“No-spin Joe” is an asset


Late night comics have had a field day with Vice-President Joe Biden, making fun of his penchant for verbosity. In the early weeks of the Obama presidency, Biden occasionally proved to be exactly what some feared he would be—accident-prone. But it seems Biden is a fast learner, as his stock around the Obama people appears to be rising daily. The man that this blog once characterized as providing gravitas to a young up-and-comer’s candidacy is doing just that. In the final moments of the debates over healthcare reform and the mission in Afghanistan, expect Biden to be the last man in the room with Obama when decision time comes.

According to latest issue of Newsweek, the vice-president is playing a dual role as devil’s advocate and troubleshooter for the White House, thanks to his tendency to tell it like it is even if it is uncomfortable to hear. This is “No-spin Joe” at his best, counterbalancing the impression left by presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs of a White House that may be too reliant on slick spin operations. Singling out Fox News, for instance, may score points with the left, but it also makes the White House press operation appear over-sensitive to criticism and all too eager to manage the media. Biden, on the other hand, was more candid than usual a few days ago when discussing unemployment and its effect on families, paraphrasing the old cliché that “when your neighbour loses his job, it’s a recession. But when you lose your job, it is a depression.” Not terribly elegant and certainly not on message, but this has much greater resonance with voters who find little comfort in statistics proclaiming the end of the recession while jobs are disappearing. The working class roots and the simplicity of the former Delaware senator contrast nicely with a White House that may feature some of the brightest minds to serve in government in recent years, but is prone to smugness. Good common sense coupled with a team spirit that discourages silos and backbiting are essential to an effective White House operation. Biden understands this.

How important is this to the Obama administration? In a government inspired by the Lincolnesque notion of a team of rivals, Biden provides the glue that keeps the government focused and is often the key actor to reduce the tension between opposing views. Watching him with Hillary Clinton is a study in friendship, loyalty and trust. If Obama and Clinton appear to be functioning well as a team, Biden deserves the credit. When it comes to the Senate, the vice-president may be closer to doing for Obama what LBJ did for JFK. And on healthcare, he could eventually be pivotal in getting meaningful reform while keeping the Democrats united. On Afghanistan, he seems to be on the side of caution, leaving him at odds with Petraeus and McChrystal. Along with Hillary, Biden may be the best safeguard the Obama administration has against sliding into its own Vietnam.

Pundits and government insiders have increasingly come to believe that Obama, while eloquent and inspiring, has yet to display the kind of firm leadership that will get significant results. They point to the debate on healthcare and Israel’s refusal to stop new construction projects in the West Bank as evidence of this. Obviously, if healthcare reform is achieved and a breakthrough occurs in contentious foreign policy areas, Obama’s critics will revise tier assessment. But a successful (or, for that matter, failed) presidency is not a one-person endeavour. It is often the product of a team and the work of key players on the team. In August of 2008, Obama claimed he chose Biden on the basis of who could best fill in should tragedy hit. Biden, who has shown no desire to be a second Dick Cheney, accepted on the conditions he would have access to the president and would be in the room when final decisions were made. Obama was right to grant Biden as much.


“No-spin Joe” is an asset

  1. but it also makes the White House press operation appear over-sensitive to criticism and all too eager to manage the media.

    Or so the media would have us believe.

    It all falls apart when we all remember that what FoxNews does isn't criticism, but character-assassination and demagoguery and that it isn't in fact, news media. Please remind your readers of that, Mr. Parisella.

  2. Joe Biden is an asset.

    Joe Biden is an asset.

    Parisella is now beyond parody.

  3. CNN isn't, in fact, news media either, by your standard. Or MSNBC. Or the network news operations. Or NPR. Or Air America.

    Good to know that we can rule out every possible criticism from any corner as prima facie wholly illegitimate, I suppose?

  4. I think Biden is a gaffe machine . I only with the staement on Fox . they should leave Fox alone -it is fair and balanced.
    He 's no Cheney .

  5. I knew you'd show up with a personal attack, Angry Angry Hippo.

    Sorry, but on the strength of the mountains and mountains of evidence of journalistic malpractice on the part of FoxNews I feel entirely confident in asserting that it is not a news agency.

  6. Parisella is now beyond parody

    Your biliousness and arrogance is bordering on the psychotic. You really should get some help.

