Biden as President: Has What Obama Lacks?

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden on June 30, 2014.

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the Rose Garden on June 30, 2014.

Joe Biden, Barack Obama says, would make a great president.

The president then goes on to enumerate all the skills his vice president possesses for the top job, which rings with an awkward accounting of all the political skills and aptitude the president’s own critics say he is lacking.

“I think Joe would be a superb president,” Obama told Evan Osnos, for the probing profile The New Yorker has published. “He has seen the job up close, he knows what the job entails. He understands how to separate what’s really important from what’s less important. I think he’s got great people skills. He enjoys politics, and he’s got important relationships up on the Hill that would serve him well.”

The relationship between the two has evolved in important ways during their almost six years in office, after Biden sought their party’s nomination for the office twice. John Marttila, one of Biden’s political advisers, told Osnos:

“Joe and Barack were having lunch, and Obama said to Biden, ‘You and I are becoming good friends! I find that very surprising.’ And Joe says, ‘You’re f—– surprised!’

Biden, it appears, has held nothing back in the many conversations with Osnos that led to this article. On the criticism that former Defense Secretary Bob Gates leveled at Biden in his recent memoir — “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades” — the vice president had this to say:

“Bob Gates is a Republican, with a view of foreign policy that is, in many fundamental ways, different from mine. Bob Gates has been wrong about everything! Bob Gates is wrong about the advice he gave President Reagan about how to deal with Gorbachev! That he wasn’t real. Thank God the president didn’t listen to him. Bob Gates was wrong about the Balkans. Bob Gates was wrong about the bombing. Bob Gates was wrong about the Vietnam War, for Christ’s sake. You go back, and everything in the last forty years, there’s nothing that I can think of, major fundamental decisions relative to foreign policy, that I can think he’s been right about!”

Obama also had something pointed to say about either Biden or their former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, running for president in 2016.

“I think that, for both Joe and for Hillary, they’ve already accomplished an awful lot in their lives,” the president told Osnos. “The question is, do they, at this phase in their lives, want to go through the pretty undignifying process of running all over again.”

So is Biden gearing up for another campaign for president?

If Clinton doesn’t run  –“I love you, darling,” Biden is reported to sometimes say in the close of phone calls with his friend, the former senator and secretary of state — Republican Sen. John McCain suggests in this article that Biden will run “in a New York minute.”

Yet Biden, who served more than three decades in the Senate, maintains that the vice presidency already has been as good as it gets for him.

“For all my skepticism about taking the job, it’s been the most worthwhile thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Biden told Osnos. “I can die a happy man not being president.”

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