Commentary Magazine


Topic: Joe Biden

Dems Show Progressive Means Status Quo

Heading into this week’s Democratic National Convention, the party knows the country isn’t really better off than it was four years ago. They also know that President Obama can’t count on a repeat of the wave of messianic expectations that swept him into office in 2008. But they seem united on one proposition: the Republicans and their ideas for changing Washington must be stopped. Though most of those who gather in Charlotte dub themselves “progressives,” that word, which once evoked the liberal call to transform America into a more egalitarian society, now means something very different. In 2012, to be a progressive means above all to be steadfast in favor of maintaining the status quo on a wide range of issues. It is a credo of not of progress but merely in defense of the power of the state that generations of Democratic politicians have built.

The best of example of this came over the weekend as Vice President Biden, whose value as the administration’s rabid attack dog has never been more apparent, denounced Republican plans for reforming Medicare so as to enable it to survive despite the overwhelming demographic and budget disaster that looms over it. Biden’s battle cry claiming: “We are for Medicare; they are for Vouchercare,” contained no nuances about dealing with problems. Indeed, Biden, citing his own mother’s experience, gave a straightforward pitch for paternalistic government in which he said older Americans were too befuddled to make their own choices and needed to be told what to do by Washington.

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Heading into this week’s Democratic National Convention, the party knows the country isn’t really better off than it was four years ago. They also know that President Obama can’t count on a repeat of the wave of messianic expectations that swept him into office in 2008. But they seem united on one proposition: the Republicans and their ideas for changing Washington must be stopped. Though most of those who gather in Charlotte dub themselves “progressives,” that word, which once evoked the liberal call to transform America into a more egalitarian society, now means something very different. In 2012, to be a progressive means above all to be steadfast in favor of maintaining the status quo on a wide range of issues. It is a credo of not of progress but merely in defense of the power of the state that generations of Democratic politicians have built.

The best of example of this came over the weekend as Vice President Biden, whose value as the administration’s rabid attack dog has never been more apparent, denounced Republican plans for reforming Medicare so as to enable it to survive despite the overwhelming demographic and budget disaster that looms over it. Biden’s battle cry claiming: “We are for Medicare; they are for Vouchercare,” contained no nuances about dealing with problems. Indeed, Biden, citing his own mother’s experience, gave a straightforward pitch for paternalistic government in which he said older Americans were too befuddled to make their own choices and needed to be told what to do by Washington.

Biden’s speech was a shameless partisan distortion of the plan put forward by Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, who seeks a transition that will not change Medicare for anyone current receiving it. This is in keeping with the “pants on fire” style of Democratic campaign rhetoric we’ve been hearing lately. But it is also indicative of a belief that nothing, not even the impending collapse of these entitlement programs ought to be allowed to justify new ideas about government.

This isn’t the only important theme of the week for Democrats. We will hear a great deal about the “war on women” that Democrats falsely claim Republicans are waging. But at the core of that is another defense of big government and entitlements such as the right to free contraceptives, for which poster child Sandra Fluke will advocate again this week.

To the extent that we will hear new ideas this week about support for the environment or fear of global warming, they will all revolve around greater government involvement in the economy via cap and trade or restrictions on development of resources. At their core they are all about defense of an ever-expanding federal bureaucracy that must be fed by more taxes to pay for more spending.

If the Democrats can get more of the electorate to fear Republican reforms like Paul Ryan’s plan or to buy into the myth of a war on women, they may win. But if they do, it will be accomplished by a campaign oriented solely toward keep things as they are. We’ve come a long way from the hope and change of 2008.

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Party of Distractions Gets Talking Point

For some reason, liberals want to make this an election about social issues. In their minds, it showcases a broad array of imagined Republican bigotry. What they don’t realize, as residents of the coasts, is that the American people aren’t with them. Most Americans know that being pro-life isn’t tantamount to waging a war on women — the majority of Americans are pro-life themselves. Every single time the issue of gay marriage has been put to public referendum, even in the deep blue state of California, it’s been voted down.

Liberals are happy to blame the failures of these ballot initiatives on almost anyone: Mormons, the owners and customers of Chick-fil-A, etc. What they won’t admit is the fact that Prop 8 was upheld in California because traditional, Church-going black voters, who already came out to the polls in droves to vote for Barack Obama, voted for it. The added benefit of making this an election about social issues for liberals is that the president has nothing else to run on. No record, no plans to save Medicare, Social Security, or the economy in general. It was determined at Obama HQ a long time ago that this would be an election of distractions, not ideas, not hope, and certainly not change.

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For some reason, liberals want to make this an election about social issues. In their minds, it showcases a broad array of imagined Republican bigotry. What they don’t realize, as residents of the coasts, is that the American people aren’t with them. Most Americans know that being pro-life isn’t tantamount to waging a war on women — the majority of Americans are pro-life themselves. Every single time the issue of gay marriage has been put to public referendum, even in the deep blue state of California, it’s been voted down.

Liberals are happy to blame the failures of these ballot initiatives on almost anyone: Mormons, the owners and customers of Chick-fil-A, etc. What they won’t admit is the fact that Prop 8 was upheld in California because traditional, Church-going black voters, who already came out to the polls in droves to vote for Barack Obama, voted for it. The added benefit of making this an election about social issues for liberals is that the president has nothing else to run on. No record, no plans to save Medicare, Social Security, or the economy in general. It was determined at Obama HQ a long time ago that this would be an election of distractions, not ideas, not hope, and certainly not change.

Yesterday’s comments by Rep. Todd Akin played right into Obama’s (and Claire McCaskill’s) hands. They gave the Obama camp talking points that they can focus on for days, if not weeks. They also ensured that Democrats would hold onto a Senate seat that was in very serious jeopardy just two days ago.

In no uncertain terms, it’s clear that Akin’s comments were insulting on several levels. They insinuate that women who become pregnant as a result of rape weren’t “legitimately” raped (i.e.: they’re lying about the rape). They also show just how ignorant of basic biology Akin is. According to his logic, if women’s bodies had the ability to “shut down” and prevent pregnancy, there would have never been an unplanned pregnancy in the history of humanity. He’s now claimed to have “misspoken” and as John wrote earlier, it’s time for him to step down so that Missouri Republicans have a prayer for winning the seat.

The liberal media orchestra will, no doubt, play whatever sheet music the left hands them, keeping the story alive for several news cycles. Vice President Biden’s comments about Republicans wanting to put a largely African American crowd “back in chains” will disappear, written off as a gaffe. A good deal more attention will be paid to the statements from Akin, a member of Congress running for a Senate seat in Missouri. His statements, unlike Biden’s, will not be deemed a gaffe, but will instead be described as a feeling shared by all Republicans in their ongoing War on Women. The media’s hypocrisy is on full display, as they are on one hand outraged over idiotic statements about rape, while they were silent about actual rapes and coverups that took place in Occupy Wall Street camps across the country during the movement’s heyday.

Many are worried that the comments will sink the stock of the whole Republican Party. If Republicans repudiate not just Akin’s comments and the misogyny behind them, Americans will realize that one House member does not speak for the entire GOP. As Alana reported this morning, the Romney camp has already and unequivocally rejected Akin’s comments flat out. If the liberal mainstream media continues to obsess about Akin’s remarks, ignoring the imminent bankruptcy of Europe, American persistent unemployment and mounting debt and a looming conflict with Iran, the American people will take notice of the distraction. They will realize that the media furor surrounding his remarks is crowding out an honest discussion on the real issues facing our country at a turning point in our history. While this may give Democrats a bump (outside of Missouri) in the short term, it will once again show them to be the party of distractions, not of ideas.

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What’s Up With All the Clinton VP Rumors?

