Biden’s Jump Ball: 2016

Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg *

Joseph “Joe” Biden, U.S. vice president, left, holds onto House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, during the State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 2014.

First question:

Can a guy who says, in public, that, “I may be a white boy but I can jump, too,” and that the president’s health care law is a “big f—- deal” really hope to run for president again?

Just this week, the vice president known for his off-the-chain remarks, appeared at an event honoring African-American history month. He said he and former NBA star Kevin Johnson, Sacramento’s mayor, could take on President Barack Obama, himself a weekend basketball warrior, in a game of hoops.

“I told the president, next game I have him,” Biden said. “Just remember I may be a white boy, but I can jump.”

It was at the signing of the president’s signature health care law, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, where Biden’s effusiveness for the achievement was overheard at the open mic in the White House. It was then-Sen. Biden, who in his own bid for the White House, had once referred to then-Sen. Obama as “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

It could be Biden’s propensity for unplugged talk — “Joe being Joe” — that earns him a general pass, though it turns out the comment inspired by the myth that white guys can’t jump has actually endeared him in some quarters.

“As the vice president also might say, `God love him,”’ wrote David Swerdlick at The Root.

(Remember, this is the website devoted to American-American culture founded by by Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor whose unwarranted arrest by the Cambridge police drew a personal and public protest from Obama, who in turn was criticized for injecting himself into a local police issue and had to make amends with a South Lawn beer summit. Which means that Biden is finding it easier to wade into black issues than Obama is?)

“Because even if the election of President Barack Obama didn’t wind up ushering in a “post-racial” era in American politics, what it did bring about, as I wrote a couple of years back, was a sort of post-racial vice presidency,” Swerdlick wrote. “Biden might never actually make it to the Oval Office himself, but he’ll always be remembered in black history as the honorary first African-American VP. Here’s why:”

He’s got Obama’s back. Obama had Biden’s back, picking him as his running mate even after Biden gaffed that the then-new-on-the-scene Obama was “the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” to run for president.”

“And in turn, Biden has had Obama’s back ever since, playing the role of the president’s affable older brother through six long years and two tough presidential campaigns.”

“He might be more comfortable around black folks than Obama. Obama’s had a few rocky moments with black audiences, like his poorly received “put on your marching shoes” riff at 2011’s Congressional Black Caucus weekend. But Biden couldn’t be more comfortable talking to black folks, like at his 2012 NAACP keynote, where he was introduced onstage with Earth, Wind and Fire playing in the background, and he told the crowd, “It’s good to be home.”

Biden called the Boston Marathon bombers “knock-off jihadis.”  He once  told an Indian-American supporter that “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

When Biden was seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2007, he was completely candid about his penchant for candor:

“The next president of the United States, because of the policies of this president, is going to have no margin for error,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” adding, “I think I have the most experience there.”

A little before that run, in ’06, he said this of the presidency:  “I’d rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep.”

When Biden, as the vice presidential nominee in 2008, was debating Sarah Palin as the Republican nominee, he took aim at presidential nominee John McCain’s changes on issues.  “You can put lipstick on a pig,” he said as the crowd cheered. “It’s still a pig.” The McCain camp took that as a slap at Palin, but team Obama insisted it wasn’t, that McCain himself had used the phrase.

The bigger consideration may be the one which Biden has insisted will have no bearing on his decision about running: Hillary Clinton’s intentions for 2016.

A poll released this week by The New York Times and CBS News found  82 percent of the Democrats surveyed saying they’d like to see Clinton, the former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state in the Obama administration who sought their party’s nomination in 2008, run for president again in ’16. Only 42 percent said the same of Biden.

Another question about Biden is his age.  He has 36 years of experience in the Senate, which is a considerable credential at a time when White House relations with Capitol Hill are in need of an overhaul.

“I never had an interest in being a mayor ’cause that’s a real job,” Biden has said. “You have to produce. That’s why I was able to be a senator for 36 years.”

Still, if he runs for president, and wins, he will turn 74 a few weeks after Election Day. Ronald Reagan was 69 at his first election and turned 70 weeks later — the oldest man ever elected president. He left office at 77, yet questions persisted about how many faculties were still intact.

Biden is fit and robust, by all outward appearances. If we was at home making love to his wife in 2006, he ought to be game for a 2016 campaign.

He can even jump.

Yet jumping in the same circle as a Clinton is another question entirely. It worked for Obama, though he was making history, which Clinton could, too. Her election would be, as “Joe” might say, a really big deal.

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