Joe Biden: Taking the Measure of A Great, Great Man

Quite interesting, completely well-done, and somewhat sickening profile of Vice President Joe Biden in the new Esquire. Esquire is a master of this sort of courtier encomium about politicians, and has been admirably bi-partisan about it, at least during the age of McCain.

I'll let a series of excerpts with asides tell the tale; the tale of a man; a man they call Joe Biden; a man who after long struggle finds himself in exactly the place he belongs, thanks to his strength of character and mental acuity. That this is considered the proper way for a serious magazine in America to think about and discuss Power says a sad lot about America.

The true artists of democracy are never cynical. They are what they are, full of the moment, and when they grow full to overflowing they make us quiver with that old impossible dream — that now is the time, that revelation is finally at hand, that we are about to crash into the end zone and steal home and unfurl all our great potential like the wings of angels. That's how it feels on the buses and planes this last headlong week before the election.

......But the truth is, he's always been hard to pigeonhole. No on busing, yes on civil rights. No on the first Gulf war, yes on the 2003 invasion of Iraq. No on partial-birth abortions, yes on stem cells. No on the surge but yes to support for Israel, yes on the 1994 Crime Bill ($10 billion for prisons, $13 billion for cops, sixty new death-penalty crimes), yes on a whole host of harsh drug laws — the federal asset-forfeiture law, the RAVE anti-Ecstasy act, the drug czar.

How do you summarize that?

Indeed, what a nimble and noble mind, drifting above ideology, thought, and sense to pick the positions that a small-state Democratic politician largely needed to pick to survive as a political hack. (I wonder if author John H. Richardson really means that those last two points are meant to be in opposition, to present him as an expansive dialectical mind? They are both signs of mostly mean-spirited control-freak pandering, and make Biden directly complicit in the ruination of tens of thousands of innocent lives. But he's so uncynical about it all!)

And dig this Biden-eye view of the historical moment when Quixote chose Sancho:

Biden flew to Minneapolis for a secret meeting with Obama. For three hours, they talked alone in Obama's hotel room. "We were very, very candid with one another," Biden says, "and the one thing I can tell you is we both said, 'This won't work unless we both agree in building a relationship that we'll be absolutely straightforward and candid.' "

At that point, Obama laughed. "I know you'll be candid," he said. "Are you prepared for me to be?"

"Absolutely," Biden answered.

Another point of agreement came when Biden told Obama he had no desire to be a "quasi-executive" like Dick Cheney. The country had had quite enough of that in the last eight years, thank you. "He made it very clear to Barack from the first time they spoke that he wasn't seeking any portfolio," Axelrod says. "All he wanted to do was be a valued counselor on the big decisions."............

A few days later, Obama called for his answer.

"What do you think, Joe?" he asked.

"Yes," Biden said.

"Are you sure?"

They joked about it. Was the job too small? Was he too big?

Biden's response was unequivocal. "No. I know the role of a vice-president."

When they hung up, Obama called Axelrod. "He said, 'I'm going to go with Joe. They're all good, they all have virtues, but he's the best mix for me right now. And he'll be a good guy to have around in the next four or eight years.' "

If this is accurate as to the tenor and tone of the meetings and decisionmaking--which I completely doubt--than the lack of any apparent sense of irony, absurdity, and indeed, some intelligent cynicism, on the part of the two men taking on their current role actually kind of frightens me. These sound like men who really believe they can, and ought to, do all they intend--a scary, scary belief in a politician.

The rest of it gets even sillier--a couple of hundred words about Biden and his cute granddaughter--who wants to be president some day!--cooing over each other; the part intimating that if not for a completely innocent mistake about Neil Kinnock speech attribution that surely Biden would have been 41st president of the United States--but you kind of get the picture.

It is all so completely inside Biden's own head, so obviously exactly the way he wants to think about and present himself, including the way it deals with his defeats and foibles, that one has to respect the writer's skill as psycho-biographer. But ultimately, this article is a skilled and devoted act of a courtier, not a journalist, and the last sort of thing Americans need from their writers on politics.

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  • Kolohe||

    when they grow full to overflowing they make us quiver with that old impossible dream - that now is the time, that revelation is finally at hand, that we are about to crash into the end zone and steal home and unfurl all our great potential like the wings of angels



    Matt Taibbi's head just asploded.

  • Hugh Akston||

  • ||

    Spit it out, Hugh!