We all know it’s not going to happen. The White House has directly denied it. And yet, the rumors that President Obama is considering replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton keep coming:

Pundits and talking heads have discussed in recent weeks the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden being replaced on the Democratic presidential ticket, particularly with news of his brief hiatus from the spotlight this weekend.

“Up until just a couple of weeks ago the White House was putting out feelers to see if Hillary would accept the vice-presidential nod and replace Joe Biden,” [author Ed] Klein said. “Bill Clinton was, I’m told, urging his wife to accept the number two slot. He saw this as a great launching pad for her for running in 2016.”

“But then Hillary had lunch in the White House a couple of weeks ago with Valerie Jarrett — Michelle [Obama]’s best friend, senior adviser to both the first lady and the president … and she told Valerie that she would not accept the vice president’s spot. The lunch was ostensibly about other matters, but it came up. … Hillary felt burned out after four years as Secretary of State. But I’m told there were more important reasons for her not accepting.”

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We all know it’s not going to happen. The White House has directly denied it. And yet, the rumors that President Obama is considering replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton keep coming:

Pundits and talking heads have discussed in recent weeks the possibility of Vice President Joe Biden being replaced on the Democratic presidential ticket, particularly with news of his brief hiatus from the spotlight this weekend.

“Up until just a couple of weeks ago the White House was putting out feelers to see if Hillary would accept the vice-presidential nod and replace Joe Biden,” [author Ed] Klein said. “Bill Clinton was, I’m told, urging his wife to accept the number two slot. He saw this as a great launching pad for her for running in 2016.”

“But then Hillary had lunch in the White House a couple of weeks ago with Valerie Jarrett — Michelle [Obama]’s best friend, senior adviser to both the first lady and the president … and she told Valerie that she would not accept the vice president’s spot. The lunch was ostensibly about other matters, but it came up. … Hillary felt burned out after four years as Secretary of State. But I’m told there were more important reasons for her not accepting.”

I find it hard to believe that Obama would even be able to replace Biden at this point. Clearly Biden has 2016 ambitions — as delusional as that may be — and he knows getting axed as VP would effectively destroy any chance of that happening. Convincing Biden to leave gracefully (and quietly) would be near impossible. Plus, shaking up the ticket would be an admission of defeat and a sign of severe desperation from Obama.

So what’s the deal with these rumors? Is the Clinton camp putting them out to boost her name for 2016? Or, is it part of some GOP effort to psych out Biden and sow divisions between him and Obama? Notice that a lot of this speculation is coming from the right. The Republican Party knows these mind games all too well, since it’s previously been on the receiving end of them.

On the other hand, maybe I’m completely wrong and Obama actually is thinking about cutting Biden loose. His VP has given him nothing but grief since the beginning. And after days of disastrous media coverage over Biden’s billionth racially-charged gaffe, who could blame Obama for wanting him out?

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Ryan’s Bounce May Come in October

Over at his New York Times blog, Nate Silver probes the question of whether the polls that have come out in the last few days indicate any bounce for the Republican ticket in the days since Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan will be his vice presidential nominee. Though, as Alana noted earlier, a series of swing state polls brought some good news for the Republicans, he’s right to say there’s nothing in the data to indicate any real surge in their direction. Pollsters and analysts have in recent election cycles become obsessed with the idea that vice presidential picks and conventions must produce some sort of bounce in the polls to be justified. But, as Silver concedes, Republicans were not claiming that picking Ryan would have an immediate impact on the polls.

While Ryan is a well known, and at least as far as the liberal media is concerned, a controversial figure, he doesn’t have the sort of celebrity that would create a quick change in public opinion about the race. What he does have — and what Republicans who cheered the choice are counting on — is the ability to have a long-term impact on the election. The GOP is counting on Ryan’s intellect, charm and powers of persuasion to impress voters as the race wears on this fall, not to mention, the possibility of a mismatch against Vice President Biden in their debate. Indeed, Romney’s choice of a serious and thoughtful man to run with him is looking even smarter if only because the more Biden roams the country committing gaffes and throwing out wild and irresponsible slurs against the Republicans, the better Ryan looks.

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Over at his New York Times blog, Nate Silver probes the question of whether the polls that have come out in the last few days indicate any bounce for the Republican ticket in the days since Mitt Romney announced that Paul Ryan will be his vice presidential nominee. Though, as Alana noted earlier, a series of swing state polls brought some good news for the Republicans, he’s right to say there’s nothing in the data to indicate any real surge in their direction. Pollsters and analysts have in recent election cycles become obsessed with the idea that vice presidential picks and conventions must produce some sort of bounce in the polls to be justified. But, as Silver concedes, Republicans were not claiming that picking Ryan would have an immediate impact on the polls.

While Ryan is a well known, and at least as far as the liberal media is concerned, a controversial figure, he doesn’t have the sort of celebrity that would create a quick change in public opinion about the race. What he does have — and what Republicans who cheered the choice are counting on — is the ability to have a long-term impact on the election. The GOP is counting on Ryan’s intellect, charm and powers of persuasion to impress voters as the race wears on this fall, not to mention, the possibility of a mismatch against Vice President Biden in their debate. Indeed, Romney’s choice of a serious and thoughtful man to run with him is looking even smarter if only because the more Biden roams the country committing gaffes and throwing out wild and irresponsible slurs against the Republicans, the better Ryan looks.

As much as conservatives love Ryan for his ideas and talent for taking on the opposition in a reasonable manner, no veep candidate is going to make that much of a difference in November. But Ryan’s presence on the ticket has altered the race somewhat in that the future of entitlements and government spending is now in the spotlight rather than being pushed to the side by concern over the economy. That is something that scares some Republicans and delights Democrats.

But the notion that Obama can be re-elected by running as the candidate of the status quo, who will, as Vice President Biden stated, oppose any changes in Social Security or Medicare may underestimate the intelligence of the American people. As I wrote after the pick was announced, Ryan’s presence on the ballot will provide a test of whether voters will prefer demagoguery to ideas. We won’t know the answer to that question until October at the earliest.

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The Party of Status Quo

The Washington Post editorial board argues that Joe Biden’s comments on Social Security the other day were far more disturbing than his “chains” gaffe:

On the same trip to southern Virginia, Mr. Biden wandered into the Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart. According to the White House pool report, when a diner there said, “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security,” Mr. Biden responded: “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Why is this so depressing? Because, as Mr. Biden knows, Social Security is going broke. If “no changes” are made, then by 2033 the program will not be able to pay benefits as promised.

The Post pressed the White House on whether Biden’s comments reflected official policy, and were given the brush-off:

In response to our inquiry, White House officials said that Mr. Biden’s “flat guarantee” was not meant to convey a change in administration position, which they said is best understood from Mr. Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, which called for “a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

That speech was hardly a profile in courage: Mr. Obama opposed “slashing” benefits for future retirees. But that presumably (if tacitly) left room for trimming benefits. The president went further in failed negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last summer, putting on the table changes in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.

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The Washington Post editorial board argues that Joe Biden’s comments on Social Security the other day were far more disturbing than his “chains” gaffe:

On the same trip to southern Virginia, Mr. Biden wandered into the Coffee Break Cafe in Stuart. According to the White House pool report, when a diner there said, “I’m glad you all are not talking about doing anything with Social Security,” Mr. Biden responded: “Hey, by the way, let’s talk about Social Security. Number one, I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

Why is this so depressing? Because, as Mr. Biden knows, Social Security is going broke. If “no changes” are made, then by 2033 the program will not be able to pay benefits as promised.

The Post pressed the White House on whether Biden’s comments reflected official policy, and were given the brush-off:

In response to our inquiry, White House officials said that Mr. Biden’s “flat guarantee” was not meant to convey a change in administration position, which they said is best understood from Mr. Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, which called for “a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations.”

