You all remember from the Bush-era how we were told repeatedly that Dick Cheney was George Bush’s brain. That notion arose when the Left couldn’t square Bush’s effectiveness as an executive (never mind his years of executive experience) with their certainty that he was, in fact, an idiot. They were so relieved when they decided that Cheney was Bush’s puppet master. I won’t debate the truth of that. Suffice to say that I believe that George Bush was fully capable of handling the job.
Seth Mandel, however, floats the interesting notion — with actual facts supporting it — that Joe Biden has become Obama’s brain:
In October 2008, in a highly publicized and eagerly anticipated vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin, Biden said something that would have been notable were it not for his reputation for bluster and braggadocio. When moderator Gwen Ifill asked the candidates about the job description and value of the vice presidency of the United States, Biden said this:
With regard to the role of vice president, I had a long talk, as I’m sure the governor did with her principal, in my case with Barack. Let me tell you what Barack asked me to do. I have a history of getting things done in the United States Senate. John McCain would acknowledge that. My record shows that on controversial issues. I would be the point person for the legislative initiatives in the United States Congress for our administration. I would also, when asked if I wanted a portfolio, my response was, no. But Barack Obama indicated to me he wanted me with him to help him govern. So every major decision he’ll be making, I’ll be sitting in the room to give my best advice. He’s president, not me, I’ll give my best advice.
This was Biden promising–and on the heels of the tenure of Dick Cheney, criticized volubly by the left for his active role in the White House–that he would be an unusually powerful vice president. And it was Biden’s way of reassuring those who were concerned about Obama’s inexperience. Obama may not be ready for all the challenges of the presidency, Biden was saying, but don’t worry: I’ll be in the room. And Obama may not have the kind of relationships with Congress that can get difficult legislation passed, but don’t worry: Uncle Joe will get it done.
It’s striking just how correct Biden was. Obama has bungled one negotiation with Congress after another, and Biden has stepped in. And when it comes to national security decision making, Biden has, in fact, been in the room.
And Biden’s success in this White House has raised another uncomfortable truth: that President Obama so often needs to be saved from himself. As Pete wrote yesterday, Obama’s press conference on the debt ceiling was filled with reprehensible, shameful slanders about Obama’s political opponents. Such was the case when Obama called that absurd rally/standup comedy routine to taunt Republicans while a deal on the fiscal cliff was still being hammered out by those who were working instead of kicking dirt at their opponents. Obama’s behavior should embarrass both the president and the Democrats, but it’s also the result of a moral hazard: Obama can refuse to engage intellectually with is opponents because someone else will do it for him. And he can work to destroy any progress on the problem solving others are conducting because Biden will clean up his mess.
If this doesn’t scare you, it should. It’s like the movie Dumb and Dumber, with Dumber pulling the strings. Or maybe it’s a movie called Evil and Dumber, and we should just be grateful that it’s Dumber who’s in charge.
Mandel notes that Biden’s increasing power makes him a good candidate for the 2016 presidential race. Biden’s problem is is toxic public statements that manage to offend one and all. However, he’s always been liked in D.C., and he now (finally) has a resume.
As with so many things shaping up this year, I don’t like where this is going.