Sunday, October 27, 2013

Obama sidelines the one guy in his White House who tries to be bipartisan

Kyle Smith
Where is Joe Biden?
For 16 days, the federal government was shut down, and yet the White House’s ambassador to the Senate was invisible.

ObamaCare rolled out (or rather fell out of bed and somehow got its head stuck in the toilet), and the guy who dubbed it a BFD had not a word to say.

Hillary Clinton gave a speech in which she (according to one Republican present) reiterated that she but not Biden had supported the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Biden said nothing.

Oh, sorry, my mistake. Here he is, on Wednesday: Giving a speech. On mental health. At the John F. Kennedy Library.

For once, Biden didn’t have to come up with his own gaffe, because it was built in. (Given that the most infamous connection of John F. Kennedy to mental illness is that his dad had his own sister Rosemary lobotomized at age 23, isn’t that a bit like observing Martin Luther King Jr. day with an event at the Strom Thurmond Institute?) Was mental health really what America wanted to hear about last week? Rumors that Biden’s major public appearance next week will be a panel discussion at the National Endowment for the Arts to promote the Blu-ray release of “Grown Ups 2” could not be confirmed at press time.

“Maybe we need to get Joe Biden out of the witness-protection program,” said Sen. John McCain on Oct. 13. The Onion broke the news about his whereabouts four days later: “Nude Biden Wakes Up on Cold Slab in D.C. Morgue.” (“Not again,” the veep said.) Here’s a headline that I thought was from The Onion but was actually on The Huffington Post on Thursday: “Iowa Politician Gets Phone Call from Joe Biden While Watching World Series at Applebee’s.”
Joe Biden: lonely guy.

There are, apparently, two Joe Bidens. The public Joe says foolish things he hasn’t thought through, off the cuff (“They’re gonna put y’all back in chains,” he said, of Republicans, in a scary Southern accent to a black audience last fall). He also says foolish things he has thought through, on the cuff (such as when he voted against the first Iraq War but in favor of the second, which he then voted to lose by opposing the surge).
Yet behind closed doors, the vice president is widely acknowledged as a canny operator who knows the Senate, has friends on both sides of the aisle and cuts deals. He brokered the resolutions to the 2011 debt-default crisis and last winter’s fiscal cliff.
He is, in other words, the opposite of President Obama (and Hillary Clinton): He doesn’t cut a dashing figure behind the wheel, but he can get under the hood and fix the transmission.
Biden is, of course, a serious contender for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 2016, so everything he does should be seen in that context.
(That line was left intentionally blank. For laughter).
Actually, Biden does whatever his boss tells him to. He might well be thinking that loyal-lapdog status will earn him Obama’s endorsement in 2016. And the report in Politico that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the president to keep Biden away from Congress during the shutdown is credible. “None of the deals Biden has struck have aged well from the perspective of the Democratic Caucus,” a Senate Democratic official told Politico.
Which means that, at a notably divisive moment in national politics, the country is being run by Harry Reid. President Obama has silenced the one player on his team with a proven record of working the middle and instead chosen to go for all-out partisan warfare.
Okey-dokey. Except that doesn’t work when you have a Republican House. Obama may still think he can go over the heads of his opponents on Capitol Hill and fire up the American people, who in turn will pressure their congressmen to the do the White House’s bidding. But if so, he’s the only one who thinks that.
Obama is stuck having to deal with Washington the way it is. And with ObamaCare landing on America’s doorstep with all the grace of a pumpkin smashed on Halloween, the president could use a little bipartisan assistance to clean it up.
The heretofore “radical,” “extreme,” bomb-throwing and house-torching Republican idea of delaying parts of ObamaCare (such as the deadline to get insured before being hit with a fine) is now officially bipartisan. Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire announced their backing this week, with all 16 Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2014 expected to follow suit, CNN reported.
But delaying the bill piecemeal instead of as a whole could actually be catastrophic. If (as is currently the case) there are strong disincentives for young and healthy people to pay into the system — such as by giving them more time to do so, or by running a website that only accepts your application after 800 tries — insurance companies are going to be forced to raise everybody’s premiums or go bankrupt to pay for all the additional sick people they are required to cover.

The “moderate” option backed by some Democrats would actually be more dangerous (for Obama, the Congressional Democrats up for re-election next year and the grand liberal project in general) than the “extreme” action of delaying the entire law for a year. Or maybe two, given that programming experts are saying the entire website needs to be rebuilt.

You can almost imagine Biden saying, “Listen, boss, I know you hate these guys — I do, too — but the Republicans actually have a point.” But he can’t say it, because Biden is afraid Obama will think of him the way Harry Reid has framed him — a Quisling.

So Biden will have to pass the time doing something else. Lucky for him that there are lots of Iowa state politicians who are trying to enjoy a simple World Series game at Applebee’s.

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