Speech Offers Reminder of Strengths and Pitfalls of Candidate Biden

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 10.37.17 AMCARL HULSE Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Good Wednesday morning. Some clarity, or at least its potential, arrived on Tuesday in the fractured House race to replace Speaker John A. Boehner, as Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who had previously said no, thank you, laid out the conditions under which he might consider picking up the gavel. And while there are still only rumors and guesses as to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s plans for the presidential race, he provided some possible coming attractions.

Mr. Biden isn’t running for president yet, but on Tuesday, he provided a vivid example of what his campaign appearances might look like should he jump into the race. One word comes to mind: messy.

The voluble veep, at what was supposed to be a non-news-producing celebration of former Vice President Walter F. Mondale’s legacy, made several comments that set off fact-checkers, consumed much of a White House briefing, and served as a reminder of both Mr. Biden’s appeal and his potential drawbacks.

The chief highlight was Mr. Biden’s assertion that he had privately counseled the president to go ahead with the risky special forces raid to kill or capture Osama bin Laden — a statement that seemed to contradict not only his earlier comments that he had expressed reservations, but those of others, including President Obama.
Mr. Biden also said that Mr. Obama had promised him veto power over cabinet nominations and that he spent four to seven hours “every single day” with him. And he went on at length about his significant authority in the administration on both domestic and foreign policy.
The comments prompted multiple appeals to the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, to confirm these accounts. He said he was unable to do so, noting that, “I don’t have any insight to share with you about the private conversations between the president and vice president.”
As he ponders a bid, Mr. Biden seems eager to make clear he supported the successful bin Laden mission, no matter his earlier statements. He also appeared to be trying to show that he was a full partner in all the activities of the administration as opposed to the more limited role of, say, a secretary of state. Having the ability to claim an exceedingly close working and personal relationship with Mr. Obama would be a definite campaign plus, but only if all the facts hold up.
Mr. Biden, a fierce advocate of Amtrak for his journeys back-and-forth to his home in Wilmington, Del., also noted that he had spent 80 percent of his life on the train. That statement is also under review.