I just read this on a plane from BOS to DFW. I laughed out loud about six times; when the plane landed, the guy across the aisle from me was like, “Hey, I have to ask … what could possibly make a person laugh that hard from The New Yorker?” Here’s an attempt to answer that.
Here’s the main article; there are no video clips as The New Yorker is, well, a magazine — but I embedded a few at the bottom of this post regardless, just for Biden intrigue and context.
John Marttila, one of Biden’s political advisers, told me, “Joe and Barack were having lunch, and Obama said to Biden, ‘You and I are becoming good friends! I find that very surprising.’ And Joe says, ‘You’re fucking surprised!’ ”
Last November, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych scrapped an agreement with the European Union, triggering protests that plunged the country into crisis. Biden had known Yanukovych since 2009 and struck up a towel-snapping rapport. “He was gregarious,” Biden told me earlier this year. “I said, ‘You look like a thug!’ I said, ‘You’re so damn big.’ ”
The Vice-President had a private cabin with a foldout bed, a desk, and a guest chair, but if a second visitor arrived a plastic cooler passed as a seat. “If you want the trappings, it’s a hell of a lot better to go into some other line of work,” Biden said.
In 1979, on one of his first trips to the Soviet Union, he listened to an argument from his Soviet counterpart, and replied, “Where I come from, we have a saying: You can’t shit a shitter.” Bill Bradley, then a fellow-senator on the delegation, later asked the American interpreter how he had translated Biden’s comment into Russian. “Not literally,” the interpreter said.
It leaves him vulnerable to what members of Obama’s campaign team called Joe Bombs, the things he says but doesn’t mean (“Folks, I can tell you I’ve known eight Presidents, three of them intimately”) and the things he means but shouldn’t say (“The middle class has been buried the last four years”—this nearly four years into the Obama-Biden Administration). Biden improvises more on matters of domestic politics than on foreign affairs, and in Kiev he only ad-libbed a poke at Russia’s pledge to reduce tensions: “Stop talking and start acting.” In New York, Senator John McCain heard that and said, “Or else what?”
In one of our interviews, Biden brought up the Gates book. “Gates gets upset because I questioned the military. Well, I believe now, believed then, that Washington and Jefferson were all right: war is too important to be left to generals. It is not their judgment to make! Theirs is to execute. So I think you’ve seen a President who is loyal and supportive of the military but realizes he’s the Commander-in-Chief.” At one point, I started to speak, but Biden interrupted. “I can hardly wait—either in a Presidential campaign or when I’m out of here—to debate Bob Gates. Oh, Jesus.”
There’s a bunch more, but this is a good start.
Now, some videos? Of course.