Joe Biden’s natural tendency toward loquaciousness (loquacity?) was nurtured to an unhealthy degree during his four decades in the Senate, where speaking directly and crisply was seen as borderline disrespectful to the institution's pride as the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” By rule, the committee chairman is the only one not bound by time constraints on their remarks, and spinning endless yarns with a gavel in one hand and a tumbler in the other was just how it was done. Biden was never much for the bottle, making his proclivity for verbosity that much more impressive.
Though not for the captives. For those who were merely passing through the upper chamber, it was torture. During one Judiciary Committee hearing, as Chairman Biden droned on from one tangent to another, committee member Barack Obama scribbled a note to his aide: “Shoot. Me. Now.” One committee aide later said that “Obama would listen to Biden holding forth in the committee and roll his eyes.”
During Obama’s presidency, Biden was known as the guy in the meeting who had to be listened to respectfully and at length, but the meeting’s real purpose could commence only when he’d finished. Now that guy from those meetings will be president, and he’s surrounding himself with people who have long indulged his fanciful soliloquies. Where Obama for better or worse put together a strong-willed team of rivals, Biden is assembling a staff. The committee aide will be his secretary of state. A 42-year-old non-economist from the Obama administration will head his National Economic Council. A general known for his respect for the chain of command will run the Pentagon, and so on. Biden, at last, will not just be derailing meetings, but running them. And unlike when he was chair of the committee, the decisions that are made in those meetings can have immediate implications for the real world.
Biden, so affable in public, shows flashes of temper in private. He is tired of being humored; he’s ready to call the shots. Put all of those different qualities in a blender, toss in the awesome power of the presidency, and you get Joe Biden‘s meeting civil rights leaders earlier last week, where he rambled like the Biden we know, but also lashed out like the one we don’t. He is clearly not a man who likes to be challenged. In this week’s Deconstructed, we published exclusive audio I obtained from that meeting. But I also got the full video -- it was a Zoom meeting -- and watching the full hour and 40 minutes is deeply revealing of what kind of president Biden is likely to be. If you can find the time, it’s worth a watch.
If not, here’s the shorter version from last week’s podcast.