A Low Profile Birthday for Joe Biden

Jake Turcotte

When he was named as Barack Obama's running mate, Joe Biden was billed as the deal-closer for people worried about Obama's lack of foreign policy experience. Biden, after all, was the long-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Then along came Hillary.

The headlines are filled with reports that Senator Clinton may join the Obama administration as Secretary of State. If she -- and by extension her high wattage, globe-trotting husband -- end up on the Obama team, it certainly raises the possibility that Biden’s expertise would be less visible in the new administration.

Will she or won't she?

Whether Hillary is offered -- and accepts -- the post is an open question. Meanwhile, the Vice President-elect has been distinctly low-profile in recent days. He is expected to spend his 66th birthday at home in Delaware today, with no public events on his schedule.

His special day was not exactly forgotten by his new boss, however. The President-elect threw Biden a small birthday celebration on Wednesday after their weekly meeting in Chicago.

According to a memo from the transition office, Obama surprised Biden with a dozen cupcakes decorated with candles, led the staff in singing “Happy Birthday,” and kidded “You’re 12 years old.” Biden is said to have responded, “Maybe in dog years.”

Biden’s gifts from his boss had a decided Chicago flavor: a Chicago White Sox hat, a Chicago Bears hat, and a bucket of popcorn from a local popcorn store, Garrett’s.

Wondering where Joe is

Despite the birthday gifts, these must be challenging times for Biden. As the Washington Post’s veteran foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius wrote today, “And then there's the incredible shrinking vice president-elect, Joe Biden. Where is he these days? Do they have him in a box? He can't be happy at the idea of considering Clinton as foreign policy tsarina -- wasn't Biden's foreign policy savvy the reason he was picked?”

Not all of the members of the new administration are quite as low profile as Biden. One of the more visible members of the team, Obama chief of staff designate Rahm Emanuel, will hold meetings on the Hill today with House and Senate Republican leaders today. The transition office said he would “discuss how to best work together and ensure they know that the White House will be open at all times for them.”

Earlier this week, Emanuel spoke at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Conference in Washington. “The former Clinton staffer and congressman from Illinois was determined not to make news in his appearance,” the Journal said. “And he was largely successful.”

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