How is Joe Biden doing as vice president?
The Washington Post asked a quartet of political experts to weigh in on Biden's performance. Here are their assessments.
DONNA BRAZILE, manager of Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, author and political commentator: "No vice president has ever done so much so quickly -- or made such a difference.
"In foreign affairs, Joe Biden has taken more trips abroad than any vice president this early in a term, and none of them have been fluff. In Munich, he delivered the administration's first major foreign policy address. In Latin America, he set the stage for President Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas. In the Balkans, Biden got the peace process back on track.
"Domestically, President Obama credits his vice president with winning the votes needed to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- and then Biden took on the thankless task of implementing it.
"He's gotten $150 billion out the door quickly and without waste, and Cabinet members tell me that Biden's leadership is making this massive program work. His Task Force on Middle Class Working Families is making sure that average families aren't forgotten when policy is made.
"Maybe Joe Biden sometimes says too much, too honestly. But after eight years of secrecy under Dick Cheney, Biden's 'tell it like it is' style is a change I can believe in."
MARY MATALIN, assistant to President George W. Bush, adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, and author: "George W. Bush's selection of Dick Cheney radically upgraded the vice presidency to prime political real estate. Joe Biden's tenure will be evaluated by this standard.
"Biden measures up well on three key political elements: (1) He has no personal political ambitions to dilute his loyalty to President Obama's agenda; (2) he attracted a first-rate staff with deep and wide policy-making experience, as well as important political relationships; (3) he has his own foxhole-buddy history in the Senate, a critical validating clearinghouse for Obama's less valid policy prescriptions.
"On singular vice presidential policy tasks, Biden's performance can only be graded 'jury's still out.' In a comparable period, Cheney had already completed a comprehensive energy plan and was deep into modernizing what was then called Homeland Defense.
"Biden's signature assignment is the efficient and effective distribution of stimulus funds, the successful execution thereof defined by the president as 'targeted, timely, temporary' and job-producing.
"By any measure, none of the president's objectives have yet been met, and support for the program dwindles daily.
"As for the powerful, and essential, function of message magnifier, Biden is often more helpful to the president's opponents than to the president. Cheney was the go-to message magnifier for all big subjects. Unfortunately, too often for Biden, when he talks, they giggle.
"A veep's greatest function is the least detectable. The best of the Bush model was the private give and take between the president and vice president. Only Barack Obama can evaluate Biden in that respect."
STEPHEN HESS, senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution, and author, most recently, of "What Do We Do Now? A Workbook for the President-Elect": "An outstanding senator was elected vice president; six months later he's the butt of late-night comics' jokes.
Craig Ferguson says, 'Biden speaks the language of crazy'; Jimmy Fallon calls him 'Chewbacca with fur plugs.' I remember, when helping Richard Nixon write an essay on the vice presidency in 1962, his saying that presidents should stop loading their vice presidents with odd jobs, creating, as he put it, a sort of Cabinet Secretary for Catch-All Affairs.
"But within days of their inauguration, Obama began filling Biden's dance card, including with a Task Force on Middle Class Working Families to 'conduct outreach sessions with representatives of labor, business, and the advocacy communities' (apparently the president would otherwise not know what's on their minds).
"And so the vice president circles the country and the world, doing things and occasionally saying things that amuse the comics more than the president.
"What should Biden be doing? No one in Obama's circle knows the Senate better or is more respected on Capitol Hill. As the legislative process moves into heavy lifting, Biden's place is at the president's ear. Joe: Stay home, shut up, advise."
ROBERT DALLEK, historian and author: "A hundred years ago the vice presidency was seen, in Theodore Roosevelt's words, as 'not a steppingstone to anything except oblivion.' All this changed in the 20th century, when seven U.S. vice presidents also served as president and most holding the job, especially after 1952, saw it as a launching pad for a presidential bid.
"At the age of 66, with a history of health problems and with no prospect of running for the presidency until 2012, Joe Biden seems unlikely to even reach for the Oval Office. Instead, he and President Obama have mapped out a strategy that takes advantage of Biden's 36-year Senate career.
"Despite his reputation for verbosity and occasional gaffes, which he has lived up to as vice president, Biden has been an effective point man on Obama's Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan policies; the economic recovery plan, including chairing the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families; and the selection of Sonia Sotomayor as the administration's first Supreme Court nominee.
"Comparing the vice president to the basketball player 'who does a bunch of things that don't show up on the stat sheet,' Obama has chosen someone who suits the current mold of an activist vice president more attentive to the administration's needs than to personal plans for future campaigns."
THE WASHINGTON POST