The Secret of Joe Biden.Posted: April 1, 2010
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Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, said Sigmund Freud, but implicit in his remark was that this was the exception. Far more commonly, a cigar is not just a cigar; our actions have meanings beneath the surface. These meanings may be ulterior motives, or they may be unconscious ones.
I believe that Joe Biden’s actions reveal over and over again that he believes he ought to be president and deeply resents the man who is.
The latest example of this happened last week, when he made his latest “gaffe” on the occasion of Obama’s signing of the new health care reform bill. After introducing Obama, Biden stepped away from the mike — but not far enough away from it — to mutter in the President’s ear, “This is a big f*****’ deal.”
He meant to sabotage the moment. Fortunately, the Republicans don’t seem to have made too big a deal of it, and the Democrats have decided to “own” the gaffe, printing up, for donors giving at least $25, t-shirts that say “Health Reform is a BFD.” But that doesn’t mean Biden’s goof was an innocent one.
First of all, it flirted with ruining, or at least blemishing, an occasion that meant everything to the Obama Presidency.
Second, it was condescending. Biden’s entire introduction, in fact, was condescending. By addressing his remarks directly to Obama in a manner that repeatedly underlined the enormity of the accomplishment, Biden implied that Obama himself did not have the perspective necessary to appreciate its enormity. That he felt it necessary to put the icing on the cake with his “big f*****’ deal” remark was the ultimate insult. Did Biden really believe that Obama, who worked longer and harder to get health care reform than any president before him, and who, to do so, withstood with statesmanlike grace enormous abuse unmatched by that any previous president has known — did Biden really believe that Obama was himself ignorant of the scope of the accomplishment, did not realize just how big an effin’ deal it was? Incredible as it may seem, I think that Biden in fact did think Obama needed his help in seeing this big picture, because I think Biden devalues Obama. Biden still can’t get over that this guy with relatively little experience is president, and not Joe Biden.
But all of Biden’s gaffes, those within the President’s earshot and those away from it, are clues to his arrogance. His is the arrogance of the guy who belittles someone by pointedly getting his name wrong, or who “forgets” that a man is in a wheelchair and can’t stand up when called upon, or who shows contempt for his audience when arriving late to a speaking engagement by muttering “give me a f*****’ break” as he takes the podium, or who underlines the inexperience of his running mate during a campaign by promising an “international crisis” within the first six months of his running mate’s presidency. These things, added up and seen for the pattern they create, are not the characteristics of a “lovable, regular guy” who happens to be something of a doofus who lets his mouth run off when he shouldn’t. They’re the telltale signs of a man who enjoys lording his power over others, who believes he ought to have more power than he has, and who feels bitterly cheated that he doesn’t.