Richard Wolffe wrote in his Obama campaign memoir that the president sees most of his challenges in basketball metaphors and that he's turned on by nail-biting contests when he, Barack Obama, can switch things up in the contest and come in to make the key decisions and plays that achieve a win.
But lately, it seems to be Joe Biden who has to be given the MVP award on the Obama team this week.
Today Iraq's government passed a politically controversial new election law allowing parliamentary elections to take place in January and also keeping a drawdown of US combat forces on schedule.
And behind the scenes, Vice President Joe Biden had a lot to do with ushering the US diplomatic and military team as well as Iraq's political leaders over the finish line.
Joe Biden issued this statement a short while ago today on the news of the election law's passage:
I congratulate Iraqi political leaders on today's passage of amendments to the Iraq elections law. Today's vote by the members of the Council of Representatives will allow for parliamentary elections in January 2010, as mandated under the Iraqi constitution. I commend the Council of Representatives for coming to agreement on the various difficult issues of considerable importance to Iraqis.
I also extend my appreciation to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq for its important role in providing technical advice. These elections will be a critical step forward in advancing national unity and forming an inclusive government. Our commitment and friendship to Iraq remain strong.
But the back story is that Joe Biden put forth a lot of hours last week coordinating the key players involved in the election law political mess.
Sources report that Biden spoke twice in the last seven days to Masoud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdistan has been particularly paralyzed over the new election law because of ethic partisanship on how voting in Kurdistan should be structured.
In addition, US Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill and Multi National Forces in Iraq Commander Ray Odierno have been in regular communication with the Vice President during this last week according to senior administration sources and US personnel in Iraq. The Vice President also helped the Hill-Odierno team work through final issues in an "end game video conference" on Friday, the 6th of November.
And White House staffers report that Joe Biden played quarterback for them during the recent turmoil over the on-then-off-then-on-again Iraq election law while White House personnel were in hourly contact with the embassy team and the United Nations.
Not a lot has been going right lately for the Obama national security and foreign policy teams.
George Mitchell's efforts seem to be collapsing in fast motion. Karzai's re-election has done little to restore confidence in America's Afghanistan project. Iran is not taking the US seriously. Hillary Clinton just returned from a painfully frustrating trip to South Asia and the Middle East that seemed to open more wounds and problems than solve them.
But Joe Biden -- who early in the Obama administration was supposed to be a lot of things for the president but not an alternative foreign policy czar -- is turning out to be a very useful problem-solving tool for the president on the international stage.
Shortly before Biden became the president's running mate, Biden had been featured in Working Mother magazine as one of the most family friendly legislators in Congress. The Vice President's team shared this with me then as an indication that the eventual Vice President carried with him a skill set on domestic policy as impressive as what most already saw in foreign policy.
The VP also staked out the title "Advisor in Chief" to the president -- on all issues -- and was asked by the president to chair the Middle Class Task Force which had a meeting just last week reported by this writer. The Biden team also got specific tasks from the White House in dealing with global nuclear materials reduction and non-proliferation, working on some aspects of Russia policy -- particularly regarding the still simmering Georgia conflict and the future direction of NATO.
And Biden was asked to help out in moving Iraq forward.
And he has delivered in substantive ways that deserve attention. He has helped smooth relations and the interaction between Odierno and Ambassador Christopher Hill -- and kept everyone working systematically and seriously toward a positive conclusion of the Iraq election law drama.
We need results like this.
Once America begins showing that it can work with a complex set of actors at home and abroad and can actually achieve the results it sets out for itself, the world will begin seeing the stock of American power rise again.
Excellent work, Vice President Biden.
Follow Steve Clemons on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SCClemons