That speech was hardly a profile in courage: Mr. Obama opposed “slashing” benefits for future retirees. But that presumably (if tacitly) left room for trimming benefits. The president went further in failed negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner last summer, putting on the table changes in the way Social Security cost-of-living adjustments are calculated.

Why won’t the White House get into specifics? For the same reason Senate Democrats have declined to take up a budget plan, and President Obama has declined to offer a proposal to keep Medicare solvent and reduce the deficit. Because of the political risk involved. It’s much easier to attack the Republican plans than to offer new solutions. The Obama campaign prefers to propagate the myth that Republicans are callously trying to target the poor and the elderly with their plans, rather than acknowledge that reform is hard — and that any solution will require tradeoffs.

The Obama campaign also wants to have it both ways; attacking Romney and Ryan for their “radical” proposals, while simultaneously mocking the idea that Ryan’s reforms are bold or courageous.

Of course the Ryan plan took courage. If it didn’t, Obama would have proposed his own detailed response a long time ago. Instead, during the White House press briefing today, Jay Carney refused to specify when, if ever, the president would give more details on his plan to keep Medicare afloat.

When the media wonders why Romney’s VP choice hasn’t resulted in an elevated debate, the answer is clear. The country can’t begin the serious conversation that Obama claims he wants until he puts more details on the table.

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Obama Poses as Uniter While Biden Smears

President Obama took time out from his latest campaign trip yesterday to give an interview to “Entertainment Tonight” and got exactly what he bargained for: an opportunity to spin the news with a softball questioner. The president, who avoids the serious journalists of the White House press corps like the plague was asked breathlessly by ET’s Nancy O’Dell what he thought of Mitt Romney’s charges that the Democrat is conducting a campaign of hate. His response was an incredulous assertion that he is the man trying to unite the country. That he said so with a straight face the day after his vice president claimed Republicans were going to put “y’all back in chains” — a clear reference to black slavery — and with Democrats accusing Romney of killing people, is a tribute both to his high regard for himself and his political skills.

Democratic operatives have been quite frank about the fact that Obama’s re-election isn’t going to be about “hope and change” but an attempt to destroy the character of his opponents. But if the next 82 days are going to center on each party’s efforts to bring out their base, then it should be expected that the president will try to keep up the pretense that he is holding on to his 2008 claim of being above petty partisanship. In order to do that, he’s going to let his running mate whip up resentment against Romney by using racial incitement.

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President Obama took time out from his latest campaign trip yesterday to give an interview to “Entertainment Tonight” and got exactly what he bargained for: an opportunity to spin the news with a softball questioner. The president, who avoids the serious journalists of the White House press corps like the plague was asked breathlessly by ET’s Nancy O’Dell what he thought of Mitt Romney’s charges that the Democrat is conducting a campaign of hate. His response was an incredulous assertion that he is the man trying to unite the country. That he said so with a straight face the day after his vice president claimed Republicans were going to put “y’all back in chains” — a clear reference to black slavery — and with Democrats accusing Romney of killing people, is a tribute both to his high regard for himself and his political skills.

Democratic operatives have been quite frank about the fact that Obama’s re-election isn’t going to be about “hope and change” but an attempt to destroy the character of his opponents. But if the next 82 days are going to center on each party’s efforts to bring out their base, then it should be expected that the president will try to keep up the pretense that he is holding on to his 2008 claim of being above petty partisanship. In order to do that, he’s going to let his running mate whip up resentment against Romney by using racial incitement.

Obama and his wife Michelle claimed Republicans were distorting the meaning of Biden’s words and were attempting to avoid a serious discussion of regulating Wall Street. But there can be no mistake about what it means for a northern white politician like Biden to affect a southern drawl and tell a mostly black audience the GOP is going to put them in chains. While most of the coverage of Biden today has depicted him as an out-of-control mistake machine that is a burden to the president, the truth is, the veep is filling an important role in the Democratic campaign. Biden’s reputation as a gaffe-prone gasbag hasn’t caused him to tone done his routine or have his handlers keep him on a leash. On the contrary, the more political observers roll their eyes at him, the more he seems to be free to be himself and unleash a torrent of abuse at the Republicans while the president is allowed to play the victim of unjustified criticism.

Of course, Obama’s hypocrisy on this score is nothing new. Throughout his presidency he has spoken of himself as a reasonable man of the center all the while depicting those who disagree with him as extremists who put ideology and party above the needs of their country. His brazen use of class warfare attacks on the Republicans is a classic example of a politician who seeks to profit from sowing division and hate.

Democrats are counting on the way his supporters insulate themselves from views and news reports that will point out the inconsistencies and lies that are the foundation of the myth of Obama the uniter. But as the election heats up and Democratic incitement reaches fever pitch, even his acting skills are going to be tested if he expects any but his most fervent cheerleaders to accept his pose as a man who is above the fray.

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Biden Won’t Back Down on “Chains” Gaffe

Joe Biden isn’t apologizing for his “chains” blunder yesterday, but he is trying to downplay it — a sign that the Obama campaign realizes how bad this looks:

Speaking in Wytheville, Va., late this afternoon, Biden hit back at the Romney camp’s claims that his comments were outrageous, saying, “If you want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies.” …

Biden continued: “And I’m told when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Virginia, the Romney Campaign put out a Tweet, you know Tweets, and went on the air, went on the airwaves saying ‘Biden’s outrageous in saying that – I think I said, instead of unshackled, unchained or – anyway, outrageous to say that, that’s what we meant. I’m using their own words. I got a message for them, if you want to know want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies, and the effects of their policies on middle class America, that’s what’s outrageous.”

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Joe Biden isn’t apologizing for his “chains” blunder yesterday, but he is trying to downplay it — a sign that the Obama campaign realizes how bad this looks:

Speaking in Wytheville, Va., late this afternoon, Biden hit back at the Romney camp’s claims that his comments were outrageous, saying, “If you want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies.” …

Biden continued: “And I’m told when I made that comment earlier today in Danville, Virginia, the Romney Campaign put out a Tweet, you know Tweets, and went on the air, went on the airwaves saying ‘Biden’s outrageous in saying that – I think I said, instead of unshackled, unchained or – anyway, outrageous to say that, that’s what we meant. I’m using their own words. I got a message for them, if you want to know want to know what’s outrageous, it’s their policies, and the effects of their policies on middle class America, that’s what’s outrageous.”

Outrageous? Yes, that’s a fair description when a vice president tells a largely black audience that the GOP policies will “put y’all back in chains.” Biden is trying to defend this as another quote taken out of context, but once again the context is perfectly clear. MSNBC’s Willie Geist had a good take this morning (via Playbook), when he pointed out the media double standard for Biden:

“It has to be said that if Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate, said that to an African-American audience, there would be calls this morning for him to get out of the race, for Mitt Romney to withdraw from the race. There’s a double standard.”

The Romney campaign knows it’s being held to a different standard, which is why it’s not going to let Biden off the hook on this. At a campaign event yesterday, Romney called on Obama to take his campaign of “division and anger and hate” back to Chicago — powerful words that highlight the contrast between Obama’s Hope and Change rhetoric of 2008 and his overtly negative 2012 campaign.

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The Biden Double Standard

The liberals hyperventilating at the thought of Paul Ryan “a heartbeat away from the presidency” seem completely unaware of who’s filling that slot at the present moment. Why is it that Joe Biden is the only national campaign surrogate who’s never expected to put together an appropriate sentence? Every time he spouts off some wildly offensive stereotype, or makes a glaringly false assertion, journalists treat him like a chatty, precocious four-year-old who has no control over what comes out of his mouth.

