Michael Crowley, The New Republic Published: October 22, 2001
It's a bright early October morning on Capitol Hill. Joe Biden is bounding up the steps of the Russell Senate Office Building, wearing his trademark grin. As he makes for the door, he is met by a group of airline pilots and flight attendants looking vaguely heroic in their navy-blue uniforms and wing-shaped pins. A blandly handsome man in a pilot's cap steps forward and asks Biden to help pass emergency benefits for laid-off airline workers. Biden nods as the men and women cluster around him with fawning smiles. Then he speaks. "I hope you will support my work on Amtrak as much as I have supported you," he begins. (Biden rides Amtrak to work every day and is obsessed with the railroad.) "If not, I will screw you badly."
A dozen faces fall in unison as Biden lectures on. "You've not been good to me. You're also damn selfish. You better listen to me..." It goes on like this for a couple of minutes. Strangely, Biden keeps grinning--even fraternally slapping the stunned man's shoulder a couple of times. When we finally head into the building, Biden's communications director, Norm Kurz, turns to me. "What you just witnessed is classic Senator Biden."
Meet the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Democratic Party's de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism. No other Democrat has been as visible in the weeks since September 11, and Biden, who began promoting himself almost immediately after the attacks, is likely to speak, for the foreseeable future, for a party lacking in foreign policy experts. That's good news for a man who is thinking seriously about running for president in 2004. But is it good for the Democratic Party? Biden is tough and he's an internationalist. Unfortunately he's also legendary for speaking impulsively and leaving others to clean up the mess. "He lacks the filter," says one Democratic strategist. Or as a senior Senate foreign policy aide put it: "Biden is an unguided missile." Not exactly the persona you want out front when the country is at war.