Vice President Joseph Biden predicted Wednesday night that the United States will add between 700,000 and 1.4 million workers to the list of the employed by year's end -- and in the process mute the administration's critics.
In a sit-down interview with Charlie Rose, Biden touted the positive trends in recent economic news and painted the improving picture as an electoral boon to the Democratic Party. Asked, for instance, to assess the impact of the Tea Party in the upcoming 2010 congressional elections, the famously blunt vice president insisted that, as the job landscape improves, the anti-government movement will lose some momentum. If anything, he suggested, the movement would prove more problematic to the GOP than Democrats.
Joe Biden: I think the Tea Party is still a fairly distinct minority even within the Republican Party. And there are some Democrats rooting for the Tea Party to take over the Republican Party.
Charlie Rose: Are you one of them?
Joe Biden: No. But I -- but you know that, I mean, here you had [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell being clobbered in his own state by a person who thought he was -- Mitch is too liberal.
Charlie Rose: Right. He was, yes.
Joe Biden: So there is some trouble --
Charlie Rose: His candidate lost to Rand Paul.
Joe Biden: Right. There is some trouble in paradise.
Discussing a wide range of topics, Biden's optimism on the domestic front was matched by the sharp lines he drew with respect to foreign affairs. The vice president offered the administration's strongest support to date for Israel's decision to board a ship of pro-Palestinian activists bound for an apparent humanitarian mission in Gaza.
"I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest," he said. "I put all this back on two things: one, Hamas, and, two, Israel's need to be more generous relative to the Palestinian people who are in trouble in Gaza... [The Israelis have] said, 'Here you go. You're in the Mediterranean. This ship -- if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we'll get the stuff into Gaza.' So what's the big deal here?"
His discussion of the oil spill in the Gulf primarily consisted of a defense of the president's actions to date. While there may have been shortcomings in the White House's ability to effectively communicate its message with respect to the ecological catastrophe, he said, there should be no doubt that it was on top of the crisis.
The same could be true, Biden implied, with the economic recovery. Showing little trepidation about drawing lines in the sand, the vice president predicted that the economy will "create between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs on average all the way through this year." (That would be 100,000 to 200,000 jobs a month over the next seven months -- a fairly safe prediction judging by recent trends). Biden would not, however, mark a date when he thought the unemployment rate would dip to, say, six percent.
The bulging of the employment rolls, he predicted, will have tangible political benefits, in part because it will illuminate that government can actually be a force for positive growth.
"There's a strain that exists within the Tea Party that just has this overwhelming distaste for and distrust for government, period," said Biden. "And there's a tendency to inflate and conflate and inflate both things that the government is doing. But I would say to the Tea Party people, you don't like federal government, you think we should not be involved in the oil spill? It's private enterprise. What are we supposed to do? Is the federal government not needed?"