“Remember, I got criticized for saying I support gay marriage….I just decided I couldn’t be quiet about it anymore, and everybody was stunned that that’s where the public is. And I’m not stunned; it’s where the public’s been for a while. Talk to any of your kids, for God’s sake.”
This is one of the best ideas that I’ve heard in a long time. Pope Joe I would be awesome and might actually get me to Mass. I’d love to see what the first inappropriate thing Biden would say in Latin.
By the way, for people who appreciate history and historic happenings, Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation is something that you should really take some time to process because something taking place for the first time in 600 years is about as historic as it gets. And, whether you’re Catholic or not, the tradition and history and ritual that takes place when the Holy See is sede vacante and the College of Cardinals gather in Rome for the Conclave is fascinating to watch. Of all of the things that I’ve experienced as a history-lover, watching Pope John Paul II’s funeral (in the middle of the night) was one of the most memorable. And, even as an atheist, there was something really exciting about watching CNN to see if the smoke from the Sistine Chapel was white and the bells started ringing at St. Peter’s and then hearing “Habemus Papam!” (“We have a Pope!”) and waiting to see who emerged on the balcony at the Vatican and what regnal name the new Pope chooses.
Pay attention over the next few weeks because this is some really interesting, seriously historic shit. And, this time around, we don’t have to look at a dead guy for a week and have it be such a downer.
I think the VP debate is far more important this year than in other years, especially right now because the momentum is in Romney’s favor. If Ryan wins the debate handily, Obama better pack a lunch and be ready to decimate Romney in the second and third Presidential debates because that’s what it will take to reverse the momentum.
In my opinion, the Obama campaign has to let Biden be Biden tonight. In the past year, the media (particularly Drudge) salivates every single time Biden gets in front of a microphone because they think he’s going to say something that derails the campaign. Here’s the thing that Democrats should think about, though: in all of those “gaffes” that Biden has made, when has he said something that we don’t agree with? Health care reform was “a big fucking deal”. His comments on gay marriage weren’t indefensible; instead, he pushed the President to take a definitive stand on the right side of history. People aren’t worried that Biden is dumb or offensive; they’re worried that he’s honest. Biden is what Harry Truman would be like had Truman lived and served in this time.
In 2008, the campaign muzzled Biden at the VP debate because they were worried he would beat Sarah Palin so badly that people would start feeling sorry for her. Everyone knew that she was out of her league during the debate — even SHE knew she was out her league in the debate. All Biden had to do was let her talk and he would win. The campaign was smart in 2008 because, if Biden was unleashed, it would have become uncomfortable. Americans are fine with seeing someone get destroyed, but there is that point where you start worrying when you see the victor standing there covered in blood and laughing while everyone is saying, “Wow, I feel sorry for her.” They did what they had to do in 2008, and Biden knew his role and played it perfectly, even though that’s not Biden’s natural state. That’s why he stepped off the stage at the debate with Palin and told his campaign staff, “You guys owe me. You don’t know how much restraint that took.”
Four years later, the Obama campaign not only owes Joe Biden, but they NEED him. Paul Ryan is not Sarah Palin. Yes, he looks like creepy-ass Gabe from The Office and I don’t agree with his ideas, but he actually HAS ideas. Paul Ryan doesn’t simply memorize talking points and prep for the debate like it’s a junior high school play; he formulated much of the opposition’s policy in Congress, particularly when it comes to the budget. Ryan is one of the Republican Party’s intellectual centers and a guy who is not only smart enough to formulate his party’s policy, but ballsy enough to propose and defend it, will be a formidable opponent. This isn’t a slam dunk (Copyright ©2003 George Tenet), and Biden will have to be on his game. Yet, Ryan cannot underestimate Biden, either. Biden is such a nice, charming, likeable guy that it’s easy to forget that he is a lifelong overachiever. When he was elected to the Senate in 1972, he didn’t reach the Constitutional age minimum for taking his seat (30 years old) until two weeks after his election. He’s one of the longest-serving Senators of all-time. He is tough (widowed just after his Senate election and a single dad during his early years in Washington) and honest (that’s what his “gaffes” are, pure honesty). And he is experienced. It is not a coincidence that the biggest legislative victories of the Obama Administration have been projects where Biden has played a major role as a liaison between the White House and the Capitol. I think President Obama needs Joe Biden more than most people realize, and tonight’s debate is another situation where the loyal VP might have to save his President’s ass.
