White House defends the Biden smile

(Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

The White House is defending Joe for being Joe.

Vice President Biden’s constant smiling and laughing during most of Thursday’s debate against Rep. Paul Ryan wasn’t a sign of disrespect or arrogance, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

“The person I saw up there last night was someone who is absolutely passionate about fighting for and defending the middle class,” Carney said during his daily briefing Friday. The 69-year-old “comes to his job this many years in serving the country in the Senate and White House with an enormous amount of passion and joy.”

Republicans have mocked Biden for his demeanor, which included repeatedly cutting off Ryan during their 90-minute debate on live television. GOP candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign and other operatives have said the vice president undercut his own message by hamming it up with his reactions while Ryan was attempting to have a serious policy discussion.

But Carney countered that Biden couldn’t contain his disbelief at some of the things Ryan was saying.

“When Congressman Ryan started attacking the administration over the Recovery Act and the split screen showed the vice president smiling, I can guess why he was smiling,” Carney said. “He knew how hypocritical that was.”

Not that Carney is the most objective observer. The former Time magazine scribe served two years as Biden’s spokesman before being promoted to President Obama’s staff late last year.

Carney opened his briefing with what he called a “point of personal privilege” in making his own feelings known about Biden.

“As someone who worked with the vice president for two years and traveled around the country and world with him,” the spokesman said, “I took extreme pleasure in watching the debate last night because of the way he demonstrated the passion, wisdom and joy he brings to the job of serving the American people.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.
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