Obamateurism of the Day

When David Plouffe wrote in his memoirs that Barack Obama scoffed at John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin for his running mate as “wing[ing] it,” I noted that the man who picked Joe Biden as his own running mate had little room to criticize. As it turns out, Obama discovered that for himself the hard way. In their new book Game Change, Mark Halperin and John Heileman report that it didn’t take long for Obama to be horrified by the loose cannon he had picked, and to put him on a short leash:

Of all the freshly revealed anecdotes, though, none may be as eye-opening as the previously-unknown friction between the president and vice-president – which on Saturday a Biden spokesman dismissed as “rumors.” The tensions began in September of 2008 word got back to Obama’s campaign headquarters that Biden had told reporters on his campaign plane that he was more qualified than his running mate to be president. …

Obama himself was growing increasingly frustrated with his running mate after Biden let loose with a string of gaffes, including a statement that paying higher taxes amounted to patriotism and criticism of one of the campaign’s own ads poking fun at John McCain.

But when Biden, at an October fund-raiser in Seattle, famously predicted that Obama would be tested with an international crisis, the then-Illinois senator had had enough.

“How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?” he demanded of his advisers on a conference call, a moment at which most people on the call said the candidate was as angry as they had ever heard him.

How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid? As often as you’ll let him, Mr. President. Why did that come as such a surprise? Everyone in politics knew what a dolt Joe Biden is. What was Biden’s most well-known historical accomplishment? He stole speeches from Neil Kinnock and forgot to change the descriptions of Kinnock’s family when delivering them. That Mensa disqualifier knocked him out of the 1988 presidential campaign.

And there was more. With all of the attention on Harry Reid’s bon mot on the “Negro dialect” and skin color, who can forget Biden’s greeting to an Indian-American supporter just two years before being selected as Obama’s running mate?

Small wonder that Biden has been one of the least visible of Vice-Presidents these days. Andrew Malcolm practically has a career noting the fact that the White House refuses to share Biden’s schedule. People used to joke about Dick Cheney hiding out in undisclosed locations — but no one is even remotely interested in where Biden spends his days.

Obama learned a lesson from this Obamateurism, but he has no one to blame for Biden but himself. Had he paid the least bit of attention to Biden, he could have easily predicted his predicament … as we all did in August 2008.

Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.

Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!