Joe Biden update: Now, he takes lead on budget talks too; what's left for Obama?
What isn't Joe Biden in charge of these days?
For someone who was brought on board the presidential train in 2008 to lend some experienced gravitas to the ex-state senator savior's ticket and add a humorous effing gaffe here and there, the vice president seems to be running most everything these days for this Democratic White House.
Everyone remembers Biden's crucial congressional role in smoothing the way for the vast stimulus spending bill two years ago because President What's-His-Name was busy finalizing his plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
And then the Chicagoan, who spent $745 million of other people's money to become the nation's chief executive -- as in, Oval Office Obama -- assigned Biden the job of kicking off and monitoring and chatting up all those thousands of shovel-ready spending projects across the country that were sure to get the economy back on track after eight years of you-know-what from you-know-who.
Because of the vice president's long experience on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the....
....president asked Biden to take over monitoring the developing politics of that Iraq place. Here was the goal:
To impose his Delaware charm on those disputatious politicians to congeal into some semblance of coalition so American combat troops could move on to Obama's more important war in Afghanistan, where the president has ordered two of the kinds of troop surges that the Democrat so adamantly opposed when Republican George W. Bush did one.
And then Biden's press secretary, Jay Carney, who used to work for a news weekly, facilitated Newsweek's cover story on how his boss was becoming so influential behind the scenes in the so-called Obama administration on crucial issues like Afghan strategy. So Biden moved into that area, all the while smiling and telling Irish jokes.
So Biden did more than 100 of those boring babies last year, while Obama drew the tough talking duty at a series of Senate funders in Las Vegas, San Francisco, L.A. and Alonzo Mourning's Miami mansion.
The Nov. 2 midterm election results showed how effective those remarks were.
Joe was also put in charge of talking up the 2010 Recovery Summer.
Biden explained that, after an unfortunate but certainly understandable slow start due to the depth of the economic hole bequeathed by the Texan, the Obama stimulus spending bill was sure to produce hundreds of thousands of new jobs per month last summer.
Joe also predicted that grateful Americans would retain Democratic majority control in both houses of Congress.
When neither happened, Biden sent Obama off to some state dinners in India and Indonesia and let the president take the PR heat for caving to those tax-cut extension demands of GOP hostage-takers.
Biden flew over in January to check on both war zones (see photo at top). And then he convinced Obama to pick Biden's press secretary, Carney, as the president's new spokesman. How slick a move is that?
Last week when the AFL-CIO's Richard Trumka and other union bosses made their regular White House visit to discuss the Wisconsin Republican troubles, they met privately not with Obama but with Biden, allegedly only the lieutenant.
But now there's more Democratic grumbling over the Detached One's detachment from the first set of budget cut talks.
And without unified leadership the splintered Democratic caucus was left sputtering, "You can't cut this" and "Don't cut that!" and "OMG, not that!?"
Thanks to GOP demands, Obama's party confronts another set of under-the-gun fiscal negotiations over the next two weeks, again on the opposition's homefield. And likely again after that.
Republican Speaker John Boehner is asking the cameras how can he negotiate when his side is the only one putting forth specific plans? Harry Reid, the Senate's top Democrat, hasn't got the answers. And Chuck Schumer, who'd like to be the Senate's top Democrat, volunteers that he's sent ideas to the White House for approval.
So who do you call? Naturally, Biden is sent back up to the Hill by Obama, who's got a couple of important school visits scheduled in coming days. Not to mention some more I-really-mean-it-this-time warnings to Middle Eastern dictators.
Even Ruth Marcus is writing about "Obama's 'Where's Waldo?' presidency."
The only thing that hasn't really gone Biden's way recently was the popular vote by Delaware's Brandywine School District to reject Biden's name for its new elementary-preschool. They went with a pioneer's name, Hanby. Some voters wondered why name a public school for someone who supports public schools so much they sent their kids to private schools?
But there's plenty of time for Biden to correct that situation if the vice president decides to keep Obama on the Democratic ticket next year.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photo: White House Pool (Biden holds talks with Afghan president Karzai, January 2011); Pete Souza / White House (bottom three photos).