In order for him to do that, the safety has to come off. Biden has to be able to be Biden because he can and will frustrate and surprise Paul Ryan. Ryan is a numbers guy, Biden is an empathetic, I-feel-your-pain, blue-collar politician. We see the pictures of Paul Ryan in his hunting gear or wearing his Green Bay Packers colors, but I do not believe that Paul Ryan can out-blue-collar (I just made that phrase up, so let’s just accept it) the Scranton-born, Wilmington-raised, Amtrak-riding, Capitol creature that Joe Biden truly is. And this is a debate which focuses on domestic issues and foreign policy. Congressman Ryan is the GOP’s guiding light on economic and budget issues, but he cannot hold a candle to Vice President Biden on foreign policy. Biden became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Paul Ryan started kindergarten in 1975. For Biden’s final 10 years in the Senate, he was either the chairman or ranking member of the powerful committee. The Vice President will chew Ryan up on foreign policy, so the GOP’s VP candidate is going to do his best to score his points on domestic policy and the economy.
I’m very much looking forward to this debate tonight. I think it will be much more interesting than Obama and Romney because the VP candidates will be far more likely to take some risks. I’m sure Biden is spoiling for a fight and aiming to prove his worth once again by recapturing the momentum lost by the President last week. Ryan is a brilliant young Congressman who does the one unique thing that makes him stand out amongst the 535 members of the House and Senate — he leads and stands on his ideas, not his party’s ideology.
Biden shouldn’t have to restrain himself tonight and Paul Ryan is not Sarah Palin, so this won’t be like 2008 which felt more like Fisher-Price’s “My First Debate” so that Biden couldn’t make Palin cry. I’m pumped and I’ll be doing a Smart-Ass Commentary™ tonight (I’ll probably post it early tomorrow morning).
ADDENDUM: If Paul Ryan wanted to throw the Vice President off his game tonight, he should come out and pull the Palin bit, wink at the camera, and then turn to Biden and say, “Can I call ya Joe?” That would be awesome.
The other thing that would be awesome — and I don’t know why a candidate doesn’t try this just to be completely condescending — is if Biden just referred to Ryan by like 15 different names, as if he is just a cookie-cutter House Republican (which Ryan actually is not). How annoyed would Ryan get if Biden would refer to him as, “My opponent, Mr. Cantor” or “I’m going to have to disagree with you, Congressman McCarthy”?
That last paragraph is probably a good example of why nobody has ever asked me to help with debate prep.
If you missed Part I, featuring John Kerry, you’re lucky. If you survived Part I, you’re now in a better place because it’s time for my favorite member of the Obama Administration, one of my favorite Democratic politicians of my lifetime, and, let’s be real, the greatest thing to ever come out of Delaware (even though he was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania — Dunder Mifflin represent!) — the 47th Vice President of the United States of America, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.!
•People can disagree about politics and policies and social issues and a myriad of other flashpoints, but how can anyone dislike Joe Biden? Sure, maybe you wouldn’t vote for him, but wouldn’t you love to hang out and watch a football game with him? It’s easy to hammer him about his gaffes, but I would wager that no one who has worked closely with him has ever said, “I hate that Biden guy.”
•And he immediately sweet-talks his wife. This is a man who knows where his bread is buttered, if I can use a phrase that makes me sound like an 80-year-old man.
•Wow, it’s taken me this long to realize that the Vice President’s daughter is hot? What’s my problem? Hello, Ashley Biden.
•With that said, I feel it’s important to note that Abby Huntsman still holds they key to my heart. Also, a restraining order.
•No current American politician is as good as Bill Clinton, but Vice President Biden is a very underrated speaker with a similarly natural, folksy delivery. Sure, he slips up from time-to-time and says something dumb, but I still feel like he’s an underrated orator.
