Joe who?

The loneliness of the vice president-elect.

By Gabriel Winant
December 3, 2008 2:00AM (UTC)
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There’s a story, likely apocryphal, that when Winston Churchill died, then-President Lyndon Johnson was too sick to attend the funeral. An aide suggested they send "Hubert," and Johnson asked, “Hubert who?” (The answer, of course, was Hubert Humphrey, Johnson’s vice president.)

Seems like Joe Biden might be getting to know how Humphrey felt. The New York Times reported last week that he’s recognized, in private, that the appointment of Hillary Clinton to the State Department means he won’t be the administration point man on foreign policy -- his main area of expertise. But Clinton hasn’t just taken away the VP-elect’s issue portfolio. She’s also dominated the media spotlight lately, and Biden seems a little bit starved for attention.


Maybe that's why he went off-script today in his speech to the National Governors Association in Philadelphia. Biden was supposed to recognize Sarah Palin, who was in the audience, with a nice platitude. As written, his line to the spotlight-grabbing Alaskan was, “And Gov. Palin, your being here today sends a powerful message that when campaigns end, we are all partners in progress. Thank you.”

Instead, as Jonathan Martin reports, here’s what Biden said:

And Gov. Palin, I want to thank you particularly.

I might point out, as I told you, we walked in. Since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all. So I'm — maybe you will walk outside with me or something later and say hello to me.

It's great to see you, Governor.

And, by the way, I think it is — I hope, you know, the whole country can see the sort of a metaphor for the fact that this election is over and here we are. We're all together.

We're all dealing with a common problem.

Poor Joe. He’s like the dark side of the moon, only visible in light reflected from bigger stars.

Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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