VICE MEDIA DECEMBER 2, 2013
Because of Thanksgiving, readers may have missed The New York Times's Joe Biden story, which ran in the newspaper on Wednesday. It is the saddest short political profile I have ever read. Whether Jackie Calmes, the reporter of the story, was intentionally being condescending, or whether she simply didn't realize how pathetic a picture she was drawing, is a debate for another day. But good grief, because grief is what you will feel after reading the piece. For starters, the article is titled, "In a Time of Need, the Vice President Plays to His Strengths." What are those strengths?
Mr. Biden can certainly talk, and he is talking a lot these days.
That's basically it. He is talking. And talking. And talking, He talks to Johnny Isakson, the Georgia Republican.
Among those Mr. Biden took [on a trip to Houston] was Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, reflecting the vice president’s role as liaison to Senate Republicans as well as to Democrats — and as a gym buddy, too. “It’s a good bonding type of thing for him to be lifting weights or be on the treadmill and be talking — Joe’s always talking, so you always have communication,” Mr. Isakson said.
Did this accomplish anything? Is anyone listening? Hard to say. (The next line, hilariously, describes Biden as "poised" for budget talks, for which Calmes says the prospects of major success are "virtually nil.") What else?
In recent days, he was talking to former colleagues in the Senate opposed to the administration’s preliminary nuclear accord with Iran, a deal reached in part through secret talks in Oman that included Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. As the vice president takes a lead role in pushing against new congressional sanctions on Iran, he has phoned, among others, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, an influential Democratic critic of the deal.
More talking. Even sadder are the attempts to make it sound like Biden is really accomplishing a lot. For example, President Obama described Biden as someone “who does a bunch of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet.” Such as?
Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, also had an early Thanksgiving dinner with wounded veterans and their families, and the next morning Mr. Biden visited activists encamped and fasting on the National Mall in protest against House Republicans’ inaction on immigration legislation.
And on and on. When I saw that there was going to be a John Podesta quote in the piece, I was absolutely certain that Podesta would say something about Biden having a connection with the middle class. Sure enough:“Above all that,” Mr. Podesta added, “he’s got a niche in the administration on policy and economics that plays to the fact that he has an ear for what’s happening with the middle class.” How does this manifest itself?
Mr. Biden went to Panama to highlight the expansion of the canal and the need to modernize American ports to accommodate huge cargo ships that by 2015 will push through the isthmus. Besides Houston, he recently visited Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah and a rail center in Ohio that is part of the nation’s cargo delivery network.
Exciting stuff. What completes the pathos-drenched scene is the fact that Biden clearly wants to be president, and, as the piece alludes to, probably understands that Obama would prefer Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. Clinton, meanwhile, is written about (on the front page) in Sunday's New York Times, in a piece that explores her relationship with black voters, which was damaged after the 2008 primary. The upshot of the piece? It's Hillary Clinton, she is the favorite, and all is forgiven. Some people have it so easy. The only sad part of this story is a quote from Tavis Smiley, who states, “[the Clintons] have now learned the important lesson that there’s a distinction between a coronation and an election.” The article seems intent on showing that the Clintons have indeed learned this lesson, but of course they probably haven't...because they don't need to.
The story ends with a quote from Doug Wilder, the former governor of Virginia who endorsed Obama in 2008. But how things change...
In an interview at the rally, Mr. Wilder recalled a long chat he had with Mr. Clinton in May. While Mr. Clinton professed not to know his wife’s intentions, Mr. Wilder felt otherwise: “I’d be less than honest if I didn’t tell you I came away convinced that there’s no question about her running."Of the tensions of 2008, the former governor said all was forgiven: “I don’t think anybody is looking back. If Hillary runs for the nomination, she gets it. Period.”
Translation: It's a coronation. Someone should tell Tavis Smiley. And Joe Biden.