December 27, 2007

The Secret Fantasy Life Of Joe Biden

The Iowa caucuses can provide unpleasant surprises for candidates and their supporters, but even Iowans have a limit. With Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards splitting most of the likely caucus goes in the polling, the second tier has no chance of pulling off an upset. Don't tell that to Joe Biden, however, who apparently needs to maintain his interior fantasy of superiority:

Joe Biden is talking. “Barack does a room, Hillary does a room, I do the same room and I win,” he says. “I have absolute confidence in that. The question is: Do I get in enough rooms?”

Biden is sitting at a table in a Starbucks, a cup of coffee rapidly growing cold in front of him. We talk for thirty minutes and in that time I manage to fit in exactly two questions. I am not complaining.

Biden is charged up and telling me that if he could trade places with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Edwards in Iowa right now he would not do it. Would not!

“I am not being a wiseass,” he tells me, nudging my arm for emphasis. “I am not joking. The guy with the most money and the woman with the biggest buzz, beaten by the man with the right message! Who people think is honest!”

Clue #1: Joe Biden is sitting in a Starbucks for 30 minutes, talking to Roger Simon of the Politico rather than, say, a radio interview or even a campaign event. Clue #2: Simon can only ask two questions to interrupt Biden's monologue. Simon may not be complaining, but he's essentially substituting for the non-existent audience to which Biden could not deliver this speech.

Simon does, however, get a clue eventually. Biden hilariously spins numbers off the top of his head that put him in fourth place with 15%, arguing that would be a big victory -- and that a Hillary Clinton win would be beneficial for him. A Hillary win, Biden fails to realize, would cinch her nomination by killing any momemtum Obama has managed to build in the final weeks of the campaign. Biden then tells Simon that a third-place finish for John Edwards would be a crushing blow, even though he just explained how a fourth-place finish would boost his own chances.

Joe Biden is once again in over his head. He has this knack of positing himself as the smartest man in the room, but once challenged, shows himself as a grinning empty suit. He got outboxed on national television by two successive Supreme Court nominees, grinning the entire time. His fantasy of a dark-horse victory in Iowa while barely registering on the national consciousness in this presidential race confirms his cluelessness.

Biden's run will be as entertaining as it is brief. His unintentional hilarity provides most of his charm. He may be the Battlefield Earth of presidential candidates in this cycle.


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