“Joe Biden doing his best Joe Biden,” joked Politico about Biden’s latest blunder, which, as Jonathan noted, crossed the line into blatant racial incitement. But the media rarely, if ever, seems to be concerned that this guy they view as a hopeless buffoon is sitting a “heartbeat away from the presidency” — next in line, in an emergency, to deal with a nuclear Iran, the fiscal cliff, Medicare teetering on bankruptcy, and global terrorism. In fact, all the grave murmuring about vice presidents and “heartbeats” only seems to come up during discussions of Republican tickets.

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The liberals hyperventilating at the thought of Paul Ryan “a heartbeat away from the presidency” seem completely unaware of who’s filling that slot at the present moment. Why is it that Joe Biden is the only national campaign surrogate who’s never expected to put together an appropriate sentence? Every time he spouts off some wildly offensive stereotype, or makes a glaringly false assertion, journalists treat him like a chatty, precocious four-year-old who has no control over what comes out of his mouth.

“Joe Biden doing his best Joe Biden,” joked Politico about Biden’s latest blunder, which, as Jonathan noted, crossed the line into blatant racial incitement. But the media rarely, if ever, seems to be concerned that this guy they view as a hopeless buffoon is sitting a “heartbeat away from the presidency” — next in line, in an emergency, to deal with a nuclear Iran, the fiscal cliff, Medicare teetering on bankruptcy, and global terrorism. In fact, all the grave murmuring about vice presidents and “heartbeats” only seems to come up during discussions of Republican tickets.

The Obama campaign is defending Biden’s racially charged comment, and why not? If past Biden-related goofs are any prediction, this controversy may not have much shelf life. Once again, the media may simply shrug and dismiss this as “Biden being Biden.”

That’s unfortunate, because journalists can’t expect to be fair analysts of the race unless they’re willing to hold Biden accountable for remarks that could ruin any other politician’s career. Right now, every move Paul Ryan makes is being evaluated under a microscope — as it should. But is it too much to ask that our sitting vice president be held to the same standards? He is, after all, a heartbeat away from the presidency at this very moment.

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Ryan Unleashes Liberal Incivility

With the heightened focus on the Republican vice presidential candidate, it was only natural that the Democratic incumbent in that office would say something to get a little attention for himself. Vice President Joseph Biden, the gift that keeps giving to Republicans, wasn’t content to merely criticize Republican policies at a campaign appearance in Danville, Virginia; he claimed the GOP would revive slavery. As the Weekly Standard noted, affecting a drawl for the benefit of his south Virginia audience, Biden lambasted the idea that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would free up Wall Street to create more prosperity:

“Look at their budget, and what they are proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They going to put y’all back in chains.”

While Democrats may defend this as just another Biden exaggeration, this is a clear-cut case of racial incitement. After all, unless he is referring to Jews being returned to slavery some 3,500 years after the Exodus from Egypt, the only possible allusion here is to the enslavement of African Americans in the south. This is more than just garden-variety political hyperbole. It is an unfortunate example of just how desperate Democrats are to scare voters into backing the president’s re-election.

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With the heightened focus on the Republican vice presidential candidate, it was only natural that the Democratic incumbent in that office would say something to get a little attention for himself. Vice President Joseph Biden, the gift that keeps giving to Republicans, wasn’t content to merely criticize Republican policies at a campaign appearance in Danville, Virginia; he claimed the GOP would revive slavery. As the Weekly Standard noted, affecting a drawl for the benefit of his south Virginia audience, Biden lambasted the idea that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would free up Wall Street to create more prosperity:

“Look at their budget, and what they are proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let–he said in the first hundred days, he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They going to put y’all back in chains.”

While Democrats may defend this as just another Biden exaggeration, this is a clear-cut case of racial incitement. After all, unless he is referring to Jews being returned to slavery some 3,500 years after the Exodus from Egypt, the only possible allusion here is to the enslavement of African Americans in the south. This is more than just garden-variety political hyperbole. It is an unfortunate example of just how desperate Democrats are to scare voters into backing the president’s re-election.

We can expect Democratic spin masters to excuse this as merely Joe being Joe, the crazy uncle of our political system whose excesses should be tolerated if not smiled at. But what is on display in this video is a willingness to demonize opponents that eclipses the routine nastiness we’ve become accustomed to during elections. Biden’s comment is at the level of 9/11 truther–let alone an Obama birther. But this is more than just another example of how hypocritical mainstream liberal complaints are about civility in politics.

The Biden blast shows that in this election, there is literally nothing to which the Obama campaign would not stoop in order to besmirch their opponents. If, as Seth wrote earlier today, liberals are prepared to call Romney and Ryan “murderers,” why wouldn’t they claim the GOP is in favor of slavery?

While some conservatives are guilty of uncivil behavior, the Biden gaffe (and it will be interesting to see if liberals are prepared to admit it was a gaffe rather than a justified comment) points out commentator Dennis Prager’s insight about the difference between the left and the right. Most conservatives merely think liberals are wrong. Most liberals really believe most conservatives are evil.

While it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable — a character trait for which Ryan is well-known — to expect civility from someone who thinks his opponent is beyond the pale is to demand more than a partisan such as Biden can manage. As long as liberals are prepared to demonize Republicans in this manner, we must expect more of this kind of despicable behavior from Democrats this fall–if not far worse.

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Who Will Be the Next April Glaspie?

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

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Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The Iraqi invasion followed months of escalating rhetoric, much of which American diplomats downplayed in the belief that Arab dictators didn’t mean what they said.  Meeting with Saddam Hussein eight days before the invasion, Ambassador April Glaspie told the Iraqi dictator, “We have no opinion on your Arab – Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait.” Iraqi officials subsequently claimed that Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s remarks as a pledge of non-interference and perhaps even a green light.  The press made Glaspie into a scapegoat, but she was only the product of a larger diplomatic culture.

The invasion of Kuwait unleashed a cascade of events which culminated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The question both politicians and historians should ask is whether they might have headed off the invasion months or years ahead of time as the true nature of Saddam Hussein became clear.

Rather than suppress reports of Saddam’s chemical weapons use against Kurdish civilians, the Reagan administration should have cut Saddam off right then and there. But sophisticated diplomats hoped to rehabilitate Saddam, both as a means of containing Iran and also to peel Saddam away from Soviet influence.

Against a steady stream of reports suggesting Saddam’s cruelty and aggressive intent, Sen. John McCain pushed for military sanctions on Iraq. Sen. Arlen Specter decided to travel to Baghdad to talk with the Iraqi dictator. Like his senate colleagues John Kerry, Joseph Biden, and Dick Lugar, as well as Nancy Pelosi in the House, Specter believed that he had a unique ability to talk dictators back from the brink: He could engage successfully, where all others had failed. Specter met Saddam on January 12, 1990. He believed Saddam’s talk of peace, and effectively became Saddam’s useful idiot. Over the next few months, he persistently undercut McCain’s proposals to extend military sanctions on Iraq.

Saddam may today be gone, but history seems to be repeating with regard to Iran. Iranian leaders issue a steady stream of genocidal rhetoric against Israel, support repression in Syria, and question the sovereignty of Bahrain. Yet, diplomats and many academics dismiss Iranian rhetoric. While senators have largely embraced sanctions against Iran, just as Specter did almost 23 years ago, President Obama and senior administration officials still suggest that there is enough time for diplomacy to work, even as Khamenei, like Saddam before him, pushes full steam ahead with plans to fulfill his regional ambition.

As history repeats itself, the only questions are who will be the next Glaspie and how much ruin will the Obama team’s blind belief in diplomacy bring.