•Joe asked Jill to marry him five times and “I don’t know what I would have done on that fifth time had you said no.” Come on, how can you not love Joe Biden?
•As a speaker, Biden is usually hot or cold. When he’s cold and undisciplined, he trips up and says something goofy. Just a few minutes in tonight and the VP is on fire. Great delivery so far.
•As good as Clinton was on Wednesday night, Biden’s speech is tighter, less rambling. This is one of his better speeches ever.
•I’m glad John Kerry showed up earlier so that I could be mean-spirited because I don’t have much to be a smart-ass about with the Vice President.
•”Loyalty” is definitely the one word I’d use to describe the Biden Vice Presidency. By the nature of the office’s historical evolution, it is the recent VPs, particularly Mondale, G.H.W. Bush, Gore, Cheney, and Biden (and, to a lesser extent, Nixon and LBJ), who stand head-and-shoulders above the rest. I think Cheney was more powerful, but Biden is better and more helpful to his President. If I were to rank the “best” Vice Presidents in history, I think it would be Gore at #1 and Biden at #2.
•Speaking of Al Gore…where the hell has he been? He split with Tipper and there were those allegations of some misconduct with a masseuse and now he’s Democratic persona non grata, isn’t he?
•I wonder if Gore, John Edwards, and Jimmy Carter are sitting somewhere all pissed off because the Democratic Party intentionally gave them the wrong directions.
•I can just imagine those three calling and trying to make arrangements for the Convention while Debbie Wasserman-Schultz tells them, “Oh, that’s weird…we totally sent your tickets to you…..Yeah, those were the only ones available, so if you can’t find them, I’m really sorry………You know, there’s a lot of television coverage and that’s much better than being in the arena………No, of course we’re not hiding you like the GOP hides George W. Bush during Convention time.”
•If any party delegates — Republican or Democratic — are reading this, do you realize how silly your dumb hats look? Nominating a President and building a party platform is important work; it’s not New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
•The Vice President is giving one hell of a speech. This is way better than I expected.
•It drives me crazy to see people in the audience watching the speech through their phone or iPad screen. IT’S HAPPENING RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! JUST EXPERIENCE IT!
•”God love Jennifer Granholm. Wasn’t she great?” — No, I’ve gotta disagree with you there, Mr. Vice President, she came across like a lunatic. I thought she was going to end her speech with “Cocaine’s a helluva drug.”
•Oooh…I want one of those circular UAW Obama/Biden signs! Those things look badass!
•Damn, they got a whole wheelchair section on the floor of the Convention hall. They should call it the “FDR Section” just to be cute and see if anybody complains.
•Biden halted the crowd when they booed Mitt Romney’s name and said, “I don’t think he’s a bad guy.” Thank you, Mr. Vice President. We don’t have to hate each other to disagree with each other’s politics. Except for Rick Santorum. We should definitely hate him.
•”Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive” really is a good tag line.
•With Biden’s reputation for verbal gaffes, I bet President Obama and his aides hold their breath every time the Vice President gets that smirk on his face before he finishes one of his punchlines.
•The Vice Presidential candidate’s usual role at Conventions is to be the hatchet man (or woman), but Biden’s not doing a hatchet job; he’s giving a very focused speech.
•I’m sorry, guys, I just don’t have much to poke fun at here. I’ve been a fan of Vice President Biden for a long time, but I’ve never seen him like this. That was undoubtedly the best speech of Joe Biden’s life and I think it even rivaled President Clinton’s barn-burner from Wednesday night. Damn solid speech, Mr. Vice President. I’m proud to have Joe Biden on my side.
We’ll finish this up in Part III with the main event as President Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for a second term as President.
Well, there have only been three Catholic nominees: Al Smith in 1928, JFK in 1960, and John Kerry in 2004. It’s tough to get elected if you can’t get nominated.
Why haven’t more Catholics been nominated? The United States had a strong anti-Catholic attitude in the 18th, 19th, and early-20th Centuries. Many Americans distrusted Catholics because they felt that Catholics were loyal first to the Church and the Pope, and then to their country. Even when JFK was running for President, there was a real fear that the Catholic belief in Papal infallibility would lead Kennedy to take marching orders from the Vatican.
