Six things to know about Joe Biden

July 18, 2013

When Joe Biden speaks, he speaks his mind.


(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Which is why we enjoyed digging into a lengthy GQ magazine profile of the vice president by Jeanne Marie Laskas. From 2016 ("We'll see where the hell I am") to his debate against Paul Ryan ("How the other guy" was "supposed to be the numbers guy") to how he views his relationship with President Obama (co-captains), Biden doesn't hold back.

We know you’re busy. So we’ve read the story and plucked out the best parts:

1. 2016 is a real possibility for Biden. Biden is clearly thinking about running for president again. The biggest factors in his decision-making process are his energy level and whether he feels he is the best person to move the ball:

"The judgment I'll make is, first of all, am I still as full of as much energy as I have now — do I feel this?" he said. "Number two, do I think I'm the best person in the position to move the ball? And, you know, we'll see where the hell I am.

"And by the way, if you come in the office, I have two portraits hanging — one of Jefferson, one of Adams. Both vice presidents who became presidents." He said he likes to look at their very satisfied expressions. "I joke to myself, I wonder what their portraits looked like when they were vice presidents."

2. He want some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for his intellect. Biden has a reputation as a sort of a goofball, but he wants people to know that he has some serious policy chops.

"I have read as much or know as much about foreign policy, domestic policy," he says. "Remember all that talk about the debate? How the other guy" — Paul Ryan — "was supposed to be the numbers guy and knew all the detail? Remember? Listen, I look forward to those kinds of things."

...

"I never speak about anything I don't know a great deal about," he says. "That I haven't worked like hell for. But that's not what you'd expect. You might expect Clinton to do that. ... Well, I shouldn't. I'm getting — " He looks out the window. He is not going to do this. He is not going to stoop or beg for respect.

3. McCain digs him: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Biden "the most impactful vice president" he's known:

"Joe Biden doesn't have a mean bone in his body," says John McCain. "He's unique from the day he was elected before he was 30 years old. He's unique in that he's had some role in every major national-security crisis that his nation has faced in the last thirty-five years. I don't know anyone like him in the U.S. Senate. Look at the number of times he's been able to conclude agreements. I would say he's been the most impactful vice president that I've known — certainly in modern times."

McCain also joked that if elected president, Biden's State of the Union address would be very long:

"Suppose the economy comes on strong. He's bound to get credit. ... Of course, the State of the Union speech would be the longest in history."

4. So does Bloomberg. New York City Michael Bloomberg (I) is a fan, too:

"He's got a set of balls," Michael Bloomberg said of Biden, and if they spend any more time together, they will definitely become best friends.

5. Biden views himself as Obama's co-captain. Biden clearly doesn't view himself as occupying a back seat in the administration:

Co-captains, that's how he described his working relationship with Obama. Theirs is by all accounts a conjoined administration. At seven forty every morning, Obama's top advisers gather to set the day's agenda—together with other senior staff and Biden's top advisers, a blended, tangled family tree. Obama's press secretary used to be Biden's communications director. Biden's strategist is the brother of Obama's former national-security adviser; Biden's chief of staff co-authored a book with Obama's former chief of staff.

6. He used to stutter. It may be difficult to believe given Biden's ease with public speaking these days, but when he was growing up, he had a stutter.

"He was, you know, made fun of," says his sister, Valerie Biden Owens. "One guy called him 'Dash,' signed the football to 'dash dash dash Biden,' because it was 'J-J-J-Joe Biden.' He worked hard. He practiced speaking. He learned cadence and rhythm. He memorized poems. He worked very hard."

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Sean Sullivan · July 18, 2013