Vice President Joe Biden has a reputation for being jovial, charming, and at times gaffe-ridden. He’s been around for a long time — 36 years in the Senate. Now in the throes of his second term as vice president, the media and the public have had ample time to scrutinize his every move.
This week, the vice president was praised by someone not easy to please — Michael Bloomberg. The mayor of New York has recently been one of the administration’s biggest fans, particularly on issues such as gun control. The mayor was also grateful for the Obama’s prompt response to Hurricane Sandy. As a result of the new-found camaraderie, Bloomberg declared in a Politico interview that Joe Biden has a “set of balls ... he says what he believes.”
Finally, someone sees that there may be a method to Biden’s madness.
Since when can one be at fault for speaking his mind? Don’t we all want honest politicians? The nature of today’s politics and media is that every comment is dissected for hidden meaning, each party thriving off of the others’ missteps. The right slammed Biden after the vice presidential debate for being disrespectful to his opponent, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis). The vice president is not one to mince words. “This is all a bunch of stuff!” he exclaimed at one point referring to Ryan’s hodgepodge of policy proposals. In true Biden fashion, he supported his criticism by making compelling claims based on his own experience. While Biden may be a gaffe machine at times, he knows what he’s talking about.
Despite his brazenness and filterless flow of verbiage, Biden is arguably one of the president’s biggest assets. Biden does and says what the president can’t, wouldn’t, or won’t. He uses his expertise and personality to get things done in a way few of us have the ability to do. After the president’s disappointing performance at the first presidential Debate, Biden brought the team back on track with his own gregarious and, at times, snarky, presentation countering his much younger “friend,” Ryan. Biden was aggressive — more than the president would ever be. He called his opponent out on poor policy proposals the way the president would never have done to Mitt Romney. This debate performance showed that experience in Washington counts for a lot, and Joe Biden has that for sure.
The Office of the Vice President, since the beginning, has been seen as a lame duck position. Though only a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the land, John Adams derided the job as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.” Biden has never let on that he feels remotely the same way.
Instead, he has proven himself to the American people and taken in stride the duties which the president assigns. Most recently, Biden was appointed leader of the task force for gun control in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre. The vice president took this appointment very seriously, saying, “I want to make it very clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything we’re going to do nothing. It’s critically important that we act.”
This statement sent a message to the public that the administration is not pursuing a political or purely ideological agenda. They are pursuing all avenues, and that is why Biden spent a week meeting with different politicians and interest groups related to the gun control issue.
Another recent Biden feat was the fiscal cliff deal made earlier this month. The fact that, in the end, Biden was requested as a “dance partner” by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is remarkable in itself. While it somewhat upstaged the president, Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), it is a testament to Biden’s negotiating ability and the respect held for him by some in the opposing party. When asked by the press what his best selling point was in cutting the deal, Biden replied, “Me!” while flashing his notoriously charming smile.
Finally, Biden has perfected the political art of smooth-talking. The New York Times ran an article during the campaign that took notice of Biden’s intimate campaigning style. The Times observed, “His old-fashioned style turns out to be well suited to an age in which a photograph of a spontaneous encounter with a voter ... can deliver the impression that politicians are just like us.” Biden has always insisted he’s just an average Joe. Raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the Delaware senator commuted via Amtrak to Washington while in the Senate. Biden gives the impression that he's lived the middle class American life. This appeals to people.
Regardless of political party affiliation, we can all agree that Joe Biden speaks his mind. Sometimes, he ends up putting his foot in his mouth. It happens to the best of us. His experience and his political aptitude, however, are undeniable. His role in the administration, invaluable. His connection with the people may be unmatched by other politicians of our time. When interviewed by the Times, Christina Funk, a nurse, said “His body language...unrelenting eye contact, with the genuine sincerity of his words brought tears to my eyes.”