Biden: His time

Early this summer I thought that Hillary Clinton’s email problems had given Biden the opening he needed for a presidential candidacy. I called it Biden’s moment. Clinton’s email issues have given rise to the need for a plausible alternative to Madam Hillary.

On the Democratic side the space for a plausible alternative has yet to be filled and politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Martin O’Malley — he may be the vacuum; he is not the plausible alternative to it. Jim Webb lacks any constituency in the contemporary Democratic Party.

In a perfect world, Biden’s time would never have come. He is rather obviously a fool. The condition is permanent; age aggravates it. Biden is 72; it is time for him to assume the role of the party’s senior statesman. But that’s not how Biden sees it.

Last month Biden leaked the story of Beau Biden’s dying wish to Maureen Dowd. (Dowd’s column is dated August 1.) Over the weekend Biden met with Elizabeth Warren. The notion of Biden tapping Warren to run as his veep and vowing to limit himself to one term has, somehow, entered the public domain.

Yesterday White House spokesman Josh Earnest added this in response to a question by ABC’s Jonathan Karl: “The president has indicated that his view that the decision that he made, I guess 7 years ago now, to add Joe Biden to the ticket as his running mate was the smartest decision that he has ever made in politics. And I think that should give you some sense into the president’s view into Vice President’s aptitude for the top job.”

Hey, what about Madam Hillary? After Earnest reiterated Obama’s estimate of Joe Biden, Karl noted the implication that Hillary Clinton wasn’t “the smartest decision he ever made in politics.” Yuck yuck. The implication is so obvious that one can infer Obama himself seeks to prepare the ground for a Biden candidacy. (RealClearPolitics has posted video and transcript of the exchange from yesterday’s press conference here.)

If that’s not obvious enough, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny and Peter Morris reported overnight that “Obama gives Joe Biden ‘blessing’ for 2016 bid.”

With respect to the manifestations of Obama’s inclination, let me add, Monica Crowley called it. Yesterday Ken Allard brought Crowley’s column up to date in “Obama’s silent manipulation.”

Biden will enter the race some time soon after Labor Day. That raises one other question of time. Does Biden have the time to mount a credible campaign against Clinton? I asked a friend who handles campaigns on the Republican side for his opinion. He responded:

He probably loses if he runs, but it’s definitely not too late to mount a serious challenge. Organization is vastly overrated as a feature of modern presidential campaigns. Message and performance in big media settings matter much more. Money also matters, but in the Super PAC era, he should be able to raise enough to get his message out. Unlike Elizabeth Warren, Biden doesn’t have enough of a message to overcome Hillary, which is why he probably loses. But if Hillary’s ethics problems get bad enough, then he could sneak in.

Hillary Clinton is a weirdly synthetic candidate. She struggles (struggles manfully, one might say) to impersonate an authentic human being. For Biden this is no struggle. He is if anything all too real. If there is a constituency among Democrats for a return to normalcy, it will add to Biden’s appeal, especially if he can call on Elizabeth Warren to appeal to those Democrats who yearn for real phonies.