Four years ago, I had no idea what he was thinking. After going through maybe the toughest primary fight in the history of the Democratic Party, then-Senator Barack Obama had in his pool of vanquished opponents an embarrassment of riches when it came to potential running mates. He could have mended the party fences by extending the Vice Presidency to Hillary Clinton, setting the stage for a star-studded past-their-prime White House lineup that would have done George Steinbrenner proud. At the time it seemed like a great move to pick up John Edwards, seeing as how he could’ve been a huge help in battleground states like Virginia and North Carolina and because no one knew yet that he was an inveterate womanizer who was sleeping around on his cancer-stricken wife. Even Bill Richardson made sense with his strong record as New Mexico’s governor and his appeal to hispanic voters. But he didn’t pick any of those people. He picked Joe Biden.
I never understood what Obama saw in Biden that convinced him that he had to have this man as his second-in-command. Sure he’s charming and has decades of experience in the Senate, but he is cursed with the most deadly Achilles Heel in all of politics: the man has no filter. Joe Biden can make the transition from suave to stupid like few politicians I’ve ever seen. One second he’s Dennis Quaid and the next he’s Randy Quaid. He’s kind of become America’s favorite uncle. You know, the one who always gives awesome Christmas gifts and is great with kids, but who inevitably has one too many whiskey sours at family functions and somehow winds up asleep in the bathtub. We all love that uncle, but none of us would ever think of nominating him for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Yet, somehow this is the man that Barack Obama chose to be his right hand man. For four years I had no clue why a man as calculating and analytical as President Obama would choose a loose cannon like Biden. After 90 minutes in Danville, KY last night, I have a pretty good idea.
Joe Biden’s smirking, shouting, histrionic performance at the Vice Presidential Debate was masterful. It was like watching a Bull Mastiff that has been chained up outside and not fed for a week unleashed on an unsuspecting trespasser. Ever since he joined the ticket in 2008, Joe has been expected to keep a lid on his colorful and boisterous personality and he’s done a decent job of it. Last night’s debate felt like it was the first time that President Obama had given the scrapper from Scranton the green light to unleash the insanity of his exuberance. As someone who has been buried under an avalanche of lukewarm speeches and fundraising e-mails, I was downright giddy watching Uncle Joe and his Cheshire Cat grin eviscerate Congressman Ryan.
Biden’s performance did exactly what it was meant to do. This doesn’t mean that he necessarily ran away with the debate, though. Paul Ryan did a solid, workmanlike job of pumping Romney up as a job creator and cleverly avoided giving specifics about anything. According to the initial polling, the debate ended up as a split decision. CNN’s survey of registered voters gave Ryan a 4 point win over his Democratic opponent, 48% to 44%, while CBS News found Vice President Biden the clear winner of the debate with a 50% to 31% victory. Ultimately, these are small groups of voters that can’t be said to represent much more than our modern media’s obsession with statistics. I doubt very much if many undecided voters had their opinion sufficiently swayed by last night’s slugfest towards one side or the other. The type of person who watches a Vice Presidential Debate is more than likely the type of person who has already decided what box they’re going to check on election day.
What Joe Biden gave on Thursday night was not an eloquent plea to undecided voters for their vote. That’s what Obama is there for. Biden was tasked with giving a 90 minute long, policy-driven pep rally for the millions of beleaguered Democrats who were still reeling from watching their candidate turn to wax on national television. We know that the Romney campaign is built on a series of nauseating falsehoods and we also know that the vast majority of Republicans in this country will accept those falsehoods as fact. All we wanted was for our candidates to come out and call them on their bullshit, or their “stuff” as Vice President Biden might put it. President Obama sat by in Denver as Mitt Romney regurgitated prepackaged mendacity to the American Public and did nothing but project disinterest. During Thursday’s debate, Joe Biden projected a raw confidence and aggression that communicated to his supporters that he had their backs and that he had no compunction about putting a bratty Objectivist sycophant in his place.
I’m not sure if the Biden-Ryan debate will have any significant effect on the poll numbers in the near future, but it really doesn’t matter. People don’t go to the ballot box with the intention of voting on a Vice President. Joe Biden knows this and so do the men and women around him. After the debate, Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina described Biden as being “a happy warrior,” and it’s not hard to see why. Watching the silver-haired soldier go at it last night, I couldn’t help but think of the St. Crispin’s Day Speech from Henry V, and one section in particular:
…He which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
In his debate performance, Vice President Biden was essentially conveying the sentiment lodged in those words to liberals and progressives all across the country. But, he was also in a sense laying down the gauntlet for his boss and setting the tone for the next presidential debate. Now it’s President Obama’s turn to strip his sleeves and show his scars and let the world know that he will not be denied. If he does step up, you know that no one will be smiling wider than Joe. To quote the man himself, this is a big fucking deal.
Categories: US Politics