Even with the anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant tendencies of the 19th Century, it is odd that we’ve had so few Catholic nominees and only one Catholic President. Since JFK’s the only Catholic President, that means of the 38 Presidents who have been elected to terms in the White House, just 2.6% have been Catholic despite the fact that 22% of Americans are Catholic.
An even stranger fact: although the first Catholic President wasn’t elected until 1960, the first Catholic Vice President wasn’t elected until 2008 as Joe Biden is the first Catholic elected to the Vice Presidency.
No. Joe Biden is a good Vice President, and he has been a loyal member of the Obama Administration. I have a lot of respect for Vice President Biden. I think it would be totally unfair to dump him from the ticket. Plus, it would look like a total panic move (which it would be), and it would leave the President open to criticism about the first really important decision he made as the nominee, make it possible for the opposition to say that he was blaming Biden for his troubles, and suggesting that he needed Hillary to save his ass in 2012.
Thank you. I definitely recommend reading the book, Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption. I’ve actually always been a huge admirer and fan of Biden and if it weren’t for Obama, he would have been my horse in the 2008 Presidential race. With that said, I still learned so much about him and came out of reading the book with much more respect for him. I think, in the past, I just liked the guy; now, I’m really inspired by him. Great book and Jules Witcover is a great historian/journalist.
Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption
By Jules Witcover
Hardcover. 536 pp.
October 5, 2010. William Morrow
Over the years, I have often felt and frequently been told that my lifelong passion for Presidential History has been somewhat unique and a definite niche hobby. I’m fine with that and have even embraced it. With the popularity of Dead Presidents, I actually have found that my passion is not as unusual as I once thought, but Jules Witcover really is an expert is a niche subject. A prolific author, longtime political reporter, and well-respected historian, Witcover is probably the preeminent (and perhaps only) VICE PRESIDENTIAL historian and has written several books on Vice Presidents and the Vice Presidency including this most recent title, Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (2010, William Morrow) on our current Vice President, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. of Delaware.
In Joe Biden, Witcover tells the story of Vice President Biden’s fascinating rise in American politics and a life that would be hard-to-believe if it wasn’t so very real. The 47th Vice President was born in the working-class town of Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1942 and moved to Delaware as a child. While growing up, Biden excelled at sports and socializing, overcoming a severe stuttering problem, but not exactly establishing himself as a prodigy at school. Biden’s grades were never impressive, but he got by on his personality and natural charisma. As he entered college, Biden was unsure of what he wanted to do for his career but drifted towards politics by way of studying law, first at the University of Delaware and then at Syracuse University’s College of Law.
Biden chose Syracuse because he had fallen in love with Neilia Hunter after meeting her during a Spring Break trip with friends to the Bahamas in 1964. Witcover tells the story of Biden’s love and life with Neilia, who he was instantly taken by. The feeling was mutual and the couple was virtually inseparable despite the distance between his Delaware home and her home near Syracuse, New York. Because of Neilia’s location — and for no other reason — Biden specifically chose to attend Syracuse. His academic struggles continued at Syracuse, but Biden worked hard when he had to and graduated in 1968. He was admitted to the Delaware State Bar a year later and began work as a lawyer in Wilmington.
While at law school in Syracuse in 1966, Biden and Neilia were married despite the initial misgivings of Neilia’s parents due to Biden’s Catholicism. After starting to practice corporate law in Wilmington, Biden quickly became dissatisfied with what he was doing and started wondering whether or not it was too early to begin his political career. Most Delawareans and close advisors told Biden that he was too young, but Biden felt otherwise. In 1969, he ran for the New Castle County Council and surprisingly won his normally Republican district. Two years later, he took a bigger leap.
In Joe Biden, Witcover does a great job of explaining Biden’s mindset and personality, which makes seemingly risky decisions — like running for the United States Senate in 1972 at the age of 29 against a popular incumbent who had been in elected office in Delaware nearly as long as Biden had been alive — make sense. Biden is a fighter and always has been, and not a patient fighter, at that. When he challenged Cale Boggs in 1972, Biden wasn’t even Constitutionally eligible to take his seat in the United States Senate until two weeks after his election victory. Running a smart, positive, and respectful campaign, Biden and his young family and energetic campaign style connected with the people of Delaware and he narrowly defeated the veteran Senator Boggs. At just 30 years old, Biden was about to become one of the youngest Senators in American History.
