Joe Biden calls his job a [expletive deleted]. Is he actually right?

Speaking at the Harvard Institute of Politics, the vice president made fun of his own job Thursday night. He's not the first.

Winslow Townson/AP
Vice President Joe Biden bites his lip while speaking to students faculty and staff at Harvard Thursday.

Vice President Joe Biden – sometimes it seems he’s doing his best to live up to the fictional “Diamond Joe” Biden character concocted by The Onion.

This week’s incident involved an off-color description of his job, as opposed to the inadvertent use of ethnically offensive terms, or an enthusiastic endorsement of shotguns for self-defense.

At an event Thursday at the Harvard Institute of Politics, a participant introduced himself as the vice president of a student organization. Mr. Biden then expressed faux commiseration with a fellow sufferer.

“Isn’t it a [word that begins with “b” and rhymes with “itch”]? I mean . . . that vice president thing.”

The crowd laughed. Biden quickly backtracked, saying that accepting the vice presidential nomination from President Obama was the “best decision” he had ever made.

He and the student bantered back and forth. “I love that guy I work with,” Biden concluded.

Should Joe have been less loose-lipped? Maybe, but at this point that isn’t going to happen, so let’s not pretend to be surprised. As Adam O’Neal notes at RealClearPolitics, Biden has been known to use saltier language than that in public. The most famous example is the f-bomb he dropped at the signing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

“Millions of people also heard the line, as an open microphone picked up his comments,” Mr. O’Neal writes.

Plus, Biden’s right. Being vice president is an [expletive deleted]. It’s a difficult job that combines extensive travel with lots of public speaking. You’ve got little power, but you’re held responsible for the actions of your boss anyway. For the most part, the only way you can make big news is to mess up.

Al Gore had a whole routine about this when he was VP. At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in 1996, he started with a slide show of the worst vice-presidents of all time, which included Spiro Agnew and Aaron Burr, and then noted that Woodrow Wilson’s VP, Thomas R. Marshall, just stopped going to Cabinet meetings and traveled around the country giving speeches for money.

“Sounds like a great job,” Mr. Gore said of the speaking gigs. “Too bad Colin Powell already has it.”

Yes, that was funnier in the mid-'90s.

Gore then cited the famous line of FDR’s vice president, John Nance Garner, who said the office wasn’t worth a “pitcher of warm spit.”

But as Gore noted, “spit” was a euphemism. Garner actually referred to another bodily fluid.

As to the VP’s relationship to the president, Gore recounted that he’d had lunch with President Clinton just the other day. When they were done with discussion of matters of state, Clinton leaned over and pointed at Gore’s plate.

“You going to finish that?” he asked, according to Gore.

Self-deprecation. For US VPs, that’s what’s on the menu.

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