Let me begin by saying I love Joe for his antic sense of humor and uninhibited utterances. More important, I think he has crucial ideas for the United States on Afghanistan and Iraq -- would that Barack Obama had heeded Joe's call on the former before committing tens of thousands of troops there for years to come.
On personal moral issues, however, I fear that Joe is taking us (like the President with his war policy) to dangerous places.
Let's begin with booze. Joe doesn't drink -- most famously seen when he met in the Rose Garden Beer Summit with Obama, Professor Gates and Officer Crowley -- and Joe alone drank near-beer. His addiction views actually became a matter for the Senate record when, just before departing Congress, he introduced the stillborn Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Act of 2007. In this area, Joe seems to be motivated by a hyper-awareness of alcohol's dangers, brought on by bad childhood experiences.
Then there's homosexuality, or sexuality altogether. Maureen Dowd lately has been pillorying Joe for his defense of Obama Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan as a frustrated and horny spinster, rather than -- Heaven forbid -- either a gay woman, or a sexually alive 50-year-old straight. As Dowd put it, "A word from the vice president: Elena Kagan is not even a little bit gay." That was followed by, "Why couldn't she be eager to come to Washington to check out the Obama-era geek-chic bachelors, maybe get set up on a date by Michelle Obama, maybe even sign up for JDate with a new and improved job status?"
Finally, there's cussing. Joe seems to live his anti-sex, anti-alcohol values (unlike some Congressman and Senators we could name). Not so with cussing. We know that Joe likes to greet mates -- like the President -- with aptly launched F-bombs, as demonstrated by his congrats to Obama following passage of heath care legislation. But, whereas Obama celebrated the incident ("You know what the best thing about yesterday was? Joe's comment"), Joe apologized for it, writing a complainant: "I should have expressed my excitement in a more appropriate manner."
Joe stands for an unworkable, but nonetheless ineradicable, strand of American religious moralism. If a 67-year-old man decides to curse or not, he should be secure in his behavior by that stage of his life. Meanwhile, Biden's and Americans' fear of alcohol is overdone and actually contributes to our drinking problems. Finally, Elena Kagan -- like all Americans -- should pursue whatever kind of sex life she is able to within the confines of her busy professional life. American tittering about sexuality brings us neither joy nor moral uprightness.