Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Presidential Counsel

As the Post reports, it's becoming clear that Joe Biden may not necessarily have a portfolio in the new Administration other than the role of a counselor. An excerpt:

…While Mr. Obama has moved quickly to assemble his White House staff and the beginnings of a cabinet, he is lagging behind even the chronically late President Bill Clinton in bringing clarity to the role his vice president will play. So far, Mr. Biden has not been given a defined portfolio, the way Al Gore was given the environment and technology in 1992. And Mr. Obama’s aides say they do not expect Mr. Biden to assume the kind of muscular role that Vice President Dick Cheney has played over the last eight years, although he is expected to put out a number of fires.

“I’m sure that there will be discrete assignments over time,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to the president-elect. “But I think his fundamental role is as a trusted counselor. I think that when Obama selected him, he selected him to be a counselor and an adviser on a broad range of issues.”

…Mr. Biden seems to be adapting. He is hiring for his office, including a chief of staff, Ron Klain, who has worked with him since he was chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the 1990s. With Mr. Obama having settled on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, Mr. Biden, whose most recent Senate post was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has privately told people that he recognizes he will not be the point man on foreign policy. Mr. Biden has also interviewed candidates for chief economist, and associates say he is honing his economic credentials.

…Mr. Biden is spending most weekdays in Chicago, where he stays in a hotel and has lunch once a week with Mr. Obama. [He has also] been involved in cabinet and policy decisions, offering advice to the president-elect, aides said.

The lack of specificity stands in contrast to the more clearly defined role of Mr. Gore. Within days of Mr. Clinton’s election in 1992, advisers to the president-elect said Mr. Gore would be in charge of a broad initiative on science and technology, heralding what they promised would be a new era in which the government’s focus on making armaments would shift to fostering new civilian technologies and industries. By early December 1992, even before Mr. Clinton had made any cabinet appointments, Mr. Gore was out in front on the environment, issuing a statement calling for an investigation of a hazardous-waste incinerator and signaling that the administration planned an aggressive approach to enforcing environmental laws. During an interview with Gannett on Dec. 8, 1992, Mr. Clinton said Mr. Gore would have “certain specific responsibilities over and above” a general advisory role, including “lobbying the Congress on our program, especially in the health care area, dealing with issues related to the environment and technology.”

As for the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden, aides to both men insist that the relationship is strong, with each man settling into his role.

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