Traditionally, the Vice President of the United States is little more than a political figurehead holding an office that has virtually no power or responsibility. Who can remember the names of any one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Vice-Presidents except for Harry Truman who would be forgotten today if he hadn’t assumed the Presidency on Roosevelt’s death?
Even though Lyndon Johnson was a master politician and a power in the Senate for years, no one has ever claimed that he was picked as JFK’s running mate because of his ability. He was chosen mainly to help secure Texas for the Democrats. After the election he was never in the Kennedy inner circle and only cruel fate elevated him to the Presidency.
No one would argue today that Vice-President Al Gore played a key role in the two Clinton administrations. On the contrary, it appears as if Clinton and Gore couldn’t stand each other. In 2000 President Bush’s choice of Dick Cheney bucked the trend. He was hand picked by Bush and no one would deny that Cheney played a key role for better or worse in the two Bush administrations. Some even believe that he was the real power behind the throne.
In 2008 candidate Barack Obama and his closest advisors went back to normal. To offset Obama’s race, youth, and inexperience they chose a venerable old party hack, Senator Joe Biden, as running mate. Is there any one who believes that Biden has played a key role in the Obama administration during the past four years? In fact, he has been such an embarrassment that there was even talk of dropping him from the ticket this year.
Nevertheless, there he was up on the stage the other night for the traditional Vice-Presidential debate with Republican challenger, Paul Ryan. As many have pointed out, his behavior was annoying but what he said was even more annoying. He was going to play the role of the wiser older man who would put the young whippersnapper into his place. For example, he tried to pull a Lloyd Bentsen and try to induce Ryan into equating himself with John Kennedy. It fell flat.
Biden threw a number of low blows. He must have had his staffers pore through the files until he found a couple of letters that young Representative Ryan had written to him. He was really scraping the bottom of the barrel. He also mentioned that Ryan had requested stimulus funds for two of his constituents as if it was somehow reprehensible. Was it really on the same level as Solyndra? Moreover, had Biden never done it himself during a long career in the Senate that turned him into a multi-millionaire?
What a despicable person. He even had the nerve to introduce the tragic death of his first wife into the debate. When Martha Raddatz, who did a fine job as moderator, asked him about negative ads, it is no wonder that Biden evaded the question.
Just a word about Congressman Ryan. Frankly, I thought he could have done a better job. He should have ignored Biden for the most part and concentrated on the sorry record of President Obama. ###