Joe Biden swearing-in behavior: Kindly or creepy?

Vice President Joe Biden had a bravura performance on Tuesday administering the oath of office to new and newly reelected members of the US Senate. Some critics have raised eyebrows.

Susan Walsh/AP
Sen. Thad Cochran (R) if Mississippi (l.) talks with Vice President Joe Biden before Biden administered the Senate oath during a ceremonial re-enactment swearing-in ceremony, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Joe Biden seems to really enjoy swearing in senators. Is that charming? Or does he bring a little too much enthusiasm to the job?

That’s an issue in Washington in the wake of Mr. Biden’s bravura performance on Tuesday administering the oath of office to new and newly reelected members of the US Senate.

Biden cuddled. He cajoled. He glad-handed moms and, according to critics, got a little too familiar with some daughters.

“It’s not that big of a deal, I guess, but it got kind of creepy,” writes right-leaning Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist.

Why does Biden swear in senators, anyway? He gets the job because under the US Constitution, the vice president is also the president of the Senate. He gets to vote if there is a tie. And he gets to officially welcome electoral winners into the club.

The official swearing-in is carried out en masse on the floor. Then Biden hosts individual ceremonial swearing-ins for those who want something a little more personal. Many new senators bring family members along for what is a pretty big day in their lives.

And Biden gets to be Biden. He doesn’t just whisk these folks along as if it were a chore for him on a grip-and-grin greeting line. He especially greets the newbies with the enthusiasm you might appreciate if this was a crowning moment in your career. For many observers it is, yes, charming.

“Administering the oath of office to the U.S. Senate sounds like a mundane job.... Joe Biden turns it into an event that's so joyful, and so lacking the partisan rancor that typically dominates American politics, that it’s almost hard to believe that you’re watching a scene from Washington,” according to NPR’s Don Gonyea.

Biden greeted new Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell warmly, points out Mr. Gonyea, and told Senator McConnell’s grandson to say, “Grandpa, can I talk to a Democrat?”

He greeted newly reelected Sen. Thad Cochran (R) of Mississippi, who scraped by a tea party challenger, with “Thaddeus!”

“Best guy in the US Senate right here. I can say that now because it can’t hurt him,” Biden said.

He called absent grandmothers with proffered cellphones. He agreed with crying babies that “this is boring.” He asked toddlers if he could wear their hats. And so forth. If you want to see some highlights, The Washington Post’s Fix political blog has put together a mash tape of “102 seconds of pure Joe Biden magic.”

Not everybody was amused by some of his comments to young women, though. Some conservative bloggers say that the media would have been harsh on Biden’s penchant for hugging politicians' daughters if he were a Republican.

They noted that the daughter of Sen. Chris Coons (D) of Delaware pulled away and looked uncomfortable when Biden tried to kiss her cheek. After meeting the daughter of Sen. Joni Ernst (R) of Iowa, he said, “How old are you? Fifteen? I hope mom has a big fence.” (Presumably the fence would defend against marauding boys.) And so on.

“It’s not the biggest deal in the world and I don’t think Biden is some sort of dangerous character.... I also think he could take the feelings of these young women into account and leave them off his hug target list. Take it down a notch, Uncle Joe,” writes Mary Katharine Ham at right-leaning Hot Air.

Such complaints seem limited to Biden’s political opponents, at least for the moment. If any Democrats join in the chorus, Uncle Joe might need to watch out. In the meantime, anyone who wants to experience the full Biden treatment can spin the wheel of the Post’s "Joe Biden random compliment generator."  On our first try we got, “You’ve got a smile that lights up a room.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Joe Biden swearing-in behavior: Kindly or creepy?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today