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Barack’s Message to Bill: It’s My Party Now

Reactions to the report that Bill Clinton will place President Obama’s name into nomination at the party’s convention in September, and that he will play a more high-profile role than the vice president himself, have generally fallen into two categories: mocking Joe Biden for his party’s treatment of him, and acknowledging that Obama believes he needs Clinton to win.

Both are correct. But there is another aspect to Clinton’s role as nominating figure: passing the torch. Obama wants to make clear that this is his party now. He has never been able to fully conceal his contempt for Clinton’s “third-way” politics, which seek to, like chess players, control the center. While Obama has tried to have his cake and eat it too, by spurning Clintonian politics while taking credit for the popular aspects of some Clinton policies, he has also tried to outrun Clinton, who is more popular than Obama.

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Reactions to the report that Bill Clinton will place President Obama’s name into nomination at the party’s convention in September, and that he will play a more high-profile role than the vice president himself, have generally fallen into two categories: mocking Joe Biden for his party’s treatment of him, and acknowledging that Obama believes he needs Clinton to win.

Both are correct. But there is another aspect to Clinton’s role as nominating figure: passing the torch. Obama wants to make clear that this is his party now. He has never been able to fully conceal his contempt for Clinton’s “third-way” politics, which seek to, like chess players, control the center. While Obama has tried to have his cake and eat it too, by spurning Clintonian politics while taking credit for the popular aspects of some Clinton policies, he has also tried to outrun Clinton, who is more popular than Obama.

Consider:

  • Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); Obama campaigned on unilaterally renegotiating it and possibly withdrawing from it–even running “Buy American, Vote Obama” ads during the election–and waited years to sign other free-trade agreements that were ready for him on day one.
  • Clinton signed welfare reform; Obama handed down an executive fiat to gut the very successful legislation.
  • Clinton tried, and failed, to pass health care reform; Obama tossed congressional Democrats under the Tea Party bus just to have health care legislation bear his name.

Clinton’s message to Democrats in 1992 was that they could either have a very liberal party, or they could win the White House. The country would not let them have both. Even so, the Democrats took a shellacking in mid-term elections, leading to the first Republican House majority in four decades. Clinton understood that this was a partial rebuke to his more liberal first attempt at governing, and was forced to the center to keep his job.

We should not overstate Clinton’s centrism, of course. He did not craft NAFTA; he inherited it from George H.W. Bush and signed it. He did not craft, nor even like, welfare reform; it was a Republican initiative that Clinton vetoed repeatedly before accepting it.

But Clinton left office with a high approval rating and was celebrated for his move to the center: he became the first Democrat to win a second full term as president since Franklin Roosevelt. Obama wants to step out of Clinton’s shadow and win a second term as well—but it won’t be enough for him to win it on Clinton’s terms. It has to be on his own terms, with a party remade in his image. That image is becoming clearer by the day, as moderate Blue Dog Democrats disappear, as do pro-life Democrats. And this year, as Joshua Muravchik writes for COMMENTARY this month, is the last in which the Congress will have a Scoop Jackson Democrat, as Joe Lieberman is retiring.

It’s a different party, and Clinton’s role at the nominating convention will make that clear.

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Obama’s Gift to Romney

This past week, the president and the vice president have made some rather curious arguments on their behalf.

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, offered up this argument. “Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn’t mean the private-equity guys are bad guys. They’re not,” Biden said at New Hampshire’s Keene State College. “But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there’re an awful lot of smart plumbers. All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement.”

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This past week, the president and the vice president have made some rather curious arguments on their behalf.

“If your main argument for how to grow the economy is ‘I knew how to make a lot of money for investors,’ then you’re missing what this job is about,” Obama said. “It doesn’t mean you weren’t good at private equity, but that’s not what my job is as president. My job is to take into account everybody, not just some. My job is to make sure that the country is growing not just now, but ten years from now and 20 years from now,” he said.

Vice President Biden, meanwhile, offered up this argument. “Your job as president is to promote the common good. That doesn’t mean the private-equity guys are bad guys. They’re not,” Biden said at New Hampshire’s Keene State College. “But that no more qualifies you to be president than being a plumber. And, by the way, there’re an awful lot of smart plumbers. All kidding aside, it’s not the same job requirement.”

I suppose one could say that being a plumber makes you more qualified to be president than being a community organizer, but set that aside for the moment.

The case both Obama and Biden are making is that Obama (a) understands what the job of president entails and (b) is promoting the common good. And based on his record, it’s not clear Obama understands or is doing either one.

To sharpen the point a bit: How exactly is the common good being advanced when during the Obama presidency the number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty has seen a record increase, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty. In addition, the budget deficit and federal debt have reached their highest percentage since World War II. The same is true when it comes to federal spending as a percentage of GDP. During the post-recession period from June 2009 to June 2011, the median annual household income fell by 6.7 percent– a more substantial decline than occurred during the Great Recession. The Christian Science Monitor points out , “The standard of living for Americans has fallen longer and more steeply over the past three years than at any time since the U.S. government began recording it five decades ago.” The housing crisis is worse than the Great Depression. Home values worth one-third less than they were five years ago. The home ownership rate is the lowest since 1965. And government dependency, defined as the percentage of persons receiving one or more federal benefit payments, is the highest in American history.”

There’s more, but you get the point.

For Obama and Biden to lecture Romney on the qualifications for being president is like John Edwards and Bill Clinton lecturing us on the importance of fidelity in marriage. Their case is undermined by their record, their actions, and their failures.

I cannot imagine a greater in-kind gift to the Romney campaign than for the president and the vice president to run on their stewardship. But that is what they’ve decided to do, at least this week.

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GOP Shouldn’t Waste Time on Biden

It hasn’t been a very good couple of weeks for Joe Biden, and the polls show it. Though President Obama followed his vice president’s lead and endorsed gay marriage, White House resentment about the incident lingers. There has been a torrent of leaks about the president’s dissatisfaction with his number two, and Republicans have taken to targeting the veep and pointing out his numerous gaffes at every opportunity. Though the only person whose opinion he needs to care about — President Obama — has been publicly silent, all this has taken a toll on Biden’s public standing. So yesterday’s Gallup Poll in which the vice president is shown to have a negative approval rating for the first time since taking office is likely to feed the rumors circulating around Washington about Biden being dumped from the Democratic ticket this summer. It will also tempt Republicans to double down on their attacks on the vice president.

But while none of this comforts Biden, it would also be a mistake for Republicans to put much stock in any of it. Biden may not be much of an asset to Obama, but it’s not likely that he will cost him any more votes than he will win for him this year. The same was true in 2008, although the comparison with his GOP counterpart Sarah Palin helped him play the statesman. Though we spend a good deal of time handicapping the unofficial run for the vice presidency every four years, it’s a rare election in which they have any but the most marginal impact. Rumors notwithstanding, the president understands that dumping the veep would be a sign of panic. While some Republicans will enjoy slugging away at his gaffes, any effort diverted from the main task of taking down the president’s record is a waste of time.

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It hasn’t been a very good couple of weeks for Joe Biden, and the polls show it. Though President Obama followed his vice president’s lead and endorsed gay marriage, White House resentment about the incident lingers. There has been a torrent of leaks about the president’s dissatisfaction with his number two, and Republicans have taken to targeting the veep and pointing out his numerous gaffes at every opportunity. Though the only person whose opinion he needs to care about — President Obama — has been publicly silent, all this has taken a toll on Biden’s public standing. So yesterday’s Gallup Poll in which the vice president is shown to have a negative approval rating for the first time since taking office is likely to feed the rumors circulating around Washington about Biden being dumped from the Democratic ticket this summer. It will also tempt Republicans to double down on their attacks on the vice president.

