Biden’s Role

There’s an interesting article in today’s New York Times that examines the way Vice-President elect Joe Biden intends to wield the “power” of the officem particularly in the wake of Dick Cheney. This, I think, it the most interesting bar, and highlights a good role, not just for Biden, but for the office in general:

Although Mr. Biden does not want to be another Dick Cheney, he does not want to be another Al Gore either. “I don’t want to be the guy who handles U.S.-Russia relations. I don’t want to be the guy who reinvents government,” Mr. Biden said, ticking off two of Mr. Gore’s most famous areas of responsibility. “I want to be the last guy in the room on every important decision.”

Walter F. Mondale, the first vice president to get an office in the West Wing, said Mr. Biden was taking the right approach. “Taking on a line assignment from some part of government that is already under way, I never thought was a good use of my time,” Mr. Mondale said. “And I thought it could lead to bureaucratic infighting.”

That’s a pretty wise conception of the office, in my opinion. It doesn’t really make any sense to have the Vice-President dealing with areas that encroach into the realm of cabinet secretaries. Aside from creating beuraucratic issues, it’s just redundant, and not a very effective use of time or resources. On the other hand, you don’t want someone who is just getting a paycheck and giving speeches every now and then with no real influence, because that’s going to discourage people like Biden from taking the worthless job when they could be chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee instead. So having the Vice-President as a general adviser who gets to take part in all of your decisions, at least nominally, as well as being a President-in-waiting and maybe handling some executive functions that cross over various agency lines or needs a White House footprint is probably the most effective way you could use the office in any administration, and Biden will be doing the government a great service if he can establish that as the norm for the office.