“He’s now a major player,” says Steven Clemons, a foreign policy expert at the nonpartisan New America Foundation. “The proof of his influence is the level of disdain he generated in the McChrystal camp.”
The hidden hand of Joe Biden
When President Barack Obama announced in the Rose Garden last week that he had sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal, he also made a point of telling his fractious Afghanistan team that he welcomed “debate” but would not abide “division.”
The poster child for that all-for-one approach was standing directly on the president’s right: Vice President Joe Biden.
On Afghanistan, Obama’s most problematic foreign policy issue, Biden has earned the president’s respect and confidence by being both private skeptic and public cheerleader for administration policy. With a combination of subtlety and discretion that belie his reputation as a glad-handing chatterbox, Biden has parlayed the tricky dual role into a steady — if somewhat improbable — path to power in the Obama White House.
“He’s a total team player,” says White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, the member of Obama’s inner circle who has most forcefully pushed the idea of expanding Biden’s role as a foreign affairs troubleshooter.
“His job is to help the president to weigh these competing equities. There’s not good and bad choices here; it’s all these complexities, and he helps him think through all these equities,” Emanuel said.
The sudden firing of McChrystal — whose staff, according to Rolling Stone, nicknamed Biden “Joe Bite Me” — marked another milestone in the role Biden has embraced as what he calls “the skunk at the family picnic.”
Biden joined other top advisers in the Oval Office on the morning of McChrystal’s forced retirement for the final debate over McChrystal’s fate. He also was one of the first to suggest Gen. David Petraeus as McChrystal’s replacement….