You might think a lengthy profile of Joe Biden would be as worthwhile an investment of time as, say, darning socks. But you’d be wrong. At least you’d get more life out of the socks.
But Biden’s descriptions of the good-for-nothing president are priceless:
Gore, Klain concluded, had erred by putting himself in a silo, owning only a few issues (the environment and a “reinventing government” project). That won him headlines but limited his impact and eventually exacerbated his estrangement from Clinton in 2000. Klain counseled Biden to embrace a much more ambiguous role that fit Biden’s take-it-as-it-comes personality, urging him to undertake, in Biden’s words, “every sh[*]t job in the world” that Obama didn’t want to do.
Fortunately for Biden, there was a whole lot Obama didn’t want to do, from managing the withdrawal from Iraq to babysitting unreliable and paranoid Afghan President Hamid Karzai and dealing with a squabbling Senate that Obama had been only too happy to leave.
“I have a fu[*]king target on my back,” Biden told a confidant after the 2012 budget deal. He was right.
“When the president asked me what portfolio did I want, I said, ‘Base it on what you want of me to help you govern,’” Biden recalled in our conversation. “‘But I want to be the last guy in the room on every major decision. … You’re president, I’m not, but if it’s my experience you’re lookin’ for, I want to be the last guy to make the case.’” For the most part, Biden adds, Obama kept the promise.
The problem with that approach soon became clear, however: It imposed a loyalty tax of sorts, saddling Biden with a jumble of lost causes Obama wanted to offload.
You mean Obama wanted to offload MORE than Iraq, Afghanistan, and Congress?
In 2009 and 2010, [Biden] was tasked with selling the administration’s massive but unpopular $787 billion economic stimulus bill, headlining an ill-timed “Recovery Summer” tour when public sentiment was souring on big government, and stumping for doomed Democratic congressional candidates facing the incipient Tea Party revolt. Later, Biden would be called upon to sell Obama’s never-going-to-happen jobs bill and to quarterback a futile effort to pass even modest gun control measures in the wake of the 2012 Newtown, Conn., school massacre. In each of these instances, Biden counseled Obama and his team to take bolder action, and privately expressed puzzlement that Obama wasn’t more vigorously selling accomplishments like his health care law. But to no avail.
Was there anything Obama did do?
Senate Democrats were skeptical of his role, but Biden was undeniably a player, not least because of Obama’s inability—or unwillingness—to cultivate meaningful long-term relationships across the aisle.
Obama was a senator, albeit only for four years (less, when you consider he was running for president for at least two years); yet we are told he didn’t care to cultivate relationships, indeed, “had been only too happy to leave” the chamber.
So, WTF did Obama do? Run for reelection:
As Obama’s first term drew to an end and the 2012 campaign geared up, Biden seemed to recognize he needed to move beyond his tiny circle if he wanted a political future. Yet nearly every move to expand his political team was blocked by Obama’s sharp-elbowed protectors, according to several Biden and Obama aides I interviewed. If there was a moment when Biden could have asserted himself as a free agent, willing to buck the president’s political team, it came (and went) in 2011. Biden didn’t ask for much, just a few side trips to see potential 2016 donors, a schedule that took him to battleground states where he could build his blue-collar brand. But Obama’s campaign hands set the tone early on: This was an all-for-one operation, and the one was Barack Obama, not Joe Biden.
In the fall of 2011, Biden’s top in-house political aide at the time, Alan Hoffman, quietly added a few dinners with top Hollywood and Silicon Valley fundraisers onto a previously scheduled January 2012 trip to the West Coast. When Obama senior adviser David Plouffe and campaign manager Jim Messina caught wind of the plan, they shut it down. Plouffe was tasked with laying out the ground rules and told Biden that everything he said or did needed to be cleared with the Chicago campaign headquarters first. “We can’t have people going off doing things on their own,” Plouffe told Biden. “Everything has to be part of the larger plan.”
There’s tons more; I haven’t even scanned it all. But you get the point. Biden had to do every [bleep] job Obama asked of him while the president reamed through (sorry, rammed through) ObamaCare and campaigned for 2012.
But if this story isn’t Biden’s revenge, I don’t know what is. As Obama himself noted, nobody messes with Joe.