According to the White House’s website, the “primary responsibility of the Vice President of the United States is to be ready at a moments notice to assume the Presidency if the President is unable to assume his duties”.
This can be in the case of death, incapacitation, resignation, or if the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet believe the President is no longer capable of assuming his/her duties. The VP also is the President of the U.S. Senate, although this role is only relevant when their vote is cast to break a tie. So it seems as though the Vice President’s main duty is to wait around for tragedy or chaos to strike in the Oval Office. If only 9 out of the 47 U.S. VP Presidents have had to assume the Presidency, how does Joe Biden spend his working hours?
The White House dubs Biden “the Administration’s point person for diplomacy within the Western Hemisphere”. Biden foresees a Hemisphere that is “middle class, secure, and democratic, from Canada to Chile and everywhere in between”.
Other issues that Biden has championed include being a chair of the Middle Class task force, appointing the first White House Advisor on Violence Against Women [he passed and reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act in Congress], oversaw the $840 billion stimulus package in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, lead the Ready to Work Initiative, and has been a leading advisor in working towards a peaceful, free, and whole Europe.
If VP Biden has been diligently focused on such important policy issues as sexual assault and decreasing gun violence, then why is he often the butt of many jokes?
Particularly, the satirical news outlet, The Onion, has played a key role in developing an alternate persona of Biden.
During, President Obama’s second run for office in 2012, Politico, published “The Onion’s Biden Craze“.
Will Tracy, The Onion’s editor, explained “He’s like the breakout character if we were writing a sitcom. He’s .. clearly the fan favorite, and, in a way, he’s the easiest and the most fun for us to write”.
Vice Presidents hold a position that is easily mocked, which is why Biden recently explained in a CNBC interview that, “…One of the things that’s important to know-one of the reasons why, when I first got asked about this job I said no-is there is no inherent power in being vice president”.
Ultimately, choosing to be Obama’s running mate under the condition that he would be the “last guy in the room”; meaning Obama would keep Biden as a close confidant, who would have power in being a main adivsor to the president. It’s for this reason-that Biden does spearhead important policy issues in the White House that he explained he’s “not comfortable with [the persona] Goofy Uncle Joe”.
The discrepancy between Vice President Joe Biden who in 2015 gave a speech at the Munich Security Conference on his vision of a revitalized NATO versus an out-of-touch, older relative who makes off-color remakes while tipsy at the annual Christmas Eve party is stark.
This separation of policy work and an incorrect, amusing characterization is indicative of the media’s focus on entertaining narratives rather than substance. Hopefully, throughout the current presidential campaigning, Americans will be more critical of what candidates’ running mates’ policy record, instead of how well they rock aviators-which is a strength of Biden.
Photo Credits to Joe Raedle/Getty Images