Vice President Biden got up close and personal with new defense secretary Ashton Carter's wife, Stephanie, during the swearing-in ceremony. (Reuters)

When Joe arrives, everyone he knows (Jill, Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia, John (Kerry), John (McCain) and several women he recognizes only from having told them, once, in passing “No dates ’til you’re 30!”) is already sitting in his office in a semicircle of folding chairs. He blinks once or twice, startled.

“Where’s the yogurt bar?” he asks. “TCBY, with all the fixins. The e-mail said. Sprinkles!”

“Joe,” President Obama says, as gently as he can, “there is no yogurt bar.”

Joe sits down on a folding chair. His is, oddly enough, facing all the other chairs. He turns it around to face the door. “So,” he says, in the ensuing silence, “who’re we waiting for? Looks like some kind of an intervention. Is it ol’ Speaker Johnny Bone? Orange Julius? I call him Orange Julius because, heh, you get it? I get it.”

“No, Joe,” Michelle says. “This isn’t for –” she grimaces “– Orange Julius.”

“Who’s it for then?” Joe gets up and makes his way around the room, shaking hands and leaning in. “Hey there, hi! No dates ’til you’re 30! Sorry to hear about your ma, God bless her.”

Jill shudders. “You’re right,” she says, turning to President Obama. “It’s just as bad as you said.”

“Joe,” the president says. “We’re here to talk to you. Sit down, please.”

Joe sits. The chair is still facing the wrong way. He sits in it backwards.

“Joe, we all love you,” the president continues. “More or less. We want the best for you. But lately –”

“Not just lately,” Michelle says. “Really for decades now.”

“Lately you’ve gone from America’s Wacky Uncle to America’s Creepy Uncle.”

“It’s the leaning,” Malia says.

“Yeah,” Sasha adds, immediately.

“You need to stop leaning like a creeper,” Malia says.

“Here is a slideshow that New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer put together,” Sasha says. “You’re just lucky there isn’t a Tumblr.”

“Joe Biden Looming Creepily Over Uncomfortable Women Dot Tumblr Dot Gov,” Malia suggests.

“Do any of these women look comfortable?” Sasha asks. She produces the most recent picture.


Vice President Joe Biden talks with Stephanie Carter, wife of new Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, during the secretary’s swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Joe squints at the picture. “Looks pretty comfortable to me,” he says. “Jill, that’s a comfortable face, right? That face says ‘I’m comfortable around this suave man.'”

“No,” Jill says.

“But,” Joe says.

“No,” Jill says. “No, Joe. That is not a comfortable face. That is the face of someone who is trying to get as far away as possible without being rude to the vice president of the United States.”

“You look like you used to be a bird and you’re still getting used to your human form and are trying to perch on her shoulder with your hands,” Malia says.

“Look at this one,” Sasha says.


Vice President Joe Biden speaks to Maggie Coons, next to her father, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), after Biden administered the Senate oath during a ceremonial re-enactment swearing-in ceremony in January. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

“You look like you’re auditioning for Dracula, but, like, old creepy hunchback cloak Dracula, not the new Dracula with Luke Evans that nobody saw.”

“I saw it,” John McCain says.

“You look like you’re trying to tempt her to join the Dark Side.”

“You look like a Dementor.”

“You do look a little like a Dementor.”

“Look at this one,” Sasha says, flipping through the slideshow.


Even the other bikers don’t look comfortable! (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

“Nothing wrong with that one,” Joe says. “Heh heh. Bikers. Tell your old man I said hello, rest his soul!”

“He doesn’t even know what he’s saying, does he?” Michelle asks, turning to the president. “So sad.”

“Joe,” John Kerry says. “Wacky Uncle is a role to which you are generally well-suited. It’s a series of recognizable tropes. The Onion loves it. You can call the president clean and articulate and people will still willingly spend time with you. But you can’t overplay it. And right now, you keep landing on just the wrong side of the line. Here is a chart.”

 

chart uncle

“You called that representative your butt buddy,” Sasha says. “Do you even know what that means?” Michelle looks at her. “I don’t, obviously, Mom, but, like, you definitely don’t.”

“It means buddy,” Joe says. “But it’s more fun to say, because in addition to the word buddy, you get to say the word butt, heh heh. Butts. A whole Senate full of ’em!”

“I had no idea it was this bad,” Jill says.

“Do something for me, would you, Joe?” President Obama asks. “Just get up and greet Sasha.”

“Please no,” Sasha says.

“Just do it the way you think it should be done,” President Obama says. “Sorry, Sasha. For this, I’ll let you get Snapchat.”

Joe Biden rises from his chair and goes to stand behind Sasha, leaning over her and whispering, “You know, I have a lot of friends in your community, including a very dear colleague of mine, Barack America.”

“THIS IS THE WORST,” Sasha says. “DAD MAKE HIM STOP.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do!” President Obama says.

Malia has taken a picture. “Look at this,” she says. “Does Sasha look comfortable at all?”

“Yes,” Joe says. “That is the face a young person makes to indicate that she is excited to meet you. It’s like a flesh emoticon. YOLO! Ha ha.”

“Can we lock him up somewhere?” Michelle asks. “Can we just send him to somewhere he won’t do any damage?”

“The vice presidency?” John McCain suggests, laughing to himself because he thinks this is a good joke and feels that the rest of the room is unlikely to appreciate it.

“He’s been spending a lot of time in Iowa,” John Kerry says. “Why don’t we just send him there and tell them not to let him leave?”

The president and first lady exchange a look. “That could work,” Michelle says. “Just keep him off C-SPAN.”

“Right,” President Obama adds. “And come 2016, he’s on his own.”