  • ||

    OMG! That was worse than accidentally walking in on grandma blowing grandpa! Must scrub brain with brillo pad! I barely managed to survive the past eight years without driving icepicks into my ears, but I'm not sure I'll survive the next eight.

  • ||

    the last sort of thing Americans need from their writers on politics

    And the only thing we're likely to get for the next four years.

    I keep trying to think of something Obama and/or Biden might do that would elicit genuine, substantive criticism from the professional media. No matter what sort of scenario I envision -- a financial scandal (involving either BO or JB, not all of the Cabinet picks), a bungled military operation, suppression of domestic unrest, real efforts to suppress dissent -- I see the professional media justifying and rationalizing all of it.

    All of the stuff that the media accused Bush of wanting to do, or trying to do -- as well as the stuff he actually did -- Obama could do and none of them would protest.

  • ||

    It's pretty clear that Joe Biden, perhaps even more than Walter Mondale, has the soul of a vice president.

  • Syd||

    Someone was commenting a while back (on this site?)on the dread disease senatitis, which often claims people who have been in the Senate for a while. To his credit, McCain seems less affected than most, but Biden could be the poster child. It's fitting that his major job is presiding over the Senate.

    [Or, what Seamus said above me in many fewer words.]

  • Taktix®||

    No matter what sort of scenario I envision -- a financial scandal (involving either BO or JB, not all of the Cabinet picks), a bungled military operation, suppression of domestic unrest, real efforts to suppress dissent -- I see the professional media justifying and rationalizing all of it.

    Honselty, I can't think of anything either. They might give him flack if he were to approve offshore drilling or something else anti-environmental, but they'd probably bury on a Saturday morning...

  • ||

    Reports out today suggest that the rendition program -- aka let's let other countries do all the torturin for us so's we don't get our hands dirty -- will be expanded. The news was greeted, AFAIK, by crickets.

  • ||

    "The true artists of democracy are never cynical. They are what they are, full of the moment, and when they grow full to overflowing they make us quiver with that old impossible dream - that now is the time..."

    And I was just getting read to eat dinner!

  • Mad Max||

    I found this near the beginning of the article:

    '[Biden has] been taking this train for thirty-six years now, eighty minutes each way, and the longtime commuters and train employees know exactly how to treat him. "Hey, Joe, what are you going to do about this economy? We need some help!" Or "Hey, Joe, my boy's over in Iraq. You gotta bring the troops home."'

    Hey, Joe, what will do with the Vice-Presidency in your hand?
    I said, hey, Joe, what will you do with the Vice-Presidency in your hand?
    I guess I'll preside over the Senate
    Gonna be the best presiding officer in the land

    Hey, Joe, what office you gonna run for now?
    I said, hey, joe, what office you gonna run for now?
    I ain't running for any office
    Just gonna give Obama lots of fatty foods and urge him to take up extreme sports.

  • ||

    they grow full to overflowing they make us quiver with that old impossible dream

    Uh . . ohh ...

    Was it good for you too?

  • ||

    I guess Esquire has finally surrendered the field to that old bastion of old school, hard hitting journalism, Maxim.

  • Scott66||

    "And the scene in the hospital where he was sworn in to the Senate as he stood beside the beds of his wounded sons, so dazed and naive he let the media in to watch."

    Well that is one interpreatation. Another is that he is the worst kind of political whore imaginable.

  • ||

    I had the opportunity to be around Joe Biden in Iowa during the primaries and was favorably impressed with he, his knowledge, and his committment to public service. I thought Mr. Richardson's article in "Esquire" was quite fair and well done.

    You can either sit back, be cynical, and throw rocks at people who are in the trenches or you can get in there and do something of value yourself. I happen to believe that Joe Biden is far more valuable to this country than yourself, Mr. Doherty.

  • Mad Max||

    Donna Hughes,

    Doherty didn't authorize a dumb-ass war against Iraq or approve wacky asset-forfeiture laws.

  • ||

    I was really impressed with he. Him will make a great vice president.

  • Stool Sample||

    "This won't work unless we both agree in building a relationship that we'll be absolutely straightforward and candid."

    Then let's all be straight forward and candid:

    AP: Daschle apologizes all day for not paying taxes

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090203/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/daschle_taxes_52

    Some apologize for years and years.

  • Mad Max||

    'Him will make a great vice president.'

