Why Joe Biden's Off the Cuff Approach to Gun Debate is Good for the Obama Administration

Far from being a gaffe, Biden's 'buy a shotgun' comment undercuts the 'Obama wants your guns' crowd--and is another example of the vice president's important role in selling White House policy, says John Avlon.

Pictured: Vice President Joe Biden listens to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter speaks after a round table discussion on gun control last week at Girard College in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke/AP)
In the pop-culture presidency of the Obama administration, Joe Biden plays an outsize role. He's the goofy white uncle, loose-lipped and earnest to a fault, who recently became the subject of an Onion biography that imagines the teetotaler as a beer-guzzling Trans-Am worshipper eternally fixated on the summer of '87.

But while Biden has a tendency to shoot from the lip and stray from the script, it is not without strategic political benefit. On the campaign trial, his warmth balanced Obama's cool--there's nothing aloof about Biden. He was dispatched to Rust Belt union halls and rallied the base, embodying Bob Shrum's eternal "fighting for you" formulation without seeming forced. Hell, the man singlehandedly brought the word "malarkey" out of exile. If Obama is among the most self-monitoring of men, Biden is among the least.

But when it comes to policy, conventional wisdom says the headaches that come with Joe Biden outweigh the benefits. There's no doubt that he has an overwhelming impulse to step on the message and careen in unexpected directions. But sometimes I think that the "slow Joe" stereotype and consequent face-palms obscure a Columbo-like figure who plays dumb but is really playing the crowd.

Case in point, Biden's recent gun comments that were widely considered unhelpful to administration efforts.

On Tuesday he sat for a Facebook forum hosted by Parents magazine and responded to a question from one "Kate" about whether families would be rendered defenseless in the (unlikely) event of a reinstated assault-weapons ban.

Biden launched into a soliloquy in praise of double-barrel shotguns.

"Kate," he said, "if you want to protect yourself, get a double-barrel shotgun, have the shells, a 12-gauge shotgun."

It turns out that this is the same advice he gave his own wife on how to defend their home in rural Delaware.

"I said, 'Jill, if there's ever a problem, just walk out on the balcony here. Walk out and put that double-barrel shotgun and fire two blasts outside the house' ... You don't need an AR-15--it's harder to aim ... It's harder to use, and in fact you don't need 30 rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!"

Personally, I look forward to Biden's "Buy a shotgun! Buy a shotgun!" line being used to advertise Winchesters and Remingtons at a sporting goods store near you.


SOURCE: John Avlon 
The Daily Beast
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