Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Biden's Memo

On the day-to-day specifics of any Vice Presidency, there's little in the public record, which makes it an even harder task to try and condense the office's history and evolution. What, exactly are we condensing? To be certain, we have records of Senate sessions and we have newspaper articles, but the latter is a condensed work on its own and the former - true as it might be to the character of a Vice President - gives us only a snapshot of who they were, as much as it might give us the only record of them ever serving a purpose.

This is why saying that Joe Biden's recent public memo to President Obama is surprising to me might, really, be quite ignorant. Maybe its a regular thing for the VP to get on his Smith Corona, throw in some White House letterhead, and just give the president advice. Maybe its the first time a President has cared enough about one of those toiled-over mini-tomes to allow it to be public - like Obama putting Joe's memo on the White House refrigerator underneath a magnet of Abraham Lincoln reading "Four-score and seven years ago, your cheese was still good."

In all likelihood, though, I'm wrong. The only memos written by a VP that you ever hear about, frankly, are the "secret memos" that Dick Cheney wants kept secret, or the "secret memos" Dick Cheney publicly demanded become public. My search for "Dick Cheney" and "memo" turned up almost exclusively references to secret memos or memos in which Dick Cheney was mentioned, with the exception of this memo from Dick Cheney to Gerald Ford, when Cheney was Ford's Chief of Staff, about how to talk about Jimmy Carter without mentioning Jimmy Carter's name, and then to mention Jimmy Carter's name. The most fun thing about the whole memo, though, is the two pages of preparation, including references to Gerry Ford's "briefing book" (which I imagine was the size of a Tijuana Bible, only less sexually graphic, containing choice bits of advice like "left foot first" and "use the railing for balance" - yep, that was a Gerry Ford clumsiness joke. Eat it, 1976.), followed by a third page with only this single line on it.

Obviously, the subject of Vice Presidential memos is now of considerable interest to me. In this case, its Biden as a mouthpiece. Its Obama giving Joe permission to announce a sweeping new piece of administration policy - namely, the transformation of our economy to become less dependent on nonrenewable energy. Though one would hope that the section labeled "Vehicles and Fuels of the Future" would mention a flying car or, at least, a hoverboard, what it lacks in vehicular foresight it gains in that place that counts most to us here at Vice-Precedence: It smacks of Vice Presidential responsibility.

Let me say this: I have no idea how much research, or how much writing was "All Joe," but, frankly, he's doing something. We know the man can write, and we know he's folksy. He's a consummate politician and an art-appreciator. It seems that President Obama believes Biden serves a purpose - otherwise Obama could find plenty of other mouthpieces. Sure, just as First Ladies tend to champion education and children-related causes, the VP is relegated to the "soft cause" (the environment) so the President can (usually) concentrate on the hard causes (the economy and that... ongoing war thing), but any step at all for the VP is a step in the right direction. Biden's public moves have all hinted that he's preparing for the Presidency after what he hopes will be a strong 8 years under Obama's Presidential wing. I'm hoping for 8 strong years of a useful Vice Presidency, but you can't blame the guy for ambition.

- Jason C. Klamm

PS: Blogger still doesn't recognize Biden as a word. Nor hoverboard. Bastards.

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