As Obama’s Rose Garden Wingman, Biden Takes Political Risk

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) joined by Vice President Joe Biden delivers a statement on Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House on Saturday. (Kristoffer Tripplaar/White House Pool via Getty Images)

Joe Biden could have been elsewhere Saturday. Instead, he was in the Rose Garden in a show of support for the man who made him vice president of the United States — and taking a huge personal political risk.

Biden reportedly is mulling a run for president in 2016. That means it would behoove him — and President Barack Obama, the head of the Democratic Party — to create distance between Biden and most controversial issues.

But the man Washington has dubbed “the happy warrior” chose a different path on Saturday.

Obama on Friday evening had decided to alter course on his Syria policy, deciding to delay strikes until Congress has returned for what promises to be a testy debate and vote on a use-of-force resolution. Even before Obama’s swerve, the matter had become Topic A across the world. And, by definition, political controversial.

Biden could have pushed for Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been Obama’s ‘good cop’ on Syria, to accompany the boss to the Rose Garden. After all, Kerry has made clear his presidential ambitions dried up in 2004. But America’s top diplomat was no where to be seen.

By standing just off Obama’s right shoulder as the commander in chief announced his decision, Biden ensured any 2016 campaign foes could use it to attack him and undermine his foreign policy and national security credentials.

Yet, there was Biden, notably wearing an uncharacteristic scowl, sending a clear message to Bashar al-Assad and U.S. lawmakers: He’s got his boss’s back. He also seemed to be transmitting another message to his potential 2016 rivals: Bring this up. I dare you.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett