Vice President Joe Biden is one of the most recognizable men in the country. He is Barack Obama’s right-hand man. He helped pass universal healthcare. But when he said, “this is a big fucking deal” on national television, Biden cemented his place in my heart. Biden was embracing the president in front of television cameras and microphones, and he probably thought that he was speaking out of range when he blurted out this statement to his boss. He was not.
Ever since he was selected as Obama’s running mate, the most common descriptor of Biden has been “gaffe machine.” In fact, a Google search of the terms “Biden,” “gaffe,” and “machine” reveals over one million results.
Vice President Biden’s absurdity brought me back to the first few months of President Bush’s first term, when Comedy Central premiered a show called That’s My Bush! from Matt Parker and Trey Stone, the minds behind South Park. The premise of the show was that Bush was essentially the embodiment of every out-of-touch and simple-minded father who has starred in sitcoms. And so Stone and Parker attacked the tropes of ‘70s and ‘80s sitcoms instead of the biting political and cultural attacks of South Park. They went so far as to give the White House a whacky next-door neighbor and a mouthy maid.
I would love to see a sitcom about Biden’s life. He already has the way too attractive wife, a staple of any sitcom. I don’t think that there is any way the Administration could be hurt by a reality television show crew documenting the daily life of our most delightful Vice President.
Even though he has 36 years experience in the Senate, it is difficult to take Biden completely seriously; as much as he may want people to see him as a serious legislator, he can’t help coming off like the shiftless uncle crashing in the White House. In the past year Biden has been the subject of numerous Onion headlines playing to this personality, including “Shirtless Biden Washes Trans Am In White House Driveway” and “White House Infested With Bed Bugs After Biden Brings In Recliner Off The Curb.”
Between the on-camera swearing and plethora of other faux pas that Biden commits, we don’t even need the Onion to create amusing Biden-related stories. Take for example, Biden’s review of his pick for Best Picture, Avatar: “I think one of the odds on favorites … is um, is uh, this uh, this, this, this new program that I looked at and wished I was seeing it …” Oh, Joe, please never leave us.
When comparing the Bush Administration and the first year of the Obama’s time in office, it is important to note the different types of satire on public officials. The Biden mockery centers on his persona as it is lodged in the national consciousness. Biden is the first boob that we have had in office in a long time. It is important to differentiate between Biden being a boob and Bush being an incompetent dud. A boob is closer to The Office’s Michael Scott, offensive and boorish but able to do the job at the end of the day.
This is not to say that Biden is not a smart guy. Whether or not he is smart is in no way important to the jokes. It is not important whether or not Dick Cheney is the spawn of Satan—he is, by the way—, it just matters that that is how he is perceived.
It has been a long time since there was someone in the executive branch as harmlessly amusing as Joe Biden. As That’s My Bush! shows, the last time was that first Bush year coming off of the halcyon post-Clinton, pre-9/11 days. But suddenly, after 9/11, Bush was no longer the harmless fellow who couldn’t pronounce “nuclear”—there were actual lives at stake.
The theme of Biden as boob could be seen as a return to normalcy after the paranoia-inducing years of the Bush Administration. I can’t say that I really buy it, especially since we still have troops fighting two wars and we’re in the middle of a recession. Even though the Obama Administration is far from perfect and has a long road of recovery ahead of it, I just hope Joe stays his loveable irascible self as long as he is in office.