Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States, and“Diamond” Joe Biden, his doppelganger on The Onion. One instance was Monday, when the real VP was running zigzags down the inaugural-parade route, gesturing toward the crowd as though he was the star of the show. They are both larger-than-life characters, and there are times when headlines about one could be written about the other. For instance:
Onion “Diamond” Joe Biden: Asks White House visitor if he wants to “check out the roof.”
Onion “Diamond” Joe Biden: Washes Trans Am in White House driveway, shirtless.
“He’s one part 1980s high school dirtbag, one part your disgusting uncle, and there’s a part of him that has a natural charm,” says Chad Nackers, an Onion writer who has been on the Biden beat for five years and a lead writer on a new Biden “autobiography” released last week. In another breath, he describedBiden as being akin to those rebel teenagers who stand outside high schools smoking cigarettes. You know, “those kids out there with their Pantera shirts talking about metal concerts.”
In reality, that description doesn’t make any sense at all. The vice president is a straight edge: He never drinks, he’s a devout Catholic, and he is very much a family man. He likes folk music, for heaven’s sake. But on The Onion, Biden has become a swashbuckling, ponytail wearing dirty uncle, someone who slacks off from work, “ignoring his responsibilities, cruising for chicks.”
It’s not just The Onion; the vice president has proven to be a political character with an uncanny Internet appeal. For instance, when he used a funny word at the VP debate, malarkey, we got this. White House petitioners have even called for a Biden reality show. But you wonder at times if the vice president is also aware of his pull on the Web. For instance, is he aware that when he goes to Costco, the pictures of him shopping around the store will go viral? Especially seeing how that November trip to the wholesaler was used as a platform to discuss middle-class taxes (not to mention a possible kickback to Costco cofounder Jim Sinegal, a longtime Democratic supporter who spoke at last year’s Democratic National Convention).
The Onion version of Joe Biden is a character who both wildly diverges from, yet reflects, the real living vice president. Their writers take the Biden who hangs out with bikers, but they make him a drunk. They take the Biden who swoons women and have him make out with Janna Ryan after the VP debate. “I’m sure Joe Biden would deny most of our coverage,” Nackers says. But he seems to like it. Last January,Biden told Yahoo! News that he thought the spoofs were “hilarious.” Then, on Friday, while the fake Joewas taking questions on Reddit, the real VP sent this tweet insulting the former’s taste in cars:
The Onion’s new e-book, The President of Vice, follows the tale of the dirty-uncle Biden, the one who, in that glorious summer of 1987, had a “mystical experience” in the New Mexico desert. “I think it’s brought on by sniffing Oxycontin or something,” Nackers says. “But the whole time he’s talking about this perfect time that he could light up a joint in front of a cop and that cop can either ask for a hit off of it or throw him in the clink for the night, and then he’d make some awesome friends while he was in jail. No matter what, it was all kind of smooth sailing for him.”
With section titles such as “Places I’ve Gotten Down and Dirty in D.C.,” there aren’t many passages in the book that are safe for work. Here’s “Diamond” Joe talking about his congressional legacy:
OK, now here’s the achievement that I was most proud of and will be the centerpiece of my legacy. It was in that Summer of ‘87 that I became the first member of Congress to break the 3-minute barrier for keg stands. That’s enuf said.… Let’s just say I blew Strom Thurmond’s 2 minutes and 15 seconds out of the water.
I asked Nackers how The Onion conceives of such adventures. It’s not exactly scientific. Here’s his description of the pitch meeting when the shirtless Trans Am idea came up. “I think originally there was a headline that was pitched that was a little more intense, like he was hammered or something, and crashed his car,” he says. “And we were thinking there’s more of a story to be told if he’s hanging out. And a lot of times that’s how an idea is pitched, and then it transforms into something else.”
That story transformed further when the publication set out to find a body double for the veep, “onCraigslist or something,” and lucked out to find a white Trans Am owner who also “was quite like JoeBiden in a way.”
Perhaps the publication’s affinity for Biden echoes its own editorial roots. The classic Onion story is a spoof on the “local man” story that you might see in the pages of a small-circulation paper. Such as “Area Man Winded After Particularly Lengthy Wendy’s Order.”
Biden’s that guy to them, but in Washington.
“He’s like the real guy in Washington,” Nackers says. “A lot of politicians hide that, they’re kind of glossy and they’re all about reaching out to their constituents or whoever, or climbing up that D.C. ladder, and Joe is just a real guy.“
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."