    Him make great presiding officer in Senate. Him makum good rulings on parliamentary procedure.

    For an example of Esquire journalism which is (comparatively speaking) more dignified than the Biden love-fest, look at their Britney Spears profile.

  • ||

    "full of the moment... overflowing... quivering..."

    Does this guy moonlight for Harlequin?

    Oh, and mad props to the Mary Rosh stand-in troll, Donna Hughes. Well played!

  • BakedPenguin||

    I happen to believe that Joe Biden is far more valuable to this country than yourself, Mr. Doherty.

    I happen to believe that the lint in Doherty's suitcoat pocket is of more value to the US than Joe Biden.

  • Syd||

    He enjoyed giving Hillary Clinton her oath today. I was having this vision of him getting confused and swearing in Chelsea.

  • ||

    You can either sit back, be cynical, and throw rocks at people who are in the trenches or you can get in there and do something of value yourself.

    I disagree. I think the answer for the most part is for people like Biden to sit on their hands and breathe through their noses.

    I wish I could reach people and get them to understand how important it is for career politicians like Biden to do as little as possible.

    The guy that made my sub for lunch today? Now that guy was doing something of value!

  • (The Real!) Donna Hughes||

    Doherty, you cynical cynic! It's so easy for you to sit back and throw stones on his parade. Joe is suffering in the trenches working hard for the hard-working working man, who works, really hard.

  • ||

    It's nice to have Brian back. You just don't hear things like "courtier encomium" and "the historical moment when Quixote chose Sancho" often enough. The other writers have their charms and styles, but Brian's been on a roll lately.

  • ||

    Egad! A pack of hyenas speaking glibberish! Well then, Nya-na-na Naaa-Na! Joe is VP and you all suck!

  • SIV||

    I predict "Cheney nostalgia".

  • alan||

    Well done! I almost bought it (sadly, it does fit well with the MSM 'post irony' narrative).

    I had the opportunity to be around Joe Biden in Iowa during the primaries and was favorably impressed with he, his knowledge, and his committment to public service. I thought Mr. Richardson's article in "Esquire" was quite fair and well done.

    You can either sit back, be cynical, and throw rocks at people who are in the trenches or you can get in there and do something of value yourself. I happen to believe that Joe Biden is far more valuable to this country than yourself, Mr. Doherty.

  • MJ||

    Joe Biden = Vice President

    Vice President = Warm bucket of piss

    ergo

    Joe Biden = ____?

  • ||

    Spit it out, Hugh!

    Funny, I was going to ask whether the author of the article spit it out.

    You know, afterwards.

    Because of the fellatio.


    Did I explain the joke too much?

  • ||

    I happen to believe that Joe Biden is far more valuable to this country than yourself, Mr. Doherty.

    I happen to believe people who can't use reflexive pronouns properly shouldn't try to write snark.

    Sorry. Use of the Pretentious Self bugs the hell out of me.

    Does this guy moonlight for Harlequin?

    I aspire to write for Harlequin (seriously), and even I don't use words like quiver. Quiver, as a verb, should only be used for humorous effect. It's like throbbing - just too silly a word to use in a serious context.

    Of course, that's the reason journalism is in the fucked up, sorry state it's in -- way too many journalists a-quiverin. Stupid, dirty sluts.

  • ¢||

    Joe Biden = ____?

    Hold on. I'll get this...

    A full to overflowing, quivering...bucket of...something.

  • Rimfax||

    Golly, Donna. Didn't take much to bring out the best in you. We didn't even have to resort to naughty words.

    Where's Juanita when you...would prefer her?

  • ||

    that's the reason journalism is in the fucked up, sorry state it's in -- way too many journalists a-quiverin.

    The difference between a journalist and a prostitute is that the prostitute doesn't get off when servicing a politician.

    Of course Reason is the Lady Heather of journalism.

  • Jone\'sTown Love Affair*||

    * A Harlequin Romance

    As I grabbed my bags and turned away from her, she stated coldly, but in a voice that quivered with muscle memory of our many passionate nights.

    "You can either sit back, be cynical" she said, "and throw rocks at people who are in the trenches or you can get in there and do something of value yourself."

    I said nothing to return her volley. The words she spoke were so thoroughly at odds with what she was about to do, all my words would be but a torrent of babel to her ears, as she was utterly caught up in the emotionalism of The One.

    I threw my bags in to the jeep.