  7. If Parisella is "beyond parody" for this you need to get over to Inkless Wells and give Paul a shake too, as he had a post just a little while ago about how the VP's trip to Warsaw shows "why Biden was a good veep pic".

    For my part, whenever Biden does something silly, my response is WWPD (what would Palin do?). Instantly I'm then convinced that whatever inanity Biden just pulled, probably wasn't so bad after all.

  8. So, if Biden is less of a disaster than the Republican would have been, that makes Biden a good VP pick for Obama?

  9. Biden in September: "Instead of talking about the beginning of a depression, we are talking about the end of a recession."

    Biden yesterday: "It's a depression."

    I think he's just trying to say that lots of people are unemployed, but talk about a gaffetastic choice of words. Then again, Biden doesn't seem to know what a depression is, when the Great Depression happened, and who was President at its outset.

    Don't forget, this is also the guy who told everyone to avoid planes and subways at the outset of H1N1…

    The guy is, to put it mildly, really dumb. It's not just one or two interviews with brainlock, it's a way of life for this guy to have his brain desperately trying to catch up with his mouth.

    • To suggest that Biden bringing out that old chestnut that "if your neighbour loses his job it's a recession, and if you lose your job it's a depression" was actually Biden reversing course and saying there's literally a depression is either idiotic, or deliberately obtuse.

      That a man can't express that people are feeling real economic hardship, perhaps out of proportion to the actual state of the economy at large, without political opponents saying "See, he thinks we're in a depression!!!" is almost too depressing for words.

  10. I agree that Biden is doing a good job . Imagine PALIN . A real joke , that barby doll dingbat !
    Biden is smart and is the real thing .

    • Biden! At least he's not Palin.

  11. "Want to know how to deal with a momentous issue of war or grand strategy? You could do a lot worse than check out what Vice-President Joe Biden thinks – and plump for the opposite.

    Mr Biden was chosen as Barack Obama's running mate last August because he was old, white and supposedly knew a lot about foreign policy. I say "supposedly" because really Mr Biden's overseas expertise amounted to having spent a long time as chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, knowing the names of lots of world leaders, and being able to josh around amiably with them during congressional junkets across the globe." Sunday Telegraph, Oct 18 '09

    Toby Harnden wrote article about Biden just a few days ago and I thought it was spot on.

    When Biden was nominated as Obama's VP, Alex Massie wrote the best description of Biden I've read so far. Here's a short blurb from post:

    "He's the sort of man I've met many a time in Irish pubs. Biden will tell you, at some length for sure, all about his plans for the future, how he's on the cusp of greatness just waiting for that last piece to fall neatly into place. The fact that – stubbornly – it has never yet done so deters him not a bit. Next time, lads, next time…"


  12. Ol`Jolyon is back teaming up with avr and Gaunilon to egage in what they do so well-character assassination . Here`s a laugh_they supported Palin last November!! Actually it says it all_they`re NUTS!

    • We're not assassinating his character, Janice. We're assassinating the notion that he has a triple-digit IQ.
      At least give us con-bot Rethuglican zombie nutcases credit for something.

  13. No, not at all, I just meant that whenever Biden does something troublesome, I think of all the disastrous things Palin would surely have done, and it make Biden seem that much better. I'm not totally convinced, myself, that Biden actually was a great choice for Obama (though I don't see much of an argument that he wasn't a "good" choice).

    I just think that suggesting that commenting that Biden is an asset to the Obama administration is "beyond parody" is silly. And suggesting that the media have been "suckered" into not realizing how terrible the Obama administration is (10 months in to a four year term) is equally so.

    • Well, I'll agree with you that it's not beyond parody. I mean, clearly Biden is an asset in terms of making Obama (or Bo for that matter) look like Einstein by comparison.

  14. Did you read the sentence immediately after that in my post? Here, I'll repeat it for added effect:
    "I think he's just trying to say that lots of people are unemployed, but talk about a gaffetastic choice of words."

    I'm not being deliberately obtuse. I suppose that only leaves the remaining possibility that I'm an idiot. Oh well, I've suspected it for a long time… my fellow commenters can't all be wrong.

  15. I have to agree with you ,Gaunilon ,about being an idiot . But your humility makes you acceptable despite your right wing ideology.

  16. "But your humility makes you acceptable despite your right wing ideology."

    That must make you feel better, Gaunilon.

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