Just two weeks before he was about to be sworn in to the Senate, however, Biden’s life took a tragic turn. On December 18, 1972, his beloved wife Neilia and his 1-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident while Christmas shopping in Delaware. His two sons, Beau, 3, and Hunter, 2, were critically injured in the accident. Angry and despondent, Biden decided that he would resign his position before taking his seat in order to care for his two young sons. The powerful Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, however, saw that the Senate — and particularly the Democratic Party — needed Biden and that the crestfallen Biden needed the Senate. By offering plum committe placements for a freshman and giving Biden tons of moral support, he persuaded Biden to take his Senate seat. Biden took the oath of office in the hospital room of his injured sons and commuted daily from Wilmington, Delware to Washington, D.C. via Amtrak in order to be home every night for his boys. The 90-minute Amtrak ride from Delaware to Washington became a tradition that Biden continued for his entire 36 years in the Senate.
After some initial trouble, Biden quickly found his way in the Senate and the tragic events which took the lives of his wife and daughter drove him to be an even better father for his boys than Senator for Delaware. As Witcover explains in Joe Biden, there was never a time that Biden ever sacrificed his family for his career, believing strongly that Delaware could always find another Senator but his sons could never find another father. Family has always been a big thing for Biden. His campaign manager early in his career was his sister, Valerie, and his father, mother, and brothers were a strong support system throughout his career. Biden found inspiration and learned lessons from his family history. Due to some instances of alcoholism in other branches of his family, Biden has been a lifelong teetotaler. Throughout his long and busy career, Biden has remained devoted to his family.
That is just the beginning of Joe Biden’s remarkable career. Throughout his book, Jules Witcover gives examples of Biden’s tenacity, famed loquaciousness, indefatigable work ethic, and steady rise through the Senate leadership. Only thirteen Senators in American History have served in the Senate longer than Joe Biden and Jules Witcover chronicles Biden’s important role as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and longtime membership on the Senator Foreign Relations Committee. For years, Biden was one of the most important voices in Foreign Relations in American government — a big reason for his choice as Vice President by Barack Obama in 2008.
As the title denotes, Biden’s life is truly one of trial and redemption. With the triumphs came troubles besides the tragedy. Biden suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms and his 1988 campaign for the Presidency was derailed by accusations of plagiarism. Biden’s famous loquaciousness has often caused him trouble due to verbal gaffes or blunt comments that some have found offensive. It is that same verbosity, combined with his supreme self-confidence and real political skill, which has made Biden a refreshing politician in a world of filters and censorship.
In 2008, Biden once again made a run for the Presidency, but quickly bowed out when it became clear that he couldn’t overcome the popularity and excitement for Democratic rivals Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards. But campaigning against each other in the early primary contests and Democratic debates helped build a relationship between Obama and Biden that had never found ground in the Senate. Biden’s abilities and qualifications made an impression on Obama and Biden found Obama to be a serious, capable leader. After Obama clinched the nomination, Biden suggested that he give the Vice Presidency to Hillary Clinton. Obama vetted a long list of potential VP’s, but Rahm Emanuel — later Obama’s Chief of Staff — felt that Obama always knew his choice would be Biden.
The Vice Presidency may not have been the culmination Joe Biden saw for his career, but he has taken the role on as a great honor and served President Obama loyally. In Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption Jules Witcover talks about why Biden took the Vice Presidential nomination, what the position means to him, and details the first Catholic Vice President’s close, candid, sometimes tumultuous relationship with President Obama.
Joe Biden’s story is an American epic and Jules Witcover is the best journalist and historian around to tell us about this Vice President’s life. Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption was released by William Morrow on October 5, 2010. It is available in your local independent bookstore, at larger retailers, online at Amazon, and through Harper Collins.