    "Good bye, Eloise," I said.

    "Good bye, Evan," she snarled and with a glimmer of hateful spite, she stared back at me, eye to eye, and consumed the cup of Kool Aid she held with one gulp.

    Without another word, she walked over stridently to where the others were gathering.

  • ||

    This article makes one realize exactly how valuable a warm bucket of spit is worth compared to Master Biden. The perfect choice for our Kenyan head of the politburo.

  • Rimfax||

    Thomas Jackson,

    Thanks for giving me a bad case of oogy-by-association. Slow night over at LewRockwell.com?

  • ||

    Rimfax:

    Why not just tell us about all those voices in your head. They seem to keep you all warm and oggly.

  • ||

    Lawrence was right:
    "Everyone thinks his own ticks are gazelles."

  • Steve Urkel the Bold||

    Master Biden

    Leave me alone, I'm biden'.

  • Brian||

    Thomas Jackson,

    Can't decide if you like the 1950s or the 1850s better, eh?

    Yes, the most pressing issue of the day is whether the VP's press coverage is too favorable. As if we weren't cheered into Iraq by the same folks in '02.

    It's time for some perspective. And to quit whining already.

  • ||

    If he wanted to Obama, dear leader, could turn Joe Biden into Jesus, or, more accurately, the son of Obama then smart-alec libertarian writers would be sent to Hell for blasphamy and we could all worship Joe Biden and pray to him.

    If he wanted to.

    Pray to Obama. I pray to him. Prayer changes things.

    Bill Walsh

  • John Nance Garner||

    Vice President = Warm bucket of piss

    ergo

    Joe Biden = ____?


    Actually, my boy, it was VP < Warm bucket of Piss

    Which should really put Joe in his place.

  • BT6||

    I'm just not sure...

    Should we call him Joe Bidet or LBJoe?

  • ||

    So if I read this article correctly, Joe Biden just accepted early retirement by saying he wanted to be a VP without "being a quasi-executive." In other words he'll go back to the classical VP job - take the money, read the teleprompter and slip into oblivion unless the POTUS gets croaked.

    Say what you want about Cheney, at least he worked for his money (pushed bad policy, moved to secret locations, and shot people in the face when needed). LONG LIVE DICK!! JOE BLOWS!!

  • copy editor strikes again||

    "If this is accurate as to the tenor and tone of the meetings and decisionmaking--which I completely doubt--than"

  • ||

    You'd think libertarians were really dangerous or something. You'd think we had influence somewhere, that somewhere some policymaker was listening to us.

    ...and that Joe Biden has to be protected from our jibes at all costs!

    It's the exception that proves the rule, I guess. Libertarianism may have its shoulders to the mat for the moment, but the worm will turn. And everyone will see people like Biden for the fools they are...

    The other day Biden said he wanted to throw Wall Street people "in the brig"! How long can you protect a blowhard like that?

  • ||

    Actually, you'd think somebody who was so interested in Democrat politics, so interested that they'd actually take the time to defend the vice president, you'd think they'd try to cultivate some kind of support from swing voters like us.

    But noooOOOOoooo! They've got an unassailable mandate and the support of the American people.

    ...just like the last bunch did.

  • ||

    Way to go Brian. Biden's head look's good on a pike.

  • ||

    Can't decide whether you love the 1500s or the 1400s huh Brian. Maybe you need a new bong.

    It appears the most pressing issue of the day for you is whether to woship at Biden's altar or sacrifice at Husseins mosque.

    We get your perspective, enough all ready. I moved out of my parents basement years ago. Why not move out.

    Its sad to see banality packaged as bombast when its merely the usual leftwingnut diatribe written by a clueless leeming.

    Its sad to see someone so clueless he thinks Biden and Hussein are the acme of excellence.

    By the way you can give me fries with my order.

  • ||

    Brian that last missive was meant for you. Apparently many here hold you in the same esteem that I do.

    By the way Brian, remember the fries with my order.

  • ||

    I meant to comment on VP Biden, I like and respect the gentleman, but after reading the comments here, it appears intelligence is lacking as well as any meaningful dialogue or argument. Name calling? Sophomoric attacks? What childish blog have I stumbled upon? "hit and run" is certainly off my visits. Please, please, read some of your comments and try and be embarrassed. It appears to be a Biden-bashing, Cheney-worshipping site and no more.

    Have a happy and thoughtful life.

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