Biden His Time?

Even Democrats desperate for some challenge to front-running Hillary must cringe at the thought of Joe Biden mounting a campaign for president.  Or maybe they have tender feelings for the old pol, even if his gaffes are hard to swallow.

Still, one wonders what Joe Biden has to offer America except unbridled ambition nudged along by an outsized ego.  Biden must have thick skin or a thick skull, since he seems impervious to both criticism and ridicule.  The same guy who could not manage to get along for an hour with his Republican counterpart at the only vice presidential debate of the 2012 election season now seems convinced that he is truly the one with the talent to unite America.

Biden has had a dismal record running for president before.  He never really gained traction with primary voters and dropped out of contention early on in his attempts.  In 1988 he was forced to do so by charges of plagiarism.  But that, as they say, was then.  Now he presumes that things are very different.  After all, he is a known commodity – our vice president for the last six years.  Never mind that there was a movement to expunge him from the ticket in 2012 and replace him with Hillary.

It has been said that Joe Biden is the only “adult” at the table around which this administration gathers.  Were this true, it would be a sad indictment against the rest of those in power.  Biden’s performance in the debate against Paul Ryan was anything but adult.  Yet his childish behavior was applauded afterward by Obama, who seems to get a kick out of his veep’s bravado.  Being candid, however, isn’t the same thing as being a candidate.  Ryan was too wet behind the ears to pick up his charts and graphs and walk off the stage, perhaps, but he might have at least come down harder on the vice president for his rudeness and inattention.  Ryan rolled with the punches, whereas he should have thrown a few of his own.

No doubt, over his long 44-year career in Washington – 36 of them as a member of Congress – Joe Biden put plenty of people in positions where they “owe” him.  Maybe it’s these debts of gratitude that he will presume to call in if and when he makes his move to run for the highest office of the land.  He can always find work-seeking ad-writers and campaign organizers to oblige his whim.  What he can’t buy are mouth filters and time.  He is already 72 years old.

Am I being too hard on old Joe?  Not to worry, because he will make up for it by not being hard enough on himself.  He adores his current position.  He is barely a threat to his boss, who, in turn, barely puts him in charge of anything that could pose a threat to the country.  Well, he was tapped to keep an eye on the transition in Iraq.  You see how well that went.

So what makes Biden run?  Conceit and an infatuation with power.  And the presumption that he’d be the best one for the job, despite his past rejections.  He likely knows that it will be an uphill battle to secure the nomination, but what other fight has he left to wage at this juncture in his waning career?  Is he maybe challenging Mrs. Clinton to prove that Democrats are not without viable alternatives?  Is he convinced that, given his broad grin and broader experience, he will sway reluctant voters to his side?  Does he expect to offer Americans another dose of Hope and Change, maybe even rosier than before, like the color of Pepto-Bismol?

What must Hillary and Bill think of Biden’s “exploratory talks”?  Likely they regard him as a distraction, like a fly buzzing around a bowl of sweet ambition.  According to one pundit, were Biden to enter the race, Ms. Clinton could not refuse his request for a debate.  Would Joe leer, guffaw, and dismiss her the way he did Ryan?  Would he roll his eyes as she sawed the air with her indispensably busy hands?  Would he throw back his silver mane and laugh at her pontifications?  Or would he proclaim to the world beforehand, as he did in his debate with Sarah Palin, that he’d make mincemeat of his adversary, only to find himself tied with her in after-debate polling – an outcome that could be interpreted as a Palin win?

Granted, Biden has not been without tragedy in his life.  Thirty-two years ago this month, he lost his first wife and infant daughter in a tragic car accident and became a devoted dad to his two surviving sons.  Joe has a human side.  And it could make Hillary come across as robotic and remote.

The big consideration, of course, is how a Biden run would impact Hillary’s “message.”  Would he act as champion for this administration, thus rallying those who still love Obama?  Would he chide her for opportunistically separating herself from the president, now that his popularity has slipped?  Hillary headed our country’s diplomatic corps; loose-lipped Biden is no diplomat.  Would Hillary benefit from or be hurt by the exposure a rival brings to the campaign?

Nobody will know until – or if – the two get out on the hustings.  There’s one thing we can be sure of, though.  After four and a half decades, Joe Biden is reluctant to slough off his political skin.  He’s comfortable in it.  And he will wear it even to the gates of hell.