For a long time I've been a fan of Joe Biden, former Senator, now Vice President. He's the political equivalent of a crazy awesome uncle. He speaks off the top of his head and runs off at the mouth at nearly every turn, leading to a history of hilarious gaffes. He was epicly spoofed by The Onion (which he laughed at though he says they got the wrong kind of car wrong). He's one of the last truly great characters in US politics.
In an era where politicans poll test every single comma before speaking Biden is really old school. He also has the real heart of a public servant. He is perenially underestimated (primarily because of his gaffes I think) but has shown himself to be an excellent Vice President, both politically and strategically. His life story, full of tragedy and repeated comebacks, is an utterly fascinating one. Interesting tidbit: Biden's the 6th youngest Senator in US history.
New York Magazine has just written a touching and I think really fair profile of Biden.
Some snippets from the piece I found revealing:
"Biden admits that, unlike his mother, he was uncertain that he and the president would become pals. 'My son's more like Barack than I am like Barack,' Biden tells me. 'And my son and Barack have the same exact core: They're cool, they're cerebral, they're straight, they keep their passion in check. They're the modern politician."
On his campaigning and love of interaction:
"I heard someone in here won the Daytona," Biden bellows, pushing past a photographer and jovially saying, "Get out of the way, man," as he makes a beeline to Wood. "This guy did what I dreamed of, man! I'd trade being vice-president in a heartbeat for having won the Daytona!"
Soon enough, Biden, holding a Coke in an old-school glass bottle, is chattering away with—more like at—the AARP-ish crowd: about unemployment, the "9/11 generation" of veterans, and his wife (joking that he and Obama "married up" to ladies who are "more popular than we are"). A woman excuses herself, explaining that she has to get back to work at a local Walmart, inviting Biden to stop by. Biden quips that he just might: "I'm like a poor relative; I show up if I'm invited. The rich ones never show up. The poor ones come, stay longer than they should, and eat your food." And then quotes Harry Truman: "If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democrat."
And of course his gaffes:
Biden's history of gaffes, of course, is long, storied, and infinitely entertaining. Just in his current job, he has made sport of John Roberts's botched job in administering the oath of office to Obama (drawing the stink eye from the president); proclaimed in the midst of the swine-flu pandemic panic, "I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places right now"; referred to women lacrosse players as "gazelles," to a Wisconsin custard-shop manager as a "smartass," to a candidate for the House as a candidate for the Senate, to the Irish prime minister's living mother as deceased, to the current century as the twentieth, to tea-party Republicans as "terrorists," and to himself and Gabrielle Giffords as "both members of the Cracked Head Club"; made fun of Obama for his reliance on teleprompters; declared that "the president has a big stick"; and, the pièce de résistance, pronounced the passage of health-care reform "a big fucking deal."
Similar to Biden I grew up in the Midwestern US, in a middle-class Roman Catholic family. I get that good-natured sarcasm ("As my mother would say, God love him"). But, as the article details, he was the one whose "gaffe" lead the administration to come out more quickly for gay marriage than it would have otherwise. He's got a strong background on judicial nominees (he lead the opposition to Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court), foreign policy, and domestic policy. He may stick his foot in his mouth constantly but he's no fool.
Biden will introduce Barack Obama on Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention in what should be an entertaining and intelligent speech.