Eyebrows are a-raising at the prospect of a presidential run by current Vice President Joe Biden, and on Monday, those eyebrows went into orbit over speculation about President Obama's regularly-scheduled weekly private lunch with the Veep, and some expressions of support from the briefing room podium. On Tuesday morning, Josh Earnest's responses to Biden questions were in heavy rotation on cable news, and cited as new evidence that the Biden run is in the offing. Here's what Earnest said:
The President has indicated his view that the decision that he made I guess seven years ago now to add Joe Biden to the ticket as his running mate was the smartest decision that he had ever made in politics. And I think that should give you some sense of the President’s view of Vice President Biden’s aptitude for the top job...
...I’ll just say that the Vice President is somebody who has already run for President twice. He’s been on a national ticket through two election cycles now, both in 2008 and in the reelection of 2012. And so I think you could make the case that there is probably no one in American politics today who has a better understanding of exactly what is required to mount a successful national presidential campaign.
No one is more thrilled at the prospect of a Joe Biden candidacy than I am, but neither of the elements of this story are news, at least not current news. You could make the case that the President's "blessing" for a Biden run was news three weeks ago, when his spokesman made identical remarks to reporters, and stated rather plainly that Biden has earned the right to mount a campaign, if he chooses to:
"...the Vice President has earned the right to make a decision for himself on his own timeline about whether or not to pursue a campaign for the presidency in 2016. And the fact is, when the President chose Vice President Biden to be his Vice President, he described it at the time, and many times since, that it was the smartest decision that he had made in politics.
And that’s because the Vice President has been uniquely suited for this role. He’s somebody that had a long career as a fighter for the middle class. He is somebody who, as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, developed important relationships with world leaders, and has used those relationships to advance the interests of the United States.
And so whether it is working with leaders in Iraq or the leaders of Ukraine, or other countries in Latin America, the Vice President has been a very effective advocate for U.S. interests all around the globe. That was true when he was in the Senate, and that’s certainly been true as Vice President.
That gives him a very unique set of skills and experience. And it’s not surprising to me that there are people who are talking about this possibility. But ultimately, when you have that kind of stature within the party, you’re afforded the opportunity to weigh this decision and to announce it on your own timeframe. And that’s exactly what the Vice President is doing.
You could also make the case that it was news the week before that, when Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schhultz made nearly-identical remarks, or any of these other times the White House talked up a Biden candidacy, dating back to 2013:
So, if something that the President has been saying for several years through three different spokesmen counts as "news," then this is news, but the fact is that Vice President Joe Biden has always had President Obama's "blessing" to run, and the White House has been praising the idea of a Biden presidency for years. If any real news happened at that lunch, it hasn't been reported yet, but as someone who has covered these guys for years, it shouldn't be difficult to guess what went on.
Just as I would, the President likely counseled Biden that, while there's every chance he could win, the current media buzz around a Biden run is mostly an attempt to sweet-talk him into the briar patch. The enormous sea of goodwill that Joe Biden has earned during the Obama presidency will not stop the media from ripping him to shreds if he gets in, and I'm sure the President was preparing him for that, while also telling Biden that if he makes the race against Hillary close enough for it to matter, he can count on an endorsement from Barack Obama.