I really, really, really like Vice President Biden. Early on in the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008 (and by early on, I mean like January 2007), I was pointing out that Biden would be an awesome Vice President to the person I was supporting — Barack Obama. I think Biden is everything a Vice President should be — experienced, capable, credible, with strong foreign policy credentials, a good balance to the candidate he ran with, and possessing a definite tendency to stray from the reservation from time-to-time.
Other really good VP’s who didn’t become President: Gore, HHH, John Nance Garner, Thomas Riley Marshall (if you want some great quotes, look up Vice President Marshall), Garret Hobart (the most powerful VP until the 1970’s), Henry Wilson, John C. Breckinridge (not for his Vice Presidency, but because his life was really interesting), Richard Mentor Johnson (completely off his rocker; probably the most eccentric person ever elected to national office), and John C. Calhoun (you gotta love Calhoun, he looked like an angry muppet that was bitten by a vampire).
“I’m inheriting a world that could blow up any minute in half a dozen ways, and I will have some powerful but limited and perhaps even dubious ways to keep it from happening.” — President-elect Barack Obama, to one of his closest aides, talking about the state of the world prior to his inauguration
In the early-1970’s, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein helped uncover the secret White House taping system that revealed the extent of the Watergate scandal and brought down Richard Nixon. I wonder when Bob Woodward’s secret White House taping system will be revealed.
For nearly four decades, Woodward, now an associate editor at the Washington Post, has brought forth the inner workings of Presidents Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and, now, with Obama’s Wars (2010, Simon & Schuster), Barack Obama.
Woodward’s sources are very close to the highest levels of government. In fact, Woodward’s sources are likely leaders who happen to be the highest levels of government. With a rich arsenal of materials ranging from meeting notes, memoranda, first-hand accounts, and interviews with principals, Bob Woodward has crafted a story focusing on Barack Obama’s inheritance of the Afghanistan War from George W. Bush.
What I love about Woodward’s books — and I have read and loved all of them — are the vivid descriptions of people, places, and events that only a journalist of Woodward’s stature can relate to readers. I like picturing the pained or frustrated reaction on President Obama’s face or the nervous energy of Rahm Emanuel during interminable meetings in the White House Situation Room. I appreciate the description of events such as a solemn midnight visit by the President to Dover Air Force Base to meet the caskets of deceased soldiers returning to the United States for burial. I am captivated by reading the actual deliberations — in their own unique language — of the people responsible for running our country.
Obama’s Wars is a sobering look at the disconnect between the White House and the military, and how an exasperated, rookie President took the reins of powers and attempted to shift an entire broken strategy towards a realistic, acceptable goal. Barack Obama does not come across in this book as anything less than a logical, forward-thinking leader. Presidents make mistakes and Obama’s mistake may have been in waiting too long to make a decisive decision about the direction of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, but it’s hard to fault the President when the military appears to be narrow-sighted, stubborn, and borderline insubordinate when dealing with the new President.
As with every Woodward book, the cast of characters in Obama’s Wars is vast and the story is peppered frequently with acronyms that would be difficult to keep track of without the handy glossary that Woodward always includes. The cast of Obama’s Wars are the political and military leaders at the highest levels of government in the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Reading Obama’s Wars makes you worry about the strategic command of our military leadership, the mental capacity of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the intestinal fortitude of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
There are always people in Woodward’s books who stand out. President Obama is portrayed positively, pushing the military for better options, constantly questioning situations, and decisively stating his case. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is cautious and almost beyond reproach; perhaps the most valuable link between Obama’s White House and the military brass in the field and the Pentagon. National Security Adviser James L. Jones (who announced his resignation last week) seems lost in his role, divided between his position as the President’s chief counsel on national security and his former career as a Marine General.
The military leaders are most worrisome. General David Petraeus is depicted as the man who successfully turned around the Iraq War in 2007, but also as someone who is attempting to apply the same tactics from Iraq in Afghanistan, almost to a fault. Petraeus also appears to be positioning himself for a potential run at the Presidency, even if he denies it frequently, through his numerous television appearances and speeches. General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by Obama in June due to derogatory comments he made in a Rolling Stone interview, is less abrasive and more capable than I expected.
