Dispatches from America

October 20, 2015

Biden and the illusive presidency

Biden and the illusive presidency

Joe Biden

By Uche Onyebadi
PRIOR to last week’s presidential primaries debate, the first of six for Democrats in this presidential election cycle, the American political scene was dominated by this single question: Will vice president Joe Bide run for office?

The huge image of the amiable vice president loomed large over the debate. Although Biden had not explicitly indicated his intention to run for office, CNN provided an extra podium for the vice president just in case he made a last-minute decision to run and showed up to debate his co-contestants. But, it was not to be as the veteran politician had calculated his options and considered it a politically adroit move to stay away and above the fray for now.

As the Republicans and their conservative media pundits painfully admit, the debate went far above expectations. Unlike the GOP presidential debates whose hallmarks were the hurling of personal innuendos and skating around important issues of the day, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee elegantly stayed on message and issues.

Joe Biden

Joe Biden

Those political pundits who had foretold a debate that would boil down to a single issue – the political crucifixion of Hillary Clinton on the so-called private e-mail issue that has made more than its fair share of headline news – were roundly disappointed. The Democratic Party presidential hopefuls brushed the e-mail question aside and consigned it to the shelf of non-issues.

At the end of the debate, the verdict was not necessarily about which candidate won as much as the fact of the general agreement that the Democratic Party won. I daresay that the next Republican Party political debate will no doubt attempt to emulate the standard set by their Democratic Party counterparts.

But, one of the outcomes of the political debate was that it transformed the question about Joe Biden running for office, from “will Biden run” to something like “will Biden still run”? The thinking before the debate was that the political gladiators will conduct themselves in such a messy way that Joe Biden, the knight in shining armour, will ride in to save his party from being the butt of political jokes and caricatures. In particular, it was anticipated that Hillary Clinton will emerge from the debate so bruised and battered that Biden will certainly step in to repair the damage for it is generally felt that in spite of Sanders’ popular appeal and force of message on behalf of the downtrodden, Americans might not really be in the mood to elected an avowed socialist as president.

All predictions about the nastiness of the debate turned on their heads. Hillary did not falter. Sanders did not stutter. None of the other candidates gave viewers serious reasons to feel utterly disappointed.

In all, there was no space for the anticipation of Biden the redeemer to waltz in and take the commanding position. My prediction is that sooner than later, Joe Biden will emerge and tell his teeming supporters across America that political wisdom dictates that he should not run for office, perhaps will no longer run to fulfill his all-time ambition.

I do not envision him coming out to face humiliation and walk into history books with the image of a failed ambition for that will certainly be how the chroniclers of U.S. presidential history will record him. Better to bow out on the esteemed pedestal of vice president than as someone who was trounced in a bid to realize his ultimate political ambition.

Previous nfailed attempts

What is not in doubt is that Biden would really love to run for office one more time after previous failed attempts. The U.S. presidency is even more alluring to him now that as vice president, he is just a heartbeat away for the position of the most powerful man in our contemporary world.  Not only is he one of President Obama’s chief advisers, he is physically in a location where he has first-hand knowledge of, and can actually feel the power and presence of the U.S. president. And any man or woman in his position will not be blamed for having a presidential aspiration.

However, aspirations alone do not win the presidency. As it is, President Obama has opted to steer clear of “endorsing” any of the Democratic Party contenders. Yes, he has on several occasions talked about how blessed he is to have Joe Biden as his vice president.

In a way therefore, he owes Joe Biden some loyalty. But then, so does he owe Hillary Clinton and the Clintons in general. Hillary stunned the world when she accepted the positon of secretary of state under Obama and worked tirelessly in the service of her boss and America. And no one is in a hurry to forget the role played by the Clintons in Obama’s re-election in 2012.

Should Joe Biden decide to run, not only will he not count on President Obama’s open support against Hillary, he must also reckon with the political prowess of Hillary Clinton and the force of the Clinton dynasty. As I write, there is hardly any poll that shows undeclared Joe Biden matching Hillary, or Bernie Sanders for that matter. Throwing his cap into the ring may not change much. But, the polls show that with Joe Biden officially out of contention, Hillary Clinton will soar so high against Bernie Sanders, her closest rival.

I don’t see Joe Biden running for the U.S. presidency, although this is his last realistic opportunity to do so.