Policy: Economy

Joe Biden: 'Visionary-In-Chief'

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Jobs,Joe Biden,Economy,Thomas Perez,Think Tanks,Unemployment

Vice President Joe Biden is not just heading the White House's efforts to rebuild the U.S. workforce, he is the administration's "visionary-in-chief" on the subject.

That's what Labor Secretary Thomas Perez called Biden when he introduced him at a Washington seminar held by the moderate liberal think tank Third Way on Wednesday.

So it was a little jarring that one of the first things Biden said indicated the White House was short on ideas.

"I am prepared to nominate any one of you here for the Nobel Prize if you can figure out how to create good-paying jobs," Biden told the crowd.

Then again, that’s Biden for you: After six years in President Obama’s administration, he has firmly ensconced himself as the nation’s eccentric uncle, the ready source of comic fodder for places like the Onion and the Simpsons.

Biden’s address Wednesday was a ready reminder of why.

Ostensibly, he was there to kick off Third Way's Future of Workforce Development forum. Instead, the former Delaware senator treated the captive audience to a rambling tour of his mind often only tangentially connected to the subject at hand.

He did at least start off talking about job creation and the need to think outside the box. It was also encouraging that this was no canned speech. Biden spoke completely off the cuff.

"I really resent this idea that job creators are just people who can do capital formation. My father was a job creator and he never owned anything," Biden told the audience.

It was a well-put observation about the importance of good management practices. Well, I thought, maybe this will be an informative, engaging discussion of the employment situation.

A few short minutes later, Biden was telling a long anecdote about 1940's baseball player Satchel Paige - "Now there was a good pitcher!" - to illustrate some point about how you are only as old as you feel.

It only got less focused from there. On the subject of workforce training, Biden offered this: "You have got to know how to know. That is the tool we have got to teach people: How to know."

It wasn’t long until the vice president ventured onto his favorite subject, his blue-collar roots. This time though, the man who so-often notes that he was born in Scranton, Pa., seemed somewhat resentful of that Image.

"I am always labeled as the ‘middle class Joe.’ In this town, that is not a compliment. It means you are not sophisticated," he grumbled.

Which just isn’t fair to say of a man like Biden, who is in reality a globetrotting diplomat. Just ask him.

"I was recently with a foreign leader — I spend a lot of time with foreign leaders. I know them well," he noted.

Biden then concluded his remarks -- which ran at least 20 minutes -- by saying that what he really, really wanted to do was to hear from the business people, union officials, training experts and others that Third Way had gathered for the event.

Alas, he couldn’t do that. He was out of time and his White House minders were ushering him away. A visionary’s work, it seems, is never done.

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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner