Fix Pick: Being Joe Biden
Delaware Sen. Joe Biden is the odds-on favorite to become the second most powerful politician in the country in just 15 days time.
And yet, outside of Washington, where he has spent the last three decades of his life, little is known about Biden. His selection to be Barack Obama's vice presidential nominee was greeted with approval but little fanfare and since that time Biden has largely operated in the considerable shadow (for good and bad) of his Republican rival -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
So, who is Biden? And what kind of vice president would he be?
Leave it up to the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza -- the second best political reporter in Washington whose name ends in "Lizza" -- to answer those questions in a new piece that looks at the role Biden envisions for himself in the White House.
• Biden sees his role -- if he and Obama win the White House in 15 days -- as more a general counselor to the president (in the mold of Walter Mondale) rather than an expert on any one issue. "'If you're asking me to join you to help govern, and not just help you get elected, then I'm interested,'" Biden told Obama, according to Lizza. "'If you're asking me to help you get elected, I can do that other ways, but I don't want to be a Vice-President who is not part of the major decisions you make.'"
• Lizza writes of how Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) split his potential veep picks into three categories: Mr. August, Mr. October (with apologies to Reggie Jackson) and Mr. January. The first category is aimed at making an immediate political impact and fundamentally altering the campaign narrative. (Palin seems to fit that category.) A Mr. October pick is some with a unique demographic appeal or a real presence on the campaign trail. (Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards for example.) The Mr. January pick -- the category in which Lizza believes Biden to fit -- is less about getting elected and more about governing, and, as such, is usually an old Washington hand that brings less on the front end of the campaign than on the back end in the White House. "Not surprisingly, the most powerful modern Vice-Presidents have been politicians who had congressional experience and long Washington résumés--Walter Mondale, George H. W. Bush, Al Gore, and Dick Cheney," writes Lizza.
• The reason Biden doesn't get much press attention? There aren't all that many members of the press with him on the trail. "On some days, only a single print reporter is covering Biden, and weekly studies of the news by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism note that Biden was the subject of between two and six per cent of all stories each week in September," writes Lizza. (For the record, the Post's own Perry Bacon is with Biden nearly all the time -- so much in fact that the Delaware Senator has taken to critiquing Perry's physique.) The result of the relatively sparse coverage of Biden has been that only his verbal gaffes, for which he has long been known, get attention. Writes Lizza insightfully: "His style does not play well in the modern media environment, and coverage of his gaffes has sometimes overshadowed the substance in his speeches, such as the moment when, at a rally in Missouri, he asked a state senator in a wheelchair to stand up. (Biden recovered well, joking, 'You can tell I'm new.')"
• Biden believes that his long -- and good -- relationships within the Senate will serve him well if he winds up as the vice president although, as Lizza notes, history teaches a different lesson. Biden insists he has never "screwed another Senator" and cites Lyndon Johnson as his model for what a long time senator can do once he ascends to the vice presidency. Of course, while Johnson is widely seen as among the most effective Senate majority leaders in history, his swat over his colleagues lessened considerably once he became vice president. "[Johnson's] base had been the conservative Southern Democrats, and, once he joined an Administration they regarded as liberal -- particularly on civil rights -- he lost them," writes Lizza. Lizza also spoke to former Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle, far less of a Senate titan than Johnson, but whose experience in going from the legislative to the executive branch remains instructive. "'He'll find out when he gets up there that your fellow-senators don't vote based on relationships,'" Quayle told Lizza. "'Those long-term relationships are helpful, but every man and woman in Congress does what's in their interests, not necessarily what's in the President's or the Vice-President's interests.'"
Posted by: Bcamp55 | October 22, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: caribis | October 21, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Godhimself1 | October 21, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Godhimself1 | October 21, 2008 10:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Godhimself1 | October 21, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: diaco7529 | October 21, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: 37thandOSt | October 21, 2008 4:28 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MNobserver | October 21, 2008 12:18 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Manolete | October 21, 2008 12:09 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: officermancuso | October 20, 2008 11:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Verrazzano | October 20, 2008 10:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fu_buki | October 20, 2008 10:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fu_buki | October 20, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bsimon1 | October 20, 2008 10:06 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rjbunny | October 20, 2008 10:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: TruthWalksOnWater | October 20, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: fu_buki | October 20, 2008 9:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: paulstewart | October 20, 2008 9:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: inewsmaster | October 20, 2008 8:55 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lylepink | October 20, 2008 7:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SeanC1 | October 20, 2008 7:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bondjedi | October 20, 2008 6:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ursadog | October 20, 2008 6:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pyrophile | October 20, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mark_in_austin | October 20, 2008 5:30 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.