Joe Biden To Sit On Thumbs For Next Four Years
Our Vice President-elect spent a recent evening stuffing Christmas stockings for a charity, with his wife, because why not? It's not like he has anything better to do! He looks forward to a wonderful first term playing Wii in the Cheney Dungeon and cutting ribbons at state fairs. In having no defined "portfolio" of busywork to attend to, Biden differs from other recent vice presidents. Dick Cheney's portfolio, of course, included "Making war with everyone, quietly murdering deer, and colonizing Mars" whereas Al Gore had to streamline the government and Dan Quayle had to misspell common vegetables.
This is either a good or bad thing, Joe Biden's up-in-the-air-ness. On the one hand, it gives him broad authority to do whatever he wants (such as run the Senate per Sarah Palin's suggestions), and to learn about Things, and to act as a sage advice-giver to the President instead of getting distracted by various dumb little tasks like Al Gore did.
Al Gore ... didn’t want to head Clinton’s task force on health-care reform, “believing that it would consume all of his attention.” Gore did, however, make a major exception to this rule by taking on a project to streamline the federal government—a task that Kerry told me made Gore less available to lobby his old friends in the Senate. “Frankly, I don’t think Clinton used Gore for that very effectively,” Kerry said. “I think when he was given reinventing government it put him on the sidelines.”
Well that all sounds very sensible! But surely there is an "other hand," a downside, if you will. Ah here it is: in keeping Biden around for general advices and such, Obama is depriving reporters of much-needed "clarity."
[W]hile Mr. Obama has moved quickly to assemble his White House staff and the beginnings of a cabinet, he is lagging behind even the chronically late President Bill Clinton in bringing clarity to the role his vice president will play.
Obama needs to hold a press conference to inform the media of Joe Biden's specific duties: thinking, advising, breaking tie votes in the Senate, and playing Spore.
Biden's Brief [New Yorker]
For Biden, No Portfolio but the Role of a Counselor [New York Times]