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Biden His Time
Quietly, Vice President Joe Biden has sought to separate himself from his boss, at least via his press and political operations. Over the past several weeks, Biden has strategically placed himself on opposite sides of the playing field from President Obama, from rooting for his Philadelphia Flyers against Obama’s Chicago Blackhawks (President Obama was probably a fan of a Canadian team when he was living in Hawaii, before he was a fan of the ‘Hawks) to his very public support for Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza dustup.
“[Biden] isn’t discouraging his media team from drawing some distinctions between him and the president, let’s put it that way,” says a former senior Biden adviser from his Senate days. “It’s certainly not comparable at this stage of the game, but Al Gore was doing similar things in the aftermath of impeachment, when he had his own political future to worry about.”
Certainly no one in the Obama administration is worried about that kind of situation, but the attempts by Biden’s staff to set him apart have not gone unnoticed. “He’s certainly got the easier job. Gee, what’s his gig this week, visiting the World Cup? And he has the good fortune to have a reputation that allows half of what he says to just get eye-rolls and, ‘Oh, that’s just Joe flapping his gums,’” says an Obama loyalist. “The Israel stuff made the White House pay attention a bit more, but my guess is that it’s a non-issue.”
Could the Obama White House be losing its intellectual base? According to White House sources, the media team gives the president a number of different clips to review on major news stories, particularly ones where he may be asked questions or have to speak on, but they of late have been vetting and selectively editing out commentary and news stories that highlight criticism from think tanks and organizations that typically have carried water or been supportive of the administration.
Obama has a reputation for being thin-skinned with reporters asking tough questions, and inside the White House, some staff say that reputation is trickling down in the way they package information he will see. “It’s not that he’s not seeing bad news,” says a current White House staffer. “He’s just not necessarily seeing some of the voices out there that might be piling on.”
The White House ceremony and concert to honor surviving Beatle Sir Paul McCartney had been on the schedule for several months, but given that the event took place at the height of the Louisiana gulf oil spill, White House staff suggested that the event also highlight the Delta blues and regional music that helped shape the rock music McCartney became famous for, and which he himself has touted in the past.
But senior Obama advisers nixed the idea, saying that an attempt to highlight the music of the South would only draw more attention to the administration’s failings.
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