On the Oprah Winfrey show yesterday, Joe Biden’s wife revealed that he had his choice of Vice-President or Secretary of State. It’s very interesting that he chose Vice-President. Secretary of State is an important position, in the domain to which Biden has dedicated most of his life, but instead he chose a position with nearly no responsibility. (Lucky for us!)
ASIDE: On the show, Biden reluctantly confirmed the revelation. Later, his spokeswoman ostensibly denied it, but did so in a carefully phrased way that doesn’t contradict its essence.
Why choose VP over State? Jill Biden actually cited (indirectly) the lack of duties of the job:
Mrs. Biden said she told him vice president would be better for the family. “If you’re secretary of state, you’ll be away, we’ll never see you, you know,” she said. “I’ll see you at a state dinner once in a while.”
But it’s hard to credit that explanation, since earlier the same year Biden had been running for President, which would have kept him much busier than either job.
The best explanation seems to be ambition. The Vice-Presidency has been regarded as a stepping stone to the Presidency (although it actually has rarely been successfully exploited as such except via death or resignation). Biden still imagines he can be President, and he’d rather do nothing for eight years and then be front-runner for the Democratic nomination, than manage US foreign policy for four to eight years.
The only other workable explanation I can see is that Obama promised Biden an important policy position in his administration, like Dick Cheney. If so, Biden is a fool. Sure, during a campaign there’s always talk of how the VP will help the President lead, but the VP nearly always vanishes afterward, and we’ve already seen Biden’s lack of influence during the transition period.
Either way, we’ve lucked out.