Vice President Joe Biden and the Incalculable Calculus

“If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?” Martha Raddatz to Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan, Vice Presidential Debates, 2012

In 2008, when then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama picked Senator Joe Biden as his Vice Presidential running mate, there were questions as to Biden’s suitability for the job. Questions were raised about his age, his free-wheeling style of communications, his religion, whether it made more sense to pick someone who could help deliver key swing states in the election. But Senator Joe Biden was a masterful choice for Vice President and has served the country well for four years, gaffes and all.

But among the reasons that he picked the avuncular Biden, I can’t help wonder if President Obama had one other unthinkable reason. No doubt, Obama recognized he faced a significant possibility of being targeted for assassination. No doubt, he understands that such a tragedy would cause immeasurable damage to the country. And no doubt, it would fall to whomever he selected for Vice President to lead the country through dark and difficult times. Biden survived the unbearable heartbreak of the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident; it was a devastating tragedy that shaped the man of compassion and caring that he is today. Of all the candidates President Obama might have considered, there could be none better than Vice President Joe Biden if he were called on to lead the country back from grief and anger and hatefulness – to healing.

I’ve wondered similarly with President Obama’s choice of Senator Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State. She has proven to be one of the most effective Secretaries of State in modern times. But with the role also comes the responsibility of being number four in the line of succession. The first in line is the Vice President, the third and fourth are representatives from the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Secretary of State is the next person beyond the Vice President in whom a sitting President can, by appointment, convey his confidence in their ability to take on the job of President should anything happen to him. In addition to her many fine qualities that made her a brilliant choice as his Secretary of State, I wonder if President Obama also picked her as a vote of confidence, knowing she might be called on in times of extreme crisis.

These are dark thoughts from the previous election. The country freely elected the first black American to the highest office in the land. President Obama has faithfully executed the Office of President of the United States, and has to the best of his ability, preserved, protected and defended the Constitution of the United States, as he swore he would do on January 20, 2009.  Almost four years later, no tragedies have befallen the Presidency. I’d like to think that we as a country have evolved, and that the divisiveness and hatefulness might fade.

Sadly, that seems not to be the case. In addition to explicit threats against the President, there continue to be a steady stream of voices of racism, such as the attendee at the Romney/Ryan rally wearing a shirt that said, “Put the white back in the White House” and acts of violence, such as the gun shot fired into the Obama campaign office in Denver. A Mecklenburg Virginia GOP office posted racist and disrespectful pictures of the President on their facebook page that were so objectionable, the Virginia State GOP condemned them. A member of the DC police unit that escorts Presidential motorcades was relieved of  responsibilities in response to making threats to kill First Lady Michelle Obama. The owner of a store advertised a picture of Obama as a witch doctor. With the explosion of social media, a disturbing number of people hide behind anonymity and refer to the President as O’vomit, Mr. Dumbama, Blowbama, Oblamer, President Bobo, and other more vulgar names.

Hatefulness seems to run as deep in 2012 as it did in 2008.

So, when Martha Raddatz asked, “what could you give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?” I already know the answer: Vice President Joe Biden would be the singular man who would put the country back together if evil and hatefulness tries to tear it apart. It is a gift to this country, as a man, as a human being, that no one else could give.

2 Comments on “Vice President Joe Biden and the Incalculable Calculus

  1. Barbara,
    I like your website. You asked me to comment about the “fairness” of your blog. As a long-standing moderate democrat, and politcal junkie, this article doesn’t cut it in terms of fairness. There were just as many anti-GWBush nuts back then as there are anti-Obama nuts now. And while some people might take the current anti-black/Obama folks characterizations as insulting, there were just as many anti-white/Bush characterizations back then.

    In fairness, these days both sides have to acknowledge that “we have nuts”.

    As a long standing moderate Democrat, having Joe Biden as President frightens me. I would much rather see Hillary in second place, she doesn’t shoot gaffes from the hip. But then again, Joe is certainly preferable to Boehner, and even Pelosi if the house switches power this next election. While I would not like to see Romney get elected, I could live with it. Ryan as VP, however, frightens the socks off me.

    Optical Weenie.

  2. Hey, thanks for stopping by and for the perspective! I was a little surprised and confused at your note that this post isn’t fair – always good to give me reason to think through my assumptions! I worry mostly that I badly and unfairly characterize the positions of Governor Romney and others in the Republican party. I didn’t intend for this to be that kind of post – it was not my intention to compare the nuts on the two sides – I agree there is enough undignified behavior on all sides! I do think it is fair game that as the first black President, Obama faces threats for which we have no precedent.

    I’ve also gone back and looked for examples of hatefulness directed at Bush. As a supporter at the time, I expect I might have been more sensitive to it. I haven’t been able to find as much as I expected, and in the examples I have found, the level of venom doesn’t begin to compare with what’s getting tossed around this election cycle. At least one factor I think is in play is the phenomenon of social media, as I indicated in the post. It’s so easy and inviting to express our every grumpy thought on twitter or facebook or even blogs like this. The explosion of that type of communication no doubt brings others’ views into our awareness in ways (and volume) that wasn’t possible in prior campaign seasons.

    I actually think Biden would be ok as a President under extreme circumstances, but in the case of this post, my main consideration was the question of who would be able to put oil on very troubled waters in the case of an assassination, and it was in that limited context I think he brings a unique quality to the job. I have kind of the opposite view on Hillary than I have on Biden: I think she would have a somewhat harder time stabilizing the situation in the aftermath of an assassination, but like you, I think she would do well as President once things quieted down. I am surprised President Obama named her SecState, and that she took the job. It seemed to me the battle between them was sharp and fresh. I don’t know if my pride would have let me offer, or take, the job if I were in their respective shoes!

    With respect to Congress, it’s looking like the Democrats will maintain control of the Senate. My favorite statistician, Nate Silver has the likelihood at 87.6% currently ( As for the House, it is very unlikely the balance of power will change in this election ( So, assuming Boehner gets elected Speaker again, he’d be the guy in line.

    Agree on Ryan.

    Thanks again for stopping by and for the comment – hope to see you here again sometime!

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