One of the intriguing mysteries of the soon-to-be Obama administration is precisely what role vice president Joseph R. Biden will play.
Obama appeared to lean heavily on Biden’s expertise during the campaign whenever questions arose over the Illinois Senator’s foreign policy credentials.
In the third presidential debate, for example, Obama remarked, “Joe Biden, I think, is one of the finest public servants that has served in this country,” adding, “he has some of the best foreign policy credentials of anybody. And Democrats and Republicans alike, I think, acknowledge his expertise there.”
So far, however, there is no indication what responsibilities, if any, Biden will actually shoulder.
“I’m sure that there will be discrete assignments over time,” David Axelrod, Obama’s senior adviser, told The New York Times on Tuesday. “But I think his fundamental role is as a trusted counselor. I think that when Obama selected him, he selected him to be a counselor and an adviser on a broad range of issues.”
Biden uttered several gaffes during the campaign that caught the Obama campaign by surprise. The most notable one came just two weeks before the election when Biden predicted that foreign powers would soon test Obama’s mettle in an international crisis.
“Mark my words,” Biden said at a Seattle fundraiser, “it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy,” an apparent reference to the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. GOP nominee pounced on the remark to support his position that Obama was too inexperienced to handle a national-security crisis.
Both former President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush had clarified the job responsibilities of their respective vice presidents by this point in their presidential transitions.
Clinton put Gore in charge of a broad initiative to develop civilian science and technology applications. Vice President Dick Cheney played an influential role in U.S. foreign policy and national security, especially after 9/11. Cheney’s duties led to expectations during the campaign that Biden would enjoy a high-profile role as well.
Axelrod says Biden has been working closely with Obama in Chicago since the election. But as Obama prepared this week to address the media on television regarding Wall Street’s ongoing difficulties, Biden was home in Delaware. The Times reported he was “stuffing Christmas stockings with his wife for a charity event.”
The newspaper reports that Biden’s apparent state of limbo contrasts sharply with the express duties given to other vice presidents during previous presidential transitions.
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