The Vice Presidential Diary of Joseph R. Biden
What a treat! Just as I returned to the White House from my vacation, I ran into my dear friend Hillary Clinton. At first I wasn’t sure why she was emerging from my office with a tape measure. Not to mention that book of fabric samples. Hillary is the least political person I know, so I’m sure she has no idea that there are news stories saying that she’s planning to take my job and that Obama is going to give me hers. Even the president told me those rumors were “partially or completely unfounded as far as I know,” so that ought to settle that!
Finally after talking it over with Jill, my staff, the folks in the situation room, and that waitress at Denny’s, it became really obvious what was going on. Hillary’s planning to give me a large gift and wants to make sure it fits in my office! I’m glad I didn’t say anything, so as not to spoil her surprise.
I guess Hillary thought I was really busy because even as I called out to her she continued walking away.
Ever since the “incident,” I’ve resisted the urge to pat Hillary on the back, give her a bear hug, or touch her in any way. Instead I complimented her on her choice of pantsuit: Charcoal gray is definitely her color.
“Hillary,” I said when I caught up with her, “that wedding was just lovely. Your daughter Cindy was truly a vision!”
“Joe, I’m really going to miss you,” Hillary responded.
“Oh, I’m not going anywhere,” I told her. “I just came back!” She must have gotten something mixed up. But she just cackled and walked off. That zany madcap! God love her!
Had my weekly lunch with the “O” man. He really missed seeing me last week when I was out of town. Michelle says the president sometimes gets so excited after our weekly lunches that it takes him all seven days to recover.
The O man was sitting with his regular “posse.” (He loves it when I use that term.) Rahm, Carville, and Bill Clinton must have been awfully busy not to hear me walk into the Oval. I was so happy to see them all that I only picked up bits and pieces of their conversation. A voice on speakerphone was saying something about “the good old days,” “coordinating the message” and “blame Bush” while Bill and Carville nodded.
“Hey, guys, is that Stephanopoulos on the line?” I asked as I put my tray down. “George, buddy, how ya doing?”
The next thing I heard was a dial tone. Those infernal White House phones. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called the president only to have the same thing happen.
Clinton, Carville and the O man were so glad I was back that words failed them.
“Sorry I’m late, boss,” I said. To make up for my tardiness, I went with my fail-safe mood lightener. “I must say you are looking especially clean today.”
Bill turned red and shook his head. He was probably wishing he’d thought of that one!
The first thing that everyone notices about Barry Obama, of course, is his playful, down-to-earth sense of humor. And God love him, today was no different. “You can’t be back already, Joe,” he said, as I bowled over with laughter. (Oops — he still doesn’t like it when I mention the b-word.)
Besides my return, I had more good news for the guys. Vacation photos! I showed them my pictures at the beach — modesty prevented me from showing all of my shirtless shots — and then of me at the Grand Canyon. “There was nothing more stirring,” I told them, “then standing there and looking out at that vast emptiness.”
“You must have felt right at home,” Carville said. He was right!
“Mr. Vice President, you sure you don’t need more time off?” Rahm asked me. “You look a little tired.”
“I’m doing just great, buddy!” I replied, touched by his obvious concern. Rahm is so like that — he always puts others’ needs first.
I know what a worry wart Rahm is, so I wasn’t surprised that he pressed on. “You sure there’s nothing you want to bring up?” he asked. “Fever … nervous twitching … general malaise?”
“Nope,” I said. “Fit as a fiddle!”
“Indigestion? … Night terrors? … Cold hands? Eye strain? Tennis elbow? Monsterism?”
“That’s enough, Rahm,” the president said. I think the Big O was getting a trifle jealous about all the attention I was getting.
Unfortunately I had to cut my briefing time in half, down to 70 minutes, which I know disappointed them. But I was too distracted about my next meeting to give the group ‘the full Biden.’
Still I can tell that I always leave those folks in a good mood. Every time I walk out of a meeting with them, I can hear them laughing.
When my next meeting started in the Roosevelt Room, I was ready to wow the group. But first I had to go through the usual sympathy expressed over General Stan McChrystal and those funny names he called me in that Rolling Stone piece. How many times do I have to tell people that Joe Biden doesn’t bear grudges? So the general accidentally called me Vice President “Bite Me” instead of “Biden.” It was hardly the first time someone made that mistake!
