Well, somebody (with white hair who answers to the name of “Joe Biden”) has been watching House of Cards a little too closely.
That, or he’s auditioning to play a new man-slut character in Scandal.
For on Tuesday, at the swearing in of Ashton Carter, the new defense secretary, the vice president apparently couldn’t keep himself from pawing at Carter’s wife, Stephanie. It was extremely odd, and creepy.
This tactile cuckolding—Carter talks solemnly about being sworn is as the 25th defense secretary as his wife has her shoulders rubbed by Biden right behind him—was caught by the cameras.
It was made all the more exquisitely awful by the look on Stephanie Carter’s face, which was as much “Get your hands off me” as she could manage with the ranks of media watching her.
The Washington Post noted of her expression: “She certainly does not look happy. More like annoyed.”
And while the incident is being played as another “Oh Joe” moment, Stephanie Carter’s expression is also piercing: Furious but frozen, it is the expression of anyone being touched or groped who really, truly doesn’t want to be.
Biden wasn’t done with just a shoulder rub. Then he whispered something in her ear, or nuzzled it. What did he say? Was he simply asking if she was all right after slipping on the ice earlier in the day?
Or was it a low-growled: “I want you to know, these strong, manly hands on your shoulders—which hold a higher office than your husband there—are purely to provide support. Nothing else, no siree.”
Or: “Don’t you think that necklace is a little much for the outfit? I have my own stylist now, so I know this shit.”
Or: “Stephanie, you have some gray coming through at the back here. Jill has the most amazing colorist. Hmm, is it Raoul or Fabrice? We’ll introduce you.”
Well, suffice it to say, the coverage Tuesday focused not on Ash Carter’s words as he accepted his new role in office but on the frozen ballet of suggestion between Biden and Stephanie Carter that was unfolding, unseen, behind him.
Eventually, perhaps sensing that his wife was being molested in the most curious way, at the worst possible moment, Carter threw his hand to touch her shoulder—“She’s mine, Joe, MINE”—pointedly making reference to their family in attendance.
The veep’s function—as the TV show of the same name has shown—is that the vice president soaks up all the controversy, and acts the dick, so the president can escape the glare.
Biden seems unusually adept at this. He’s the jokester, the regular guy, his governing power is neutered, so—rather like a bored multimillionaire with his own shopping mall—he occasionally wanders around deliberately knocking candles out of their holders and putting on Halloween costumes in February.
Biden is in your face, in your lap, in your space. He wants a cuddle, he wants to cuddle. He will invade your space. He will man-spread like an oil slick. The question is, how innocent is his all-smiling lechery? Whatever the answer, it might include a momentarily-sedating tranquilizer dart.
The Washington Post called his pawing of Stephanie Carter another example of “being Biden,” noting that the VP—how polite this sounds—was “the most powerful close talker in the world.”
There was more criticism, much predictably from the right, when Biden “nuzzled” Sen. Christopher Coons’s daughter Maggie, although Coons himself insisted she did not find it “creepy.”
The New York Daily News noted—with accompanying excellent picture—the time Biden went to a biker bar in Ohio, getting friendly with a female patron there, much to the perceived chagrin of her male buddies.
Biden seems—to follow the political maxim—less like the guy you’d want to have a beer with than like the guy who’d make you stay for three beers, clasping you by the shoulders, looking deep into your eyes, asking you to stay for another round, even when you are whimpering that you want to go home.
To keep him from unwantedly pawing again, perhaps the president could find him something to do—and supply his co-workers with electric cattle prods.