But while none of this comforts Biden, it would also be a mistake for Republicans to put much stock in any of it. Biden may not be much of an asset to Obama, but it’s not likely that he will cost him any more votes than he will win for him this year. The same was true in 2008, although the comparison with his GOP counterpart Sarah Palin helped him play the statesman. Though we spend a good deal of time handicapping the unofficial run for the vice presidency every four years, it’s a rare election in which they have any but the most marginal impact. Rumors notwithstanding, the president understands that dumping the veep would be a sign of panic. While some Republicans will enjoy slugging away at his gaffes, any effort diverted from the main task of taking down the president’s record is a waste of time.

Biden’s negative ratings  — 45 percent disapprove of him while 42 percent approve — actually aren’t all that much worse than the ratings he has received in the last three years. Though he was favored by margins of 42-40, 43-41 and 46-41 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 respectively, none of these results are dramatic enough to affect the Democratic ticket. Democrats still favor him by a margin of 73-17 even if independents and Republicans don’t care for Biden. And it should be pointed out that even his recent bad numbers are not all that much worse than those of his boss, who has a 52-46 favorability rating in the most recent poll.

It also bears pointing out that it is more than likely that those floating the rumors about Biden’s fate have ulterior motives. Some Democrats may see promoting the idea of promoting Hillary Clinton as Biden’s replacement as way to get on her bandwagon early should she try again for the presidency in 2016. It is also more than likely that those Republicans who have been harping on the idea of dumping Biden may be merely seeking to make mischief rather than providing any genuine insight as to the thinking of their rivals.

But either way, the focus on Biden is a sideshow, and President Obama’s high opinion of himself is certainly enough to make him think he can win re-election with anybody — even a gaffe-prone crazy uncle gasbag like Joe Biden. Republicans should take a lesson from this and confine their focus to the man at the top of the other ticket.

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Why Obama Isn’t Dumping Biden

The idea that President Obama is seriously considering dumping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket this year is a seductive one. To assume that this is a real possibility, as William Kristol argues in the Weekly Standard, you must believe the president is not only sick and tired of Biden’s bloviating, but that he believes his re-election effort is in real peril. While I don’t doubt the former proposition for a moment, I have yet to see proof President Obama’s messianic self-image has been so punctured by reality that he is willing to do the unthinkable and not only discard a sitting vice president but elevate Hillary Clinton as his figurative and actual successor.

Unlike Kristol and my esteemed colleague Pete Wehner, who also thinks Biden is on his way out, I think the potential costs to the president outweigh the benefits. Even more to the point, the essential prerequisite of this scenario — a panic-stricken White House that sees the president as doomed to defeat unless the Democrats throw the sort of Hail Mary pass that caused John McCain to make a fateful veep pick — doesn’t exist. The president is behaving as if he is convinced that a campaign to destroy Mitt Romney’s character will succeed. Conceding that all is lost without Clinton to save him goes against everything we know about Obama’s belief in himself and his abilities. He may also understand that Biden wouldn’t go quietly, and the perception of weakness the veep’s political execution would engender would merely discourage his supporters rather than energize them.

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The idea that President Obama is seriously considering dumping Joe Biden from the Democratic ticket this year is a seductive one. To assume that this is a real possibility, as William Kristol argues in the Weekly Standard, you must believe the president is not only sick and tired of Biden’s bloviating, but that he believes his re-election effort is in real peril. While I don’t doubt the former proposition for a moment, I have yet to see proof President Obama’s messianic self-image has been so punctured by reality that he is willing to do the unthinkable and not only discard a sitting vice president but elevate Hillary Clinton as his figurative and actual successor.

Unlike Kristol and my esteemed colleague Pete Wehner, who also thinks Biden is on his way out, I think the potential costs to the president outweigh the benefits. Even more to the point, the essential prerequisite of this scenario — a panic-stricken White House that sees the president as doomed to defeat unless the Democrats throw the sort of Hail Mary pass that caused John McCain to make a fateful veep pick — doesn’t exist. The president is behaving as if he is convinced that a campaign to destroy Mitt Romney’s character will succeed. Conceding that all is lost without Clinton to save him goes against everything we know about Obama’s belief in himself and his abilities. He may also understand that Biden wouldn’t go quietly, and the perception of weakness the veep’s political execution would engender would merely discourage his supporters rather than energize them.

Kristol’s idea of David Petraeus sliding from the CIA over to State while Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential candidacy turns a close-run affair into a cakewalk makes sense for the Democrats. Yet though it is the sort of bold stroke that would captivate the media and dominate the news for days if not weeks, it also reeks of panic. Barack Obama is too savvy a politician to want to show the public he not only lacks confidence but needs Clinton to bail him out.

As for Biden’s merits as vice president or his value to his party, I readily concede the arguments Bill and Pete put forward on that score are conclusive. The vice president’s contributions to the administration are risible and pale when compared to those of his recent predecessors, who were given far more responsibility. The fact that he has little political appeal and doesn’t help Obama govern should argue for his dismissal. But doing so will be extremely messy at a time when that is the last thing the president should want.

Biden is not the sort of politician to go quietly into the night just because the president can’t stand him. If there is anything the president should have learned about the vice president in the last four years, it is that his ego is as healthy as his own. Politics is his life, and he will fight for his position — and the fantasy he harbors of running for the presidency in 2016 — with all he’s got. The notion that he will meekly accept a demotion to being a third-tier campaign surrogate for Obama’s re-election strikes me as highly unlikely.

This isn’t about loyalty. I agree with Pete the president’s Chicago-style approach to politics renders him immune to such fine sentiments. Rather, Obama’s own self-regard is such that he probably believes he is great enough to succeed even while lugging around the loquacious Biden on his back. That’s good news for the vice president as well as for Republicans who would have good reason to fear the power of an Obama-Clinton ticket. Although many Democrats would happily make the exchange, I think the odds of this happening are slim and none.

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Bye Bye Biden?

In an editorial in The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol argues that President Obama would be wise to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This kind of speculation — the incumbent president replacing the vice president in order to re-energize his campaign — goes on every four years. It almost never happens.

This time it might.

For one thing, Biden is literally, God love him, a buffoon. His counsel and predictions are almost always wrong, from telling us we’d see an increase in 500,000 jobs a month during the 2010 “recovery summer” (a figure that was ludicrously off target) to advising the president not to take out Osama bin Laden. More often than not, Biden makes news by his verbal miscues (“jobs” is a three-letter word, Obama “has a big stick, I promise you,” et cetera). He’s a person who’s almost impossible to take seriously. Read More

In an editorial in The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol argues that President Obama would be wise to replace Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This kind of speculation — the incumbent president replacing the vice president in order to re-energize his campaign — goes on every four years. It almost never happens.

This time it might.

For one thing, Biden is literally, God love him, a buffoon. His counsel and predictions are almost always wrong, from telling us we’d see an increase in 500,000 jobs a month during the 2010 “recovery summer” (a figure that was ludicrously off target) to advising the president not to take out Osama bin Laden. More often than not, Biden makes news by his verbal miscues (“jobs” is a three-letter word, Obama “has a big stick, I promise you,” et cetera). He’s a person who’s almost impossible to take seriously.

In addition, the president is frantically trying to boost his standing with (in particular) college educated white women, and his mindset is that placing Hillary Clinton on the ticket could seal the deal. It’s also a decision that would energize liberals without offending anyone within the Democratic Party (Biden has no real constituency).

A final reason — and I think an under appreciated one — is the anger the president and his closest advisers harbor for the vice president, whose “Meet the Press” interview forced Obama to announce his support for same-sex marriage earlier than he wanted to. Worse, at least from the president’s perspective, is that what Biden did was to make Obama’s announcement look political rather than principled.