Yet, the biggest surprise in the book and in Obama’s Administration is Vice President Joe Biden. Biden, of course, talks too much and probably pushes too hard at times, but Biden’s experience and toughness translates throughout Obama’s Wars. The Vice President has a strategy of his own for Afghanistan and Pakistan and works hard at promoting it. Biden’s intelligence is underrated and his ability should make everyone feel comfortable that he is one of the the most powerful people in the world. Woodward portrays Biden as a relentless voice for realism and political feasibility in the Obama White House and someone who everyone listens to, even if he tends to get a bit long-winded. Biden gives Obama a credibility with the military that Obama might not have been able to quickly attain on his own.
Of course I loved Obama’s Wars. Bob Woodward gets us closer to the inner workings of the White House than anyone else can other than the inner workers of the White House — and they won’t talk to us. Fortunately, they talk to Bob Woodward and we are better informed because of it. Woodward would probably want to be called a reporter, not a historian, but he reports history and he does so in a journalistic manner — with objectivity, clarity, and purpose. It’s a tribute to Woodward’s style and intent that the reader can’t tell what his political beliefs are. It’s a monument to his execution and expertise that the reader doesn’t need to know. What is important is that Obama’s Wars, like all of Woodward’s books, is well-rounded, informative, and a valuable, critical display of our government at work — not how it worked at one point, but how it is working now.
Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward can be found at your local independent bookstore, on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and available for download on iTunes.
I think it would be unfair for Vice President Biden to be dropped from the ticket in 2012 in favor of Hillary Clinton just because Hillary is a more interesting running mate. Biden has done nothing wrong, and I would feel perfectly fine with a President Biden in the unlikely event that anything might happen to Obama. Is Hillary qualified? Sure. But not as qualified as Joe Biden. Biden deserves to keep his spot.
Then again, you didn’t ask me if it’s right. You asked me what I think will happen. I think the Democrats will get rocked in the midterm elections next month, and as the Presidential campaign begins heating up (and it will begin far earlier than the 2008 campaign even did), I fear that Biden will be a casualty. I think it has to be something that saves face for Biden and doesn’t make Hillary look like a headhunter, as well as ensuring that Obama doesn’t look panicked and desperate. I could definitely see Biden and Hillary switching jobs come Inauguration Day 2013. At this point, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
No, a President has never blatantly fired a Vice President. Nixon and his top aides certainly pushed Agnew towards the door in 1973, and Nixon probably could have saved Agnew if he had wanted to (and saved himself in the process, as no one in Congress would have impeached Nixon because of Watergate if Agnew was waiting in the wings to assume the Presidency). Andrew Jackson wanted to hang John C. Calhoun, but Calhoun resigned on his own, not at Jackson’s urging. Calvin Coolidge had a deep hatred for his Vice President, Charles Gates Dawes, but he simply froze him out of any decisions or responsibilities. Really, the Vice Presidency wasn’t important enough for Presidents to worry about until the mid-20th Century. A Vice President wasn’t even worth firing because the President could easily keep them in the fold while giving them absolutely no responsibility whatsoever. And, since that time, Vice Presidents have almost always been supremely qualified for their position (not so fast, Dan Quayle), so there hasn’t been a need to fire them. Ford dropped Nelson Rockefeller from the ticket in 1976 because of political reasons, not personal ones, and later said it was the biggest mistake he ever made
The final question is unclear. There is nothing in the Constitution that states that the President can’t fire the Vice President. On the flip side, however, there is nothing in the Constitution that says that the President can fire the Vice President. It really depends on your interpretation. My opinion is that the President has that right, although I am not completely sold on that. After all, the Vice President is an elected official. Plus, there is some dispute on whether the Vice President is a member of the Executive branch or the Legislative branch, since the Vice President’s only Constitutionally-required duty is presiding over the Senate. Vice Presidents since Walter Mondale in the 1970’s have had offices in the White House, but before that, not a single one did and, as Dick Cheney once noted, Vice Presidents (and the majority of their staff) receive their paychecks from the United States Senate.
It really is a muddy area, but I think that even if the Vice President can’t be directly fired, the President is powerful enough to force a resignation under any circumstance.