Why I Love Joe Biden
Like Nicolas Cage, Vice President Joe Biden is a controversial figure because he acts like a big dope and is so easy to typecast. But also like Nicolas Cage, Biden has my heart and full support.
Earlier today our illustrious VP called a custard store owner in Wisconsin a “smart-ass” during a see-how-the-regular-folks-live pit stop. Why? ‘Cause the custard dealin’ fool had the nerve to crack wise about taxes being too high. Shit dude, Joltin’ Joe just wants some custard (…even though he initially thought it was an ice cream shoppe)! Leave the man alone.
A regular–or, let’s face it, more disciplined and professional–politician would have good-naturedly deflected Custard Man’s snide comment (which was along the lines of ‘I’ll give you free custard if you lower our taxes’). Not Joe Biden. He called the punk out. Conservative commentators are already likening Custard Man to Joe the Plumber for his talking truth to power schtick and jumping on the incident as proof that the Administration is disconnected from “average, every day Americans.” But that’s not fair: this was a classic Bidenism, emblematic of the man’s loose lips and propensity for calling out d-bags. Remember in 2007, when he publicly said that then-presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani’s entire political vocabulary was “a noun, a verb, and 9/11″?
More generally, this is Joe Biden we’re talking about–the guy subsists entirely on his own foot. And you know what? I love it. In this over-scripted age, it’s refreshing to have an old-schooler like Biden. The way I see it, his two main faults are actually endearing: first, playing things too straight when he should be more delicate (as with Custard Man, the Giuliani comment, and his admission that Hillary Clinton might have been a better VP pick than him); and second, introducing mischief into serious situations (as when he said health care reform was a “big fucking deal” into an open mike, or joked about Chief Justice John Roberts’ bad memory at an otherwise-high-falutin’ ceremony to swear in Obama’s senior staff).
Naturally, there are other screw-ups, like when Biden mistakenly told a guy in a wheelchair to stand up and called Obama “clean” a few years ago. But show me an old, white Senator not out of touch with the social conventions of 21st century America and I’ll show you John McCain awkwardly taking his own photo with an iPhone.
No, the really trademarked Biden muck-ups are (1) generally being rough around the edges and (2) saying inappropriate things in stuffy settings. Basically, Joe Biden is your crazy uncle, but he holds the second-highest office in the land. What’s not to like? You get the sense that he farts at state dinners and doesn’t even have the good sense to let the incident pass without comment (“Oh man, silent but deadly, am I right, Karzai?”).
Critics could say that it’s unfair to praise Biden for being a knucklehead when George W. Bush was the king of all fools and mercilessly mocked for his array of flubs. But there’s a big difference: Biden grasps policy. When he finally buckles down to talk shop, he tends to have pretty complex and nuanced positions. I don’t agree with all of them, but there’s a logic to them–and, importantly, an evolution to them as well. Dubya never seemed to change his mind about anything, and if you disagreed with him you immediately became the enemy; Biden has shifted on some major issues, and usually in a more progressive direction. For example, he voted for “don’t ask don’t tell” but now wants to see it repealed, and he supported the Iraq invasion but now calls it a mistake.
Despite this, I’d probably be lying if I claimed that Biden’s politics have nothing to do with my affection for him. It’s a lot easier to chuckle at the mishaps of someone in whom you have fundamental faith as a public figure from an ideological and intellectual perspective. Indeed, I suspect somewhere out there, some die-hard Republicans love George W’s folksy mishaps for the same reason I’m amused by Biden’s. But I’d also propose that Biden’s gaffes are much less worrisome than those of Bush from a basic capability standpoint. Bush seemed to have trouble stringing together a sentence and lacked basic awareness of where he was speaking or what he was talking about; Biden is just socially tone-deaf.
Either way, here’s to Joe Biden, another public figure who is a constant source of intrigue and amusement. Let’s hope that Nicolas Cage plays him in the biopic.
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