“I’m the most experienced vice president since anybody”

Joe Biden has been talking about his favorite topic — Joe Biden. In particular, he’s been attempting to talk his way past the widespread view that he, Joe Biden, marks a return to the days of the irrelevant vice president. Talkin’ Joe himself has contributed to that perception by insisting that he will not be like Dick Cheney.

A more astute vice president-elect would have little trouble distinguishing himself from Cheney without casting doubt on his own relevance. The problem with Cheney, from a liberal perspective, should not be that he was the foremost of Bush advisors. Cheney was, after all, the only advisor who faced the national electorate. Rather the problem should be that Cheney’s advice (again from a liberal perspective) was bad.

But selecting intelligently among portions of the liberal narrative has never been Biden’s strong suit. In any event, Biden surely recognizes that Obama will not allow him to become the foremost presidential advisor. Hence, attacking Cheney’s role becomes a convenient excuse for the fact that Biden will be on the sidelines.

To compensate, Biden touts his experience. He claims he will bring more to the job than any of his predecessors, except possibly Lyndon Johnson. Insisting that “I know as much or more than Cheney,” Biden concludes, “I’m the most experienced vice president since anybody.”

He’s also the first vice president “since anybody” pathetic enough to feel compelled to defend himself in this fashion, much less to claim that he knows as much or more as his predecessor. Moreover, Biden’s experience — decades in the Senate — plainly does not compare to that of Cheney, who had been White House chief of staff, Secretary of Defense, head of a major corportation, and influential member of the House.

Joe Biden has found his role in the Obama administration. It will be the self-referential one of defending his importance. Biden is the best suited vice president to play this role since anybody.

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