06/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Robert Guttman Director, Center on Politics and Foreign Relations (CPFR), Johns Hopkins University

It is refreshing to have Joe Biden as our vice-president. Instead of people criticizing him for giving us his views we should be applauding him for saying what is on his mind.

If he doesn't want his family in a confined space--in an airplane or train -then it is his right to say just that when he is interviewed. Obviously, the White House wasn't too pleased with his remarks about the swine flu and how people should react but let's step back a little bit and compare him to our recent vice-presidents. Biden is a winner over any of them by a long shot.

Does Dick Cheney ring a bell? He was not a fun, outspoken man of the people type of vice-president like the former senator from Delaware. Cheney was one of the oddest choices for vice-president in our nation's history. He added no electoral votes to the ticket and it would be hard to find anyone who thought he had a pleasant and sunny personality. He was a dour and sour personality who spoke in a monotone. And, often we didn't know where he was located. And, we aren't even going to mention his policies.

What about Al Gore? He was rather rigid in his demeanor and was never too outspoken or controversial. He always seemed to be lecturing us on how to behave or how to act and seemed like a stern school teacher we once had.

Does anyone remember Vice-President Dan Quayle from my home state of Indiana. He did not add a lot of gravitas to the ticket or to his tenure in the first Bush administration. He was not a vice-president we could believe in.

And George Herbert Walker Bush was a fine gentleman as the vice-president under Reagan but he definitely wasn't a man of the people as can be said of our current vice-president.

Walter Mondale was another gentleman but not one to be outspoken and colorful like Biden.

And, we don't even have to go into Spiro Agnew who had to leave his office as vice-president. He certainly ranks near the bottom of America's vice-presidents.

So, looking back we can see that we are lucky to have someone like Joe Biden as our vice-president. He may veer off the reservation as he did with his remarks on the swine flu but it just makes us think how better off we are today with Biden rather than with a Cheney or an Agnew.

Biden, with his background on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a valuable help to the president who is focused more on domestic issues than on international affairs at the moment. We can all be glad that the vice-president is a person of substance who adds to--rather than detracts from the administration.

If he sometimes says what is in his mind before checking with the White House staff it just adds to the unique character of the Obama-Biden administration.

So, stop the criticism of the VP and enjoy his good nature and spontaneity.