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Thu Feb 21, 2013, 10:36 AM

Joe Biden’s Shotgun Approach to Politics Good for Obama Administration

by John Avlon Feb 21, 2013 4:45 AM EST

Far from being a gaffe, Biden’s ‘buy a shotgun’ comment undercuts the ‘Obama wants your guns’ crowd—and is another example of the vice president’s important role in selling White House policy, says John Avlon.

In the pop-culture presidency of the Obama administration, Joe Biden plays an outsize role. He’s the goofy white uncle, loose-lipped and earnest to a fault, who recently became the subject of an Onion biography that imagines the teetotaler as a beer-guzzling Trans-Am worshipper eternally fixated on the summer of ’87.

But while Biden has a tendency to shoot from the lip and stray from the script, it is not without strategic political benefit. On the campaign trial, his warmth balanced Obama’s cool—there’s nothing aloof about Biden. He was dispatched to Rust Belt union halls and rallied the base, embodying Bob Shrum’s eternal “fighting for you” formulation without seeming forced. Hell, the man singlehandedly brought the word “malarkey” out of exile. If Obama is among the most self-monitoring of men, Biden is among the least.

But when it comes to policy, conventional wisdom says the headaches that come with Joe Biden outweigh the benefits. There’s no doubt that he has an overwhelming impulse to step on the message and careen in unexpected directions. But sometimes I think that the “slow Joe” stereotype and consequent face-palms obscure a Columbo-like figure who plays dumb but is really playing the crowd.

Case in point, Biden’s recent gun comments that were widely considered unhelpful to administration efforts.


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