Obama, marinated in the Chicago Way of politics, doesn’t possess any deep sense of personal loyalty. (See the bus Obama’s “spiritual mentor” Jeremiah Wright found himself under for more.) And whatever residual loyalty the president felt for Biden has, I think, been shattered after Biden’s “Meet the Press” misstep.

Right now, Barack Obama is on course to lose the election. He’ll be as ruthless as he thinks he needs to be in order to turn his fortunes around.

Bill Kristol may be on to something. If I were Joe Biden, God love him, I’d be worried.

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Biased Media’s Rope Line Hypocrisy

Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

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Reporters from the national press covering the Mitt Romney campaign kicked up a ruckus on Wednesday when the Republican’s staff attempted to keep them away from a rope line where they might have heard or seen the candidate say or do something dumb. The incident inspired a feature in the New York Times in which the GOP standard-bearer came off looking like a fragile hothouse flower desperately in need of protection from a press corps that could unveil his inadequacies. This might not be worth much of the public’s time, but criticism on this score shouldn’t be put down as unfair. If Romney can’t be relied upon not to commit a gaffe when interacting with the public at unscripted appearances — something that justified his staff’s worries — then he deserves to be called to account for it. However, if this is worth carrying on about when it concerns Romney then we are entitled to ask why isn’t it newsworthy when his opponents play the same game?

That’s the question some political observers are asking today after members of the Obama campaign made sure to keep reporters away from Vice President Biden when he was working a rope line, an incident that failed to get a mention in the Times. But as much as the lack of interest in the Democrats’ desire to protect the even more gaffe-prone Biden is the fact that no one seems to recall that when Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, his control freak staff rarely allowed reporters anywhere near him when he was on the hustings.

In 2008, the contrast between John McCain’s media-friendly ways and Obama’s less open policies only got noticed when the Republican’s staff tried to change things and restrict access to their all-too loquacious candidate. But no one ever seemed to think there was much amiss about Obama’s practices in which highly choreographed events consisted of appearances with an ever-present teleprompter and little or no press access to the candidate. That many of those covering him — and their editors — might have been as seduced by the historic nature of his run and by his “hope” and “change” mantra is a given.

The point is, if Obama’s lack of openness to the press was not an issue in 2008, it’s not clear why Romney’s staff’s attempts to restrict access to their man should be worthy of much comment today. It is doubly absurd when you consider that it is virtually impossible to cover President Obama in the same way you can Romney because of security considerations.

The election won’t be decided on the issue of which presidential — or vice presidential — candidate is more open to the press on the rope line. But this minor kerfuffle and the staggering hypocrisy with which it was covered is another reminder that Romney’s greatest disadvantage in his effort to prevent the president’s re-election is not his tendency toward gaffes but a biased mainstream media always willing to judge and condemn by a standard they won’t apply to his opponents.

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Biden Tired of “Middle Class Joe” Ridicule

You know how everyone is always mocking Vice President Joe Biden for being just another middle class guy with no dreams and no aspirations? No? Well, in case anybody ever does, Biden wants them to know he’s tired of all the imaginary derision over his humble life status (video via Dan Halper):

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You know how everyone is always mocking Vice President Joe Biden for being just another middle class guy with no dreams and no aspirations? No? Well, in case anybody ever does, Biden wants them to know he’s tired of all the imaginary derision over his humble life status (video via Dan Halper):

“I get tired of being called ‘Middle Class Joe,’ like that somehow I’m just Joe and I don’t dream. C’mon man. Look, you’re the ones that built this country. This valley built this country,” Biden said to cheers.

Actually, according to Nexis, the only person who has referred to Biden as “middle class Joe” has been Biden himself. In an early April speech on college affordability, he said, “I always get criticized for being middle class Joe, which I’m proud of, but I’m middle class Joe and I always talk about the middle class.”

And: “I know I’m characterized in the press as, you know, middle class Joe, like . . . I’m not sophisticated,” he complained last September.

The vice president’s sensitivity to perceived insults about his allegedly middle class status seems to go back to 2009. At a conference that May, Biden referred to himself as “old middle class Joe,” before launching into an indignant rant about how he’s always being put down for it.

“If I — if I heard one more thing about the scrappy kid from Scranton, Pennsylvania, and carrying a lunch bucket — I never carried a lunch bucket, but I guess I’m the middle class guy,” he said. “By the way, I’m proud of that. I’m proud of that.”

This is really one of the flimsiest and most condescending attempts to appeal to the “average voter” since Obama’s phony “funny-sounding name” bit. If Biden is really so paranoid of getting picked on as “middle class Joe,” he might want to play up the fact that he owns a home valued at nearly $3 million, served in the Senate for three decades, earned $379,035 in income last year, and currently lives in the Naval Observatory.

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The End of “No Drama Obama”

Remember the phrase “No Drama Obama”? Perhaps it should be retired after this week.

After all, we learned that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, apologized to the president for forcing him to accelerate the timetable when it came to announcing Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. The West Wing is reportedly enraged at Biden. Here’s how Politico put it:

Biden’s remarks on “Meet the Press” deeply annoyed Obama’s team, people close to the situation tell Politico, because it aggrandized his role at the expense of Obama’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the community and pushed up the timing of a sensitive announcement they had hoped to break — at a time and place of their own choosing — in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall.

Nor did it tickle anyone, from Obama on down, that Biden — who backed the Defense of Marriage Act while serving in the Senate in the 1990s — seemed to be getting more credit in the LGBT community than a president who has actually taken steps to repeal the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as something that could only take place between a man and a woman.

And it chafed Obama’s team that Biden had, at times, privately argued for the president to hold off on his support of marriage equality to avoid a backlash among Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to two officials familiar with those discussions.

It’s not a good situation for any vice president to steal the applause and credit from the president; that must be triply the case when it comes to a man with Obama’s self-regard and tendency toward narcissism.

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Remember the phrase “No Drama Obama”? Perhaps it should be retired after this week.

After all, we learned that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, apologized to the president for forcing him to accelerate the timetable when it came to announcing Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. The West Wing is reportedly enraged at Biden. Here’s how Politico put it:

Biden’s remarks on “Meet the Press” deeply annoyed Obama’s team, people close to the situation tell Politico, because it aggrandized his role at the expense of Obama’s yeoman efforts on behalf of the community and pushed up the timing of a sensitive announcement they had hoped to break — at a time and place of their own choosing — in the weeks leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this fall.

Nor did it tickle anyone, from Obama on down, that Biden — who backed the Defense of Marriage Act while serving in the Senate in the 1990s — seemed to be getting more credit in the LGBT community than a president who has actually taken steps to repeal the Clinton-era law that defined marriage as something that could only take place between a man and a woman.

And it chafed Obama’s team that Biden had, at times, privately argued for the president to hold off on his support of marriage equality to avoid a backlash among Catholic voters in battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to two officials familiar with those discussions.

It’s not a good situation for any vice president to steal the applause and credit from the president; that must be triply the case when it comes to a man with Obama’s self-regard and tendency toward narcissism.

Then there’s the New York Post’s coverage of a new book by Edward Klein, The Amateur, in which it’s reported that Bill Clinton thought so little of President Obama — mocking him as an “amateur” — that he pressed Mrs. Clinton last summer to quit her job as secretary of state and challenge him in the primaries. “The economy’s a mess, it’s dead flat. America has lost its Triple-A rating . . . You know better than Obama does,” Bill reportedly told Hillary.

In addition, Bill Clinton insisted he had “no relationship” with Obama and had been consulted more frequently by his presidential successor, George W. Bush.

Obama, Bill Clinton said, “doesn’t know how to be president” and is “incompetent.”

When a presidential campaign is less than six months away from an election, trailing the challenger in several polls, the president has to publicly reprimand his vice president for getting “out a little bit over his skis” and “jump[ing] the gun,” and his administration has to respond to reports that the husband of the secretary of tate (and himself an ex-president) encouraged her to challenge the president in a primary, the West Wing is edging toward becoming a hostile working environment.

