It was supposed to be self-deprecating, but like all jokes, it had a kernel of truth to it. Joe Biden plaintively observed at the Governors' meeting in Philadelphia on Tuesday that "Since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all." Forget Barack Obama's cabinet picks on foreign policy. They're not the problem. Giving Biden the shaft is.
Perhaps Obama has a role in mind for Biden. But so far, there's no evidence that he does. Instead, Biden appears to be relegated back to the old, passive role of stand-in for the president. George H.W. Bush became famous for attending funerals on Ronald Reagan's behalf. Does Obama have something more planned for Biden?
Biden's wealth of experience in the Senate, where he chaired the foreign relations committee and oversaw an excellent staff, mandates that Obama tap him to play a major role in foreign policy meetings. Biden is intimately familiar with world leaders and could play a big role in repairing relations with Europe. No, he shouldn't have the kind of powers that Dick Cheney exercised. But that's not even a remote possibility given the kind of firepower that Obama has assembled in his cabinet.
Instead, Biden should have an equal voice, but he seems to be fading into the woodwork. The danger is that he'll simply serve as a decorative ornament in the Obama administration, wheeled out to help defend policies that he has played little, if any role, in devising. Maybe Obama is just biding his time on Biden. But it would be more comforting if there were clear signs that Biden will assume more than a token role.