I called McChrystal last week as a matter of fact, just to show that there were no hard feelings. His 10 year old grandson, Neil, said he wasn’t in, so I spent some time talking to Neil about how I was feeling, that we should let bygones be bygones, recommended a list of foreign policy books he should read, and talked about the time I wanted to be a taxidermist. That had to be the most meaningful two-and-a-half hours that boy had ever spent.
Anyway back to our meeting on our latest initiative, which I have dubbed “Project X.” Axelrod briefed us on the latest developments. We still are having a bit of disagreement on how to approach Buckingham Palace. I of course offered to talk to my friend Betsy – the queen loves it when I call her that – but again I was told to keep my powder dry. I think they want to save me until they really need a big gun. (That’s what she said.)
Rahm walked in just as I was ready to throw my genius idea at the group. Instead of working to get the Boss Man an honorary knighthood all to himself, I suggested, why not give me one too?
“I think it would be a nice surprise for the president to see me standing up there with him,” I said. “And I’m sure my good friend Betsy has been wanting to give it to me for some time.”
As often seems to happen, the room descended into total silence as they absorbed my remark. It was almost as if they idea had never occurred to them.
I know what you are thinking, Diary. Why not get a Nobel Prize like Obama’s? Well, I did some checking and the Nobel Committee already has Hillary lined up for next year and having Joe Biden in 2012 might seem a little political for their tastes. The Nobel people cannot ever afford to look like they are influenced by petty politics! Just think of what Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing Hate Machine would do then! (Actually that’s mean of me. Some of my best friends are archconservative Republicans; Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham, the gal on the View, and Ben Nelson among them.)
“Why don’t we table your idea for now, Mr. Vice President?” Rahm finally replied. This time he didn’t use a single expletive! Then he asked me about my health again. People just don’t get how much he cares. What a guy.
Sometimes I don’t know what gets into my dear friend John Kerry. Does he think people like to sit around for hours while he goes on and on about his foreign policy genius?
Finally, when he was going on about the latest cabinet shakeup in Tunisia, I interrupted him. “John, buddy, I gotta tell ya,” I said. “You have chewed my ear so much that it’s a nub. Let me get in a few words, will ya?”
He put a lid on it for a while so I could give him some real insights. Then I told Kerry what’s what on the Iraqi parliament, the Australian PM, the Saudis, gave him a little update on South Africa and Botswana, and shared my thoughts on China and the UN Security Council. Eventually we found ourselves reminiscing about our first trips to the Senate barbershop and then… well, now I’ve lost my train of thought. More later. Anyway, John Kerry is a bore.
Imagine my surprise walking into my office yesterday evening to find Rahm there. He was holding two glasses of champagne.
“Happy birthday, Mr. Vice President,” he said. He looked unusually chipper.
I had to tell him my birthday wasn’t until November. “Well, happy early birthday,” he said, beaming. Rahm must like birthdays a lot.
I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I took the champagne and insisted on making a toast. Rahm seemed very attentive, so I took the liberty of talking about our close friendship, our mutual love of bicycles, my part-time job at that hardware store in Delaware when I was a kid, my success on the Bork hearings, and quoted a few lines of Team of Rivals, which Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote to get Obama to put me in the Cabinet.
Rahm was such a mensch that I couldn’t resist wrapping my arms around the big lug.
Then a blunder! I jostled my drink so much that it spilled onto my desk and the plant that Jill had given me for our anniversary. Oh no!
Rahm seemed really hurt and took out his pain with a few ungentlemanly words.
I offered to pour us each a glass of Sprite Zero, but he didn’t seem interested. “Bite me!” he said.
I chuckled of course. “Not you, too!” I exclaimed. “It’s Bi-den. Bi-den.” Why does this keep happening!? Anyway I really felt bad about ruining his nice surprise.
I spent the next few hours back home working with Al Gore on our novel. Still not ready to give out the whole plot, but it involves two handsome vice presidents being called together to stop the sun from exploding while another evil vice president, Nick Theney, plots to personally behead and then spit on every man, woman and child on earth. We’re on page 4,502. For reasons I best not get into, we had to change our love interest (a massage therapist). In my own mind, I like the idea of a sixty-something speaker of the house. But I’m not thinking of anyone in particular!
Anyway we got so carried away that by the time we looked up it was 10 o’clock. I’d missed Keith Olbermann! Thank the almighty that the White House replays his show every hour.
The next morning when I came back to my office there was more bad news. The plant Jill gave me turned brown. Most of the leaves had fallen off. Only then did I know what Rahm had tried to do. He got me some of the strongest champagne he could find — it must have cost a bundle. What a great guy!
INTERVIEW WITH VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN