One of Franklin Roosevelt’s vice presidents, John Nance Garner, famously said the vice-presidency wasn’t “…worth a pitcher of warm s**t…” In modern, more genteel translations, his final word has been rendered as “spit,” but historians suspect that a different word was used by the ever-expressive Mr. Garner.
He definitely had a point about the office. Much earlier, John Adams had called the vice-presidency “…the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of man contrived or his Imagination conceived.” After Garner, VPs Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Spiro Agnew, Fritz Mondale, Al Gore, Jr., and Dick Cheney went on to blaze new rhetorical trails for the vice-presidency – if for no other reason than simply to remain in the public’s awareness.
Our latest vice president, of course, is loveable, old “Lunch-bucket Joe” Biden, who was ostensibly brought onto the Obama-ticket to furnish foreign-policy credentials for the dashing young Barack Obama, who was still in his “salad days” (i.e., totally “green in judgment,” as Shakespeare once put it). Joe Biden was said to be one of the Senate’s wisest, most experienced foreign policy experts. (May God help us all, if that was literally true.) In addition, media cheerleaders praised him as the Senate’s “common man” – even though he owns a $3 million, 6800-square-foot lakeside mansion in Delaware.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insists that Mr. Biden “…continues to be a core member of the president’s national security team.” From here, I cannot gauge if this correctly describes Mr. Biden’s status. Certainly, the vice president has decades of Senate experience behind him, but experts note that he has consistently been wrong on nearly every foreign policy issue he has encountered. That is experience of a kind, of course, but it is useful only to the extent that Mr. Biden’s counsel is always assumed to be 180 degrees off from our best national course.
All seriousness aside, though, Mr. Biden has probably rendered more valuable service to the Obama administration than is generally understood. For a president that relies on diversion after diversion to distract public attention away from the tight spots his government has gotten into, Mr. Biden provides a reliably attention-getting shtick that is absolutely invaluable to Mr. Obama and his inner circle – often at just the right times.
For example, with Congressional and media concern ramping up – even within his own party – about the lack of effectiveness of our airpower-only campaign against rampant Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria, who should come along, just in the nick of time to divert media attention, but Good Old Joe, riding to the rescue once again. Of course, this time Joe really stepped in it, or so reporters declare, by essentially accusing our anti-ISIS allies – i.e., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates – of having armed the rebels who eventually became the ISIS enemy now storming through Iraq and Syria. In Dr. Biden’s own words:
“The Turks…the Saudis, the Emirates, etc. … were so determined to take down [Syrian President] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war…What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were al Nustra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”
Amazing to say, the allies Joe Biden named were not really pleased to hear this (at least partially accurate) account declared publicly. Thus, after making those remarks on Thursday, the VP was in full grovel by the weekend, begging for forgiveness from Turkey, the UAE, and the other offended allies he had tagged as having armed the ISIS forces. Indeed, Mr. Biden went several rounds with President Recep Erdogan of Turkey. After his initial remarks, VP Biden called President Erdogan to apologize, then spoke publicly again, claiming that Mr. Erdogan had admitted: “…you were right. We let too many people through.” The Turkish president angrily denounced that account, too, saying, “I never said to him that we had made a mistake – never!”
All this naturally provided great sport for the media. Forgotten were those brow-furrowing concerns over the lack of progress in our non-war with ISIS. Never mind who was winning or losing. Joe had made another big play, downfield, and every eye was now glued to him. (“Quite a sight, with all those eyes glued to him…” – borrowing Doodles Weaver’s memorable line.)
Both Big and small media were full of speculation this week about Joe being taken “to the woodshed” by the White House. Did Satchel-mouthed Joe go too far this time? Might the president drop him from the lineup? With two years remaining in Mr. Obama’s term, could he actually “replace” Joe? (The means for than was not really discussed: perhaps a bolt of lightning, or a mysterious disappearance… So unfortunate – so unnecessary. Good old Joe…)
All this, of course, is vintage horse-manure. Joe Biden is no closer to being “sacked” than President Obama. The Master of (Verbal) Disaster is absolutely invaluable to Mr. Obama and his frat-boy government. Was Joe’s diversionary role anticipated from the start by the Obama team? I cannot say. But there is no doubt that Joe has been a unique asset throughout Mr. Obama’s six years in office. No one in the administration – possibly excepting Mr. Obama, himself – can grab a headline like Joe Biden. If he didn’t exist, someone very like him would have to be invented – assuming that would even be possible. The mold was broken when they made Good Old Joe. We won’t see his like very soon again. (May The Great Whoever be praised!)
Long after Obama, Lunch-bucket Joe and their entire gang of poltroons, brigands and varlets have left the scene, pundits will still be chuckling over Joe’s colorful “contributions” to the public discourse, without really comprehending how much he did for Mr. Obama.
If God doesn’t desert us entirely, perhaps we’ll escape the “blessing” of a Lunch-bucket presidency. I earnestly hope so. Otherwise, Australia is looking pretty good right now.
So God bless you, Joe. May you enjoy a well-deserved retirement – just not in the White House.