Almost exactly two years ago (??!!) I wrote a piece here complaining about Barack Obama's decision to make Senator Joe Biden his running mate. I argued that it was a safe, reassuring choice rather than one that carried any real political juice. A senior, well-respected senator; strong on foreign policy issues; no wacky skeletons in his closet., bringing with him ALL of Delaware's electoral votes.
Two years later, and 18 months into the Obama Administration, I want to reiterate my complaints. Biden may well provide the President with all sorts of useful advice on all sorts of matters. Indeed, from what I have read, his may be the sanest voice on Afghanistan, insisting that our best strategy is to neutralize Al Qaeda and, more or less, leave.
He has also served the useful function of being the butt of the jokes made by late-night TV hosts against the administration. People in the mainstream may still be a tad nervous about laughing at the President, but Biden provides as least one punch-line a week.
But for a long time now the office of Vice President has required another task as well: attack dog for the President. Spiro Agnew may have set the mold; Dick Cheney raised it to an apotheosis. Biden has avoided it.
The President is not supposed to engage in partisan bickering, nor is he supposed to score cheap political points. He is supposed to remain above the fray - at least publicly. The Vice President is supposed to be out there flogging the political opposition, rallying the base, and getting angry at all the things which demand anger. Biden hasn't done those things.
So for all of us who are baffled at the way the administration has allowed the message to spun by the rabid right-wing without offering any significant defense (to say nothing of an attack to put the Republican party on the defensive) I remind you: that isn't the President's job (and given all we know about this President, it simply isn't in his temperment). It's the job of the VP.
And Biden isn't rising to the challenge.