Joe Biden's oddly awesome "View" appearance

No gaffes, but the affable V.P. dishes about his infamous f-bomb and why he really does like Sarah Palin

Published April 22, 2010 5:37PM (EDT)

Vice President Joe Biden and Joy Behar
Vice President Joe Biden and Joy Behar

It was my error to assume that Joe Biden's appearance on "The View" would be awesome-ludicrous because of the gaffe-happy vice-president. While I had entertained fantasies of Biden saying "fuck" on air, asking a wheelchair-bound audience member to stand up, or clearing the nation's public transportation systems with threats of swine flu, I had failed to consider that Biden's inappropriate enunciations might be bested by the Tourette-like tendencies of "The View" hosts themselves. While "The View" has extended its election-season mission to bring politics to daytime, it has not ceased to pad those politics with absurdist patter.

Before Joe hit the couch, Barbara Walters noted this was the first time in the show's history that a sitting president or vice-president had made an appearance and commented on Biden's tight security detail. "I haven't had that much foreplay in six months!" cracked Joy Behar. Sherri Shepherd deemed the secret service guys sexy thanks to the appearance of being "so emotionally unavailable." When Walters stepped in, apparently to stop the insanity, she only ratcheted it further by observing that America's vice-president was "very slim and good-looking," which reminded me of the time she told Barack Obama (then running for the Democratic nomination) that he was "very sexy-looking!" Walters then made sure viewers knew the journalistic bar had been set at about average by promising that Biden "does not know what questions we are going to ask him!"

The beauty of the thing was that, though he did not cough up any classic Joe-isms, Biden could not have been a more affable foil for the women of "The View." The guy could talk each and every one of them under the table, and he warmed quickly to the Borscht Belt high-low energy of the group, joking, when Walters observed that no one has any idea what a vice-president does, "Well, me either," and cracking, "Well, it depends on whether you talk to Dick Cheney. He had a different definition of the vice-presidency!" Ba-dum-bum.

Hasselbeck, grumping about how Barack Obama has discouraged the use of words like "War on Terror" and "Radical Islam," wondered whether or not he'd gotten in trouble for whispering, within range of a live mike, that healthcare reform was "a big fuckin' deal."

"Were you surprised you got the pass from [Obama] on that?" queried Hasselbeck.

Biden crossed himself and looked cutely chastened. "I was just thankful my mother couldn't hear," he replied, admitting that he'd only realized that the microphone had picked up his comment after getting into the car with Obama and noticing that the president "was laughing like the devil," because his secretary had just told him that the words had been audible. "It's true," Biden said ruefully of the screw-up, that it was "not the first time."

Friendly to a fault, Biden went on to voice compassion for members of the Tea Party -- allowing that "lots of people out there are frightened and scared, people have lost jobs, they're not sure if they're going to keep their homes" -- and also for Sarah Palin, about whom he said, "If you meet her she is a charming person!" He continued, "I say this and people look at me like I'm kidding, but I like her!" Biden, however, could not manage a straight face or a solid answer when Hasselbeck asked him, hopefully, if the administration was eyeing Palin as a "legitimate threat" in 2012. So frozen was the veep that Shepherd encouraged him to "please the fifth."

After one of the vertiginous conversational turns that makes "View"-style politics so addictively train-wreck-ish -- Walters grilling Biden on Iran's development of nuclear weapons, impending sanctions, whether or not China would agree to those sanctions, Israel's intentions of acting against Iran without U.S. support, and the collaborative efforts of European powers, NATO powers, and the P-5 Plus One to discourage nuclear development -- Hasselbeck asked Biden about his childhood stutter. This allowed the vice-president to serve up a big lovable hunk of Biden cheese, recalling how, as a boy, he used to practice reciting Yeats and Emerson in front of the mirror in the room he shared with his brothers. He also told a charming story about why it took five proposals to get his wife, Jill, to marry him 32 years ago, after his first wife and daughter had been killed in a car crash. "Here I was, a sitting senator, 34 years old, two kids, the whole state knew me, and there were 5,000 yentas trying to hook me up," Biden said. "That's a lot to take on for a 25-year-old woman."

And then it was time for Joe to go. Such a natural was Biden in the program's wacky milieu that even Hasselbeck had to admit that he was "a pretty cool guy." "We may not sit on the same side of the political aisle," she said, "but it's good to share a sofa."

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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