Gaffes and all, Biden at Obama’s side

by Chris Matthews

A serious comment on Vice President Joe Biden: Last week at the annual dinner of TV and Radio correspondents, he joked that “at least when I get caught with a foot in my mouth, it’s my own foot.”
It was a wonderful shot at one of his critics who was discovered several years back to have purchased a somewhat unusual service from a Washington, DC sex worker.

It was, of course, also an admission by the vice president of his own past embarrassments that have tended to land more in the area of simply that – personal embarrassments.

You see, the great thing about Joe Biden’s gaffes is their lack of malice. If “no harm, no foul” were the rule of the day, the fellow would not have suffered so much grief.

There was that time of course, when he singled out a certain African-American candidate for president as “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy… I mean that’s a story book, man.”   

Well, the man whose story that was,  Barack Obama, got him off the hook on that one, saying that he had “no problem” with Biden even though it was was “inaccurate” to say that he, alone, met that positive description Biden had given him.

Oh, by the way, he picked that fellow as his Vice President and running mate.

Then, there was when Biden said he told members of his family during the swine flu threat that he didn’t want them going into confined spaces.

Or when he kidded Justice Roberts about getting the presidential oath a bit off?

Or yesterday, when he used a locker room idiom: he just wanted the president to know – and feel – what an historic moment they were sharing, one that this president had achieved so downright remarkably.

It was classic Biden. Innocent embarrassment with no malice intended. With all the chuckles about the VP’s bad language yesterday, nobody pointed out the most obvious, how when the president came out yesterday to sign the health care bill he had Vice President Biden at his side – just as he did when the bill passed Sunday.

Other presidents didn’t do that. They were somewhat touchy about having their vice presidents too close, so visibly their official deputies.

Eisenhower never had Nixon upstairs to visit. Kennedy was simply uncomfortable in Johnson’s presence. Nixon kept Agnew at a distance, which was smart. Carter and Mondale got along all right but were cut from different cloth. The Reagans and Bushes were oil and water. Clinton and Gore hardly ended as a duet. And Dick Cheney looked like he was young Bush’s disapproving headmaster.

This team makes sense. For all Joe Biden’s over-enthusiasms, for all his “wished-I-hadn’t-said-that’s,” he balances well the president’s coolness. And they both know it. He is Barack Obama’s liaison with regular people, people like Joe Biden.

At that moment in the sun when he picked Biden out there at Springfield, Illinois that summer day, I was taken with the fact that a regular guy with his heart on his sleeve had risen so high. Joe Biden – bless his heart – hasn’t changed.

I was fortunate to travel with the Vice President on that difficult trip to Israel. I can say having interviewed him on the record there and chatted with him off on the way home, there is no more loyal partner to this president, no more stalwart defender abroad, no better representative to his fellow Americans. He is as loyal number two as any president could have, and for my money, as good and representative American as they come.

Gaffes and all, Biden at Obama's side