-presidency has been lampooned as a toothless ceremonial job, despite being "one heartbeat" away from the presidency. Franklin Roosevelt's vice-president John Garner famously quipped that it was not worth a "bucket of warm piss". More recently, in the hit TV show Veep, the fictional vice-president Selina Meyer – played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus – spends much time waiting breathlessly to hear if the president might have a heart attack.

Though previous exceptions have existed – notably the enormous influence Dick Cheney wielded in the administrations of George W Bush – it does seem Biden has now emerged as a major influence in the Obama administration. "Recently and post-election we have had these moments when Biden has been stepping to centre stage with marquee events, not peripheral issues," said Professor Joel Goldstein, an expert on vice-presidential politics at Saint Louis University.

by Anonymousreply 1401/20/2013

Experts say that the relationship between Biden and Obama has developed a close symbiosis that benefits both men: Obama has a trusted lieutenant and Biden gets to be at the heart of the action. Indeed, some say they make a complementary double-act despite the hugely different temperaments, ages and experiences of the two men. After all Biden, at 70, is a completely different generation from Obama's. He is a garrulous talker compared to the professorial, intellectual Obama. Biden has a 36-year career in the Senate, compared to Obama's four years. That was especially crucial with the fiscal cliff deal where Biden was able to use his long experience of dealing with Republicans in Congress and his vast network of personal contacts to finally secure agreement.

Whereas Obama has a famously fractious relationship with Speaker John Boehner, who heads the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Biden is a similar kind of machine politician and is comfortable with Washington wheeling and dealing.

"There is a sense in the White House that Joe Biden is better at this kind of retail politics than Obama. He likes it. Whereas the president does not like it. He likes the big picture stuff," said Josefson.

Those who know Biden well agree. Professor Ted Kaufman was Biden's chief of staff for 19 years and took over his Delaware Senate seat after the 2008 election. He is still close with Biden and said that the vice president's lengthy career and experience made him a crucial resource for Obama when dealing with Republicans.

"He knows these people and he's dealt with these very partisan issues for a long time," he said, adding that Biden's jovial public and private persona also helped in a presidency known for its seriousness and dislike of Washington. "People like Joe Biden," Kaufman said.

Biden's rise has even survived his well-deserved reputation for gaffes. His remarks on gay marriage last year were seen as catapulting Obama into embracing the issue sooner than he had planned. When Biden kicked off his run for the 2008 presidency he opened with a gaffe about Obama when he referred to the then young black Senator from Illinois as "articulate and bright and clean". But that is all firmly in the past now. "He has got a great relationship with the president," said Kaufman.

Biden's star is unlikely to fade. This year, Obama is facing tough fights over gun control, fresh debates over raising the debt ceiling, a looming round of massive government cuts as well as a vow to pass immigration reform. Biden again is likely to be sent out to walk point politically on these issues. But it is not just that Biden enjoys the fight. Many, including Kaufman, believe that Biden will eventually mull the possibility of a 2016 run for the White House, which would mark his third attempt to win the presidency.

Larry Haas, a political commentator and former aide in the Clinton White House, said that it was hard to imagine any vice-president declining to make such a move. "You are flying on Air Force Two and you want to be on Air Force One. You have an office in the West Wing, but you want to be in the Oval Office. If he believes that he is viable in 2016 then I think he will go for it," Haas said.

That might not be an easy decision. By the time the 2016 race swings around, Biden's advanced age will be a tough issue. Any run to succeed Obama will also pay close attention to the ambitions of secretary of state Hillary Clinton who is an overwhelming favourite should she throw her hat into the ring. "If Hillary wants it, it is hers. But if she doesn't want it, it would be open for Biden," said Josefson.

by Anonymousreply 101/18/2013

I have permission to call him 'Joe'.

by Anonymousreply 201/18/2013

R3, why so hostile to Biden?

Are you Christine O'Donnell? (Who Biden beat in 2008).

by Anonymousreply 401/18/2013

"Biden recasting the role of vice-president – and his long career in Senate is invaluable to the Washington-averse Obama camp"

Yeah, because Obama won't do a large part of his job -- establishing friendships with members of congress. BIDEN now does that now.

by Anonymousreply 501/18/2013

I love Joe, can't help myself.

by Anonymousreply 601/18/2013

R5 makes a valid point. It has been reported by CNN's Gloria Borger and others that Obama is somewhat cold and aloof from his former Democratic colleagues in the Senate.

by Anonymousreply 701/18/2013

It's true, Obama has no patience for Congressional jackholes.

by Anonymousreply 801/18/2013

I think Joe is the greatest. If there was ever a politician I want to be buddies with its Joe. He seems like a hoot.

by Anonymousreply 901/18/2013

Joe was sworn in as Veep at his home this morning. Obama, at the White House, still hasn't been sworn in. That will be closer to noon.

by Anonymousreply 1001/20/2013

And he was sworn in by DL's favorite Justice, Sonia "Spicy" Sotomayor

by Anonymousreply 1101/20/2013

Joe is the Anti-Cheney

by Anonymousreply 1201/20/2013

[quote]Yeah, because Obama won't do a large part of his job -- establishing friendships with members of congress.

Uhm, no. Actually that is NOT Constitutionally his job, and many other Presidents spent little time performing this often pointless exercise. It's a silly point. There will always be people who don't like your personality, and the garrulous back-slappers don't always perform better. Obama IS doing his job.

by Anonymousreply 1301/20/2013

I just wish he would have stopped trying to grab my ass during the oath!

by Anonymousreply 1401/20/2013
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