We’ll be reading more than we ever wanted to in the coming days from pundits and others who want to encapsulate the eight year Presidency of Barack Obama. I’ll even have my own missive coming up. But let’s burn a little bandwidth today on another key political figure who’s been at the forefront since 2008.
You might be surprised that a Constitutional Libertarian like me would have much good to say about Vice-President Joe Biden. Yea, he’s been a reliable member of the President’s team since his first election. But truth be told, I’ve always been oddly fond of Uncle Joe. He seems like he just doesn’t give a rip. I respect that.
Biden mostly toed the party line on major issues during his eight years…but I was never convinced his heart was truly in it. He always seemed to me like he had one foot out the door, ready to leap away at the end of his speech and shotgun a 12-pack of Bud Light. Again…I respect that.
Oh yes…there were gaffes. Too many to count. I was a reporter covering Biden’s appearance in Danville-Virginia in 2012 when he said his infamous “chains” comment. You could feel the wincing all along the press riser. There were those who were following the Vice-President just rolled their eyes. There’s a reason the phrase “Joe being Joe” became popular among those who saw him day-to-day.
When asked in 2006 if he was considering a run for President, Biden said “I’d rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep.” Again…respect.
And of course there is the lovable “creep factor” with Uncle Joe. There are any number of pictures out there with him—how shall I say this—violating personal space. Particularly the personal space of women. He seems blissfully oblivious to it all…as if this were the most natural thing in the world. Of course this produced awkward moments…like the photo above shot during the 2012 campaign. It remains one of my favorite pictures of all time, regardless of genre. Joe appears to be getting right friendly with the wife of a biker who runs a ministry. The biker/pastor/husband has a look in his eyes that screams, “I want to kill this son of a bitch but I don’t want to get my brains beaten in by those ten secret service agents who are thirty feet away.” He stayed put. Wise move. His wife, meantime, seemed to be enjoying the attention.
But Joe was a little deeper than that. In a Rose Garden press conference where Biden announced he would not be running for President, I think we saw the real Biden. A man clearly still suffering from the untimely death of his adult son. Biden reminded his supporters that the Republicans “are not the enemy. And we have to stop thinking of them like they are.” That was good. Actually, that was great. We need a LOT more of that in politics.
But there are personal reasons why I have a mostly good recollection of Joe Biden. During the 2012 campaign, he made an unannounced stop during practice for the high school football team whose games I broadcast on the radio for 27 years. Several black limos pulled up to the practice field. A severe-looking guy with sunglasses and a black suit walked up to the coach and asked if he’d like to meet the Vice-President of the United States. The coach (Bobby Martin) eagerly agreed. One of the pool reporters covering the impromptu event said Biden “was clearly in his element—looking more alive than he had been in weeks.”
Biden talked to our players about his own glory days as a prep running back in Delaware. He even agreed to check us out if we made it to the State Championship game. We didn’t quite get there…but still. For about 15-20 minutes, Joe Biden was smiling with our football players, giving them and the coaches a moment they will remember for the rest of their lives. And he looked like HE was the most excited person on the practice field that day.
Of all of the high-profile officials in the Obama Administration, Biden easily stands out as the most approachable, least partisan and the one I would most like to have a beer with. Given the past eight years, THAT is something worth celebrating. Happy retirement, Joe.