It looks as if “No Drama Obama” has exited stage left.

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Tip for WaPo: Look Into Young Joe Biden

Now that the childhood hijinks of our national candidates are fair game, the Washington Post might want to devote some investigative resources toward the background of Vice President Joseph Biden. That’s right, “Sheriff Joe” was reportedly involved in a spate of anti-social activities as a child and adolescent, including but not limited to elaborate neighborhood pranks, street brawls, and even an assault on a lowly dorm employee in college.

From the book What It Takes: The Way to the White House, a story of the 1988 presidential election by reporter Richard Ben Cramer, a troubling snapshot of young Biden emerges:

Once Joey [Biden] set his mind, it was like he didn’t think at all—he just did. That’s why you didn’t want to fight him. Most guys who got into a fight, they’d square off, there’d be a minute or so of circling around, while they jockeyed for position. Joey didn’t do that. He decided to fight … BANGO—he’d punch the guy in the face. Joe was kind of skinny, and he stuttered, and the kids called him Bye-Bye, for the way he sounded when he tried to say his name. But Joey would never back down, and he knew how to box, when no one else did. …

Even after he left, after Mr. Biden got the job selling cars in Wilmington and moved the family away, Charlie Roth would still (in moments of duress) tell guys that his friend Joey Biden would come back and beat them up, if they didn’t watch out. (When Joe did come back, Charlie always had a list.)

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Now that the childhood hijinks of our national candidates are fair game, the Washington Post might want to devote some investigative resources toward the background of Vice President Joseph Biden. That’s right, “Sheriff Joe” was reportedly involved in a spate of anti-social activities as a child and adolescent, including but not limited to elaborate neighborhood pranks, street brawls, and even an assault on a lowly dorm employee in college.

From the book What It Takes: The Way to the White House, a story of the 1988 presidential election by reporter Richard Ben Cramer, a troubling snapshot of young Biden emerges:

Once Joey [Biden] set his mind, it was like he didn’t think at all—he just did. That’s why you didn’t want to fight him. Most guys who got into a fight, they’d square off, there’d be a minute or so of circling around, while they jockeyed for position. Joey didn’t do that. He decided to fight … BANGO—he’d punch the guy in the face. Joe was kind of skinny, and he stuttered, and the kids called him Bye-Bye, for the way he sounded when he tried to say his name. But Joey would never back down, and he knew how to box, when no one else did. …

Even after he left, after Mr. Biden got the job selling cars in Wilmington and moved the family away, Charlie Roth would still (in moments of duress) tell guys that his friend Joey Biden would come back and beat them up, if they didn’t watch out. (When Joe did come back, Charlie always had a list.)

A list of children to beat up! That means there are documents, assuming they haven’t already been destroyed. WaPo could find this list and potentially interview the victims. Surely there are some stories there that could give us crucial insight into these vaguely sociopathic flare-ups.

But there’s more. According to What It Takes, Biden apparently also led neighborhood boys in carrying out what he would call “pranks” – and what current law might call “willful and malicious destruction of property” – against an innocent elderly neighbor:

Joe always had an idea. … If their notion of a summer evening’s prank was to put a bag of dogshit on old man Schutz’s doorstep, Joey would say, “No, here’s what we’ll do. You know behind my house, where they got all those little trees? Get a shovel …” And they did: they went out with shovels and planted a forest of saplings on Mr. Schutz’s lawn. It was so much more elaborate—all thought out, the way Joey had it figured.

And later, the book recounts a story about how Biden was put on student probation in college for apparently assaulting a resident adviser with fire extinguisher fluid. Tampering with fire safety equipment? Now we’re moving into federal offense territory:

And before that, University of Delaware, where he only screwed around, trying to be Joe College—got probation for dousing the dorm director with a fire extinguisher. … Then there were hijinks from high school, streaking the parking lot. … They were getting back to childhood sins, stuff where the priest says, “Two Hail Marys” … but Joe was still talking.

Okay, so maybe these incidents all sound innocent enough. But that’s probably just because we haven’t heard from victims or aggrieved outside witnesses with axes to grind. What did that hapless RA do to deserve getting sprayed down with a fire extinguisher, anyway? What about “old man Schutz” – how could he possibly remove all those trees from his lawn on his own? Yes, it will be tough to track down information on these cases considering they took place more than 50 years ago. But if WaPo’s investigative team has shown us anything, it’s that the paper has what it takes to get to the bottom of pressing national issues like these.

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Not a “Buddy Movie” for Obama and Biden

Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

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Vice President Biden’s recent remarks about gay marriage have prompted a wave of stories about his role in both the Obama administration and its re-election campaign. But whether or not, as Alana noted, you believe there was some method to Biden’s madness when he got out in front of the president on that issue, there’s little question that the incumbent veep is cut from a different mold than Dick Cheney or even Al Gore, both of whom seemed to have more clout in the government than Biden does.

Indeed, as this profile in today’s New York Times seems to be saying, Biden is something of a throwback to a different kind of politics and even a different sort of vice presidency than the one in which the veep is treated with a bit more deference and given more responsibility. Biden’s chronic case of hoof-in-mouth disease has limited his utility to the president to being the contrarian in the room as well as designated attack dog and defender of the Democratic leader. The key question for Biden-watchers during the next six months is not so much how often the veep goes off the Obama reservation but how much his various utterances will betray a desire to go into business for himself in 2016?

We are told the often testy relationship between the two in their early days in office together has now changed to a genuine friendship But the idea of the vice president as a “utility player” whose value is as “the guy who does a bunch of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” as Obama has been quoted as saying, is just a nice way of saying the president hasn’t trusted Biden in the way Bush trusted Cheney or Bill Clinton trusted Gore. Though he can always be counted on to “help stir the pot,” that’s a contrast to the greater responsibility that was placed on his immediate predecessors. If as Ronald Klain, who worked for both Gore and Biden, puts it, the president and vice president “haven’t tried to turn this into some sort of buddy movie,” neither is it the ideal working relationship.

Which is to say that though Biden isn’t the lost soul who many vice presidents resembled while presiding over the Senate and doing little else, he has also become a punch line. If he was added to the ticket in 2008 in the hope that his foreign policy experience — an odd notion as there is hardly an international issue on which Biden has not been consistently wrong — he remains there more out of inertia than anything else.

That’s why the incessant talk of Biden actively thinking about 2016 — talk that most suspect originates in the office of the vice president and nowhere else — makes it likely that the president’s patience for the veep’s gaffes will decrease during the course of the campaign and a potential second term. Though Biden’s grasp of political reality has never been that firm, one wonders whether he fancies being the first sitting vice president to be rejected by his own party for the top spot since John Nance Garner failed to oust his erstwhile boss Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.

In the meantime, Obama can continue to count on Biden to swing away on his weak spots, including his record on Israel. Biden again vouched for the president’s bona fides on Israel today in a speech to the Rabbinical Assembly. But, as with many of his utterances on a wide range of topics, the vice president’s grasp of facts remains sketchy. Two weeks ago, I commented that in a previous speech, Biden had mistakenly compared Obama to Harry Truman’s efforts on behalf of Israel’s security. Today he doubled down on that by saying again, “No president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama.”

In fact, no president other than the quite hostile Dwight Eisenhower did less for Israel’s security than Truman. Every president subsequent to Ike made a serious contribution to enhancing the security of the Jewish state that surpassed Truman’s, and that includes Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and the elder George Bush, as well as genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and the younger Bush. But as President Obama has learned, when Joe Biden talks, it’s customary to take whatever he says with a shovelful of salt.

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