Biden, Better Than He Looks

I can promise you one line that Joe Biden will get off tonight, even if he has to stand in the parking lot bellowing it: “General Motors is alive and Bin Laden is dead.”

Sure it’s trite. Sure it’s silly. But have you noticed the media never really takes a hard whack at it?

It’s the secret of why Joe Biden — even if he steps in it — may have already won tonight’s debate. He’s been (smartly) gaming the refs for the last 40 years.

As honest reporters in the DC media ecosystem will tell you, Joe Biden is one of the few surviving examples in Washington of the bluff, grinning, hail-fellow-well-met glad-handers. The guy works the media, and he’s good at it. BBQs. Drinks. Dirty jokes. The comic ineptitude masks a DC relationship player. 

He’s really, really good at it. And he’s been doing it since Paul Ryan was in diapers.

He’s convinced them that his borderline logorrhea is charm and that his folksy (often fabulist) anecdotes are substitutes for policy. Biden has the superficial knowledge of the Congressional creature he has always been: notecards, not briefing books. Talking points, not depth of knowledge are the markers of Biden’s style. Well staffed, not well-considered. A very senior official in the Coalition Provisional Authority once rolled his eyes as he recounted to me “Joseph of Arabia’s” wacky determination to split Iraq into three states. “The guy had no effing idea what he was asking for, but he was like a dog with a bone.”

For all that, he’s good at it. He’s good at getting pass after pass from his fan club.

Biden is good in debates. The Ryan guys went back and watched Biden in debate footage, and he’s disciplined, structured and not the clown or populist blowhard he plays on TV. Do not underestimate Biden’s ability, honed in decades in the Senate and one hell of a lot of Democratic primary debates, to deliver a lot of hard hits tonight.

And don’t underestimate the power of his long, loving relationship with the Gang of 500 to give him a cushion to land on, even if he falls off the stage tonight.

More tonight.