Biden has also proved himself an effective and trusted manager in the Obama administration. He was named top cop on the stimulus — "Nobody messes with Joe," Obama grinned when appointing him — and the funds were spent on time and shockingly free of graft and fraud. Subsequently, Obama put him in charge of other crucial tasks, including the current push for a viable package of gun-control policies, in which Biden just succeeded in bringing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to the table.
If Biden can't quite match Obama's policy chops, he has an ease with other politicians that the president hasn't mastered. In negotiations, Obama's policy-centric approach is arguably a hindrance, leading him to spend much of his time lecturing Republicans about the myriad ways in which they're wrong. That Obama is often right on the policy merits doesn't diminish Republican feelings that a trip to the Oval Office is a date with condescension.
Biden produces different results. His success in negotiating with McConnell might be partly attributable to the Republican Party's loathing of Obama — repeatedly bypassing Obama in favor of his vice president is, after all, a kind of insult to the president — but it's also attributable to the fact that Republicans like Biden and feel he treats them fairly. "Does anyone down there know how to make a deal?" McConnell drawled when he called Biden to resolve the fiscal cliff. It was a rhetorical question, to which both men knew the answer: "Biden."
A bit over four years ago, Obama was elected on a promise to change Washington. He and his team argued that what politics needed was something new — a post-partisan, post-boomer, post- racial president who could help the country move past old antagonisms and into a more united future. The Obama administration has had many successes, but ratcheting down partisanship isn't one.