Joe Biden: The anti-Hillary?

September 16, 2013

On Sunday in Iowa -- 2016 alarm bells! -- Vice President Biden said two things that piqued our interest.


Vice President Joe Biden is greeted by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, right, before speaking at Harkin's annual fundraising steak fry dinner, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

The first was on gay marriage. "I could not remain silent any more,” Biden said. “It’s the civil rights (issue) of our day.”

The second was on Iraq. "[President Obama] and I said the exact same thing, coincidentally: End to the war in Iraq," Biden said of he and the then-Illinois Senator in 2007. "And we did."

The message? I stood on principle. I led. And I did it on issues of massive importance to the party's liberal base. (Don't forget, too, that Biden was the face of the Obama Administration's attempt to reform gun laws after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.)

Biden is an old pro -- despite his assertions that he didn't understand why his trip to Iowa drew so much attention -- and the fact that he chose to focus on his liberal bona fides and his willingness to do what he felt was right rather than what was (or is) popular is not accidental.

He (and his political team) know well that when it comes to 2016, every single comment made by any Democrat looking at running will be viewed through the lens of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And Biden knows well that the longtime knock against Clinton is that she is too political, too calculating -- that she lacks a core set of principles that guide her public life.

By casting himself as the opposite of the calculating politician then, Biden is drawing a contrast with Clinton without everyone having to mention her name. (Literally. Biden never mentioned Clinton by name during his speech in Iowa on Sunday.) In that, he is borrowing a page from the playbook of the man under whom he serves. Remember that Obama put his judgment and principle on Iraq at the core of his argument against Clinton in 2008; in so doing, he cast her as cautious pragmatist while he seized the bold progressive label.

To be clear: None of the above means that Biden is actively engaged in preparing for a race against Clinton in 2016. No matter what his allies say, we still think he passes on the race if she runs. But, Clinton or no, Biden is seeking to carve out valuable space in a potential Democratic field as the principled politicians willing to take on fights near and dear to liberal's hearts.

Fixbits:

The next chairman of the Federal Reserve will not be Larry Summers, who took himself out of the running. Liberal groups will push for Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen to be nominated for the job.

The United States and Russia agreed on a plan for Syria to give up control of its chemical weapons.

News of a deal was greeted by lawmakers with hopeful and skeptical support.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said "There is not a seriousness on the part of the Russians" with regard to Syria.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J,) said the U.S. should "pursue [Syrian President] Assad for war crimes."

President Obama acknowledged that his Syria approach has been uneven, but defended its efficacy nonetheless.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) will run for governor.

Influential backers of Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe sought to reverse an endorsement by Northern Virginia Technology Council’s political arm of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R). Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) was among those who pressed the group.

White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer visited a hospital twice recently with what officials described as stroke-like symptoms. Doctors say he is suffering from what appears to be hypertension. He has since returned to work.

Oakland County District Court Judge Kim Small (R) will not run for the Senate in Michigan.

A new six-figure online ad from Public Notice is critical of members of Congress who want to adjust the way they are affected by the health-care law.

Must-reads:

"Obama and Boehner both enter upcoming domestic debates with a weakened hand" -- Zachary A. Goldfarb and Paul Kane, Washington Post

"Cuccinelli’s strong stands against illegal immigration could become problematic in Va." -- David Nakamura, Washington Post

"How the United States, Russia arrived at deal on Syria’s chemical weapons" -- Karen DeYoung, Washington Post

"Bachmann’s Cautionary Tale: Sweat the Small Stuff, or Pay the Price" -- David Hawkings, Roll Call

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Josh Hicks · September 15, 2013