Joe Biden after Jan. 20: In Dover or in Clover?

A lot of tears have been glistening in Joe Biden's eyes lately, some of them unabashedly coursing down his worn cheeks.  No, it's not allergy season in the D.C. basin.  It's just that Uncle Joe is waxing even more emotional than usual as he exits almost a lifetime in political office.  So when his hands aren't casting about to "comfort" some convenient female, they're creeping upward to wipe away the evidence of his sentimental side.

Seventy-five-year-old Biden has had a long career as a "public servant."  He was first elected a U.S. senator from Delaware in 1972 and held that seat for 36 years before serving two terms as Obama's vice president.

Early along life's road, he encountered some personal patches of tragedy.  His first wife and daughter were killed in a car crash that was survived by their two young sons, one of whom predeceased his father recently after a terrible ordeal with cancer.

In public office, Joe Biden has likely found permanence as well as prominence.  He evolved into a consummate inside-the-Beltway guy, adept at negotiating the murky shoals of Washington's swamp.  Over the years, he has become an iconic – and economic – boon to his small state of Delaware; hence, his re-elections were rarely in doubt.

Twice without success, Biden tossed his hat into the presidential ring.  In both primaries, his poll numbers languished in the low single digits.  One of his campaigns was cut short due to revelations that he had been guilty of plagiarism.

In 2008, when Barack Obama tapped the almost septuagenarian for his running mate, Joe's notoriety began to rise.  Before the official announcement, Biden adamantly denied it, telling the press, "You've got the wrong man."  Wrong or otherwise – and there were some, like Bill Clinton, who thought him a poor choice for the job – Biden's disclaimer was enough to convince Americans that he was, indeed, Obama's pick.

Joe was delighted.  After the election, he and his second wife, Jill, moved into the official vice president's residence on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory but kept their digs in Dover.  Regarded by some as Obama's lapdog, Biden preferred to project himself as the younger man's wise and more experienced adviser.  He did what was asked of him and played the loyal soldier.  Clearly, Obama liked Old Joe and found him unthreatening.

There was a time when Joe Biden was routinely the butt of critics' jokes.  He was likened to the embarrassing, addled uncle in the attic.  But in recent years, Joe's image seems to have softened.  The "gaffe-a-minute" veep's lapses are even excused by some Republicans as "just Joe being Joe."  Maybe critics have bigger fish to fry in adversaries like President Obama and Secretary Clinton.

But not all Americans view Biden as a harmless buffoon.  Like his boss, he enjoys lecturing us on what we should think and how we should behave.  He relishes the role of vice moralizer in chief, often sounding tough and principled, as he did two years ago after reports of the beheading of a second American journalist in captivity among the Islamic State.  Biden expressed the resolve of the United States to follow the jihadist murderers "to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice."

The butchers were never tracked down, any more than those who brutally killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi.  Still, Biden was often used by the Obama administration as a fire-and-brimstone spokesman when it came to our foes abroad.  Perhaps this allowed Obama to reserve his righteous indignation for his homegrown enemies, the Republicans.

At times, Biden comes across as a brazen hypocrite.  He gave a speech recently in which he urged the Senate to take up Obama's discarded election-year Supreme Court nomination.  Yet as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee back in 1992, Biden had created a "blockade " based on what he called a "tradition" against acting on SCOTUS nominations in an election year.  At that time, his partisan motive was to allow incoming president Bill Clinton to fill the vacancies.

And then there's Biden the provocative prevaricator, resorting to wild rhetoric in order to score political points.  Remember how he told a black audience that the GOP would "put y'all back in chains"?

Uncle Joe has also shown a penchant for acting insensitive and rude.  His objective during the 2012 campaign was to humiliate his opponent, Paul Ryan, in their only vice presidential debate.  Biden's oratorical skills weren't up to the task, so he reverted to ridicule.  Whenever the younger man spoke, smarmy Joe leered , rolled his eyes, mumbled asides, shook his head in disbelief, and generally turned the debate into a disgraceful farce.  Nor did the biased moderator do or say anything to admonish his behavior.  The collective mainstream press liked Joe and approved of his tactics.  Republicans, they might have figured, didn't deserve any better.

Now, four years later, Biden is incredibly posturing as a man of maturity and manners.  He called out President-Elect Trump for his rudeness and advised him – with a straight face! – to grow up.  It's even been asserted that in meetings of Obama's Cabinet, Joe Biden was the "only adult" in the room.  How sad is that?

In this pre-inaugural period, Democrats appear to have "lost it" – not just the election, but the ability to act rationally in its wake.  They are attacking not only Trump, but Russia, Putin, Comey, the Cabinet picks, the Electoral College system...and even Melania.  Joe Biden may mouth platitudes about the need for a peaceful transition of power, but he's likely relishing every minute of his party's obstructionism.

In one of his parting acts, President Obama awarded Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Ever self-effacing, Joe tearfully said he didn't deserve it.  And he wept again at President Obama's Farewell Address in Chicago.

Perhaps the real reason Joe Biden is crying is because he will never achieve his ultimate desire to be the president of the United States.  His time has passed, and with it the torch that fueled his highest ambition.

Yet he had come tantalizingly close to jumping into the 2016 political fray, especially when Clinton's campaign faltered.  At first, he was consumed with grief over his son's passing.  But considering the outcome, he may be kicking himself for staying on the sidelines, convinced that he could have trounced Trump even without the supposed help of foreign villains.  We will never know.

Now that Obama is sticking around D.C. with the intention of becoming the universe's highest-profile community organizer, what will happen to Joe Biden?  Will he break out of the Beltway and settle down to a life in Dover, Del., with occasional sentimental journeys to Wilkes-Barre, Penn.?

More than likely, he'll hang around Our Nation's Capital as part of the Democrats' plan for a "parallel presidency," whose aim will be to oppose Trump's administration on all fronts.  Joe has bragged that he is forever "binded" (sic) to the Obamas.  And considering that he still has the mane of a lion and the mighty beast's appetite for power, Joe won't find it all that easy to leave the jungle behind.