- - Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Perhaps in this brave new era where nobody’s a traitor anymore, it’s not such a big deal how badly President Obama is shortchanging his vice president. But it is fairly extraordinary considering how much Mr. Obama owes his presidency to Joe Biden.

Mr. Obama picked Mr. Biden for his unmatched foreign-policy expertise to offset his own haunting lack of experience in the field. Mr. Biden was the seasoned steady hand on the wheel during the campaign. Probably no one ever in the history of the universe has had more experience campaigning for president than Joe Biden.

Without the avuncular, “aw shucks,” backslapping, truth-speaking pol on the ticket, who knows whether Mr. Obama could have won Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Virginia or North Carolina?

So what does Mr. Obama do now that he has wrung every last drop of personal use out of old Joe Biden? He dumps him and endorses his most tenacious mortal enemy from the campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But, you say, Mr. Obama has not officially endorsed anyone yet for 2016. Perhaps not using mere words. But in terms of imagery — the only language this White House speaks — the president most certainly has endorsed Mrs. Clinton.

The picture posted this week on the official White House photo page says it all. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton sitting at a picnic table for a private lunch in the bushes — just one-on-one. Both are relaxed and laughing. Mr. Obama is demurring, looking down; Mrs. Clinton is dominating confidently, gazing directly at Mr. Obama with a pleasant smile on her face.

The White House message is clear: This is a woman who is so capable, so in charge and so likable, she might even be a better president than the current one.

So where is Mr. Biden? Virtually nowhere. At least if you are looking for him in pictures on the White House’s official photo stream.

Sure, in the early years, Mr. Biden made it into plenty of official pictures. Especially when Mr. Obama still needed him for re-election. But now? They are not even faking it.

A review of more than 100 of the most recently posted official pictures, Mr. Biden cannot be found but four or five times. One was just posted Tuesday, the first picture of Mr. Biden to make the feed since June 13.

Otherwise, it’s near total absence of Mr. Biden from the official photos chronicling this administration. Big meeting of top officials in the Oval Office? No Joe Biden. High-level scary meeting with everybody down in the Situation Room looking serious? No Joe Biden. It is like they waited for him to run to the can to snap the picture.

You see pictures of Mr. Obama with such Republicans as John McCain, Chris Christie, George W. Bush. But hardly any with Mr. Biden.

It is not just Mr. Biden’s absence from the photo feed. It is also the pictures of him the White House does choose to include. He is usually photographed with children, in large groups where he is unavoidable or in some kind of unflattering light.

When the White House does throw the old man a bone, it often comes at some price to his dignity. Such as the picture it posted of Mr. Biden in a big boy meeting with Mr. Obama and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper. But the picture is far from flattering. Mr. Obama and Mr. Clapper are blurred. The focal point of the picture is Mr. Biden’s gnarled hand clasping a cup of coffee. It looks like an ad for an arthritis treatment.

Another picture in which the White House is hosting a bunch of illegal-immigrant students looking for amnesty, all you see of Mr. Biden is his bald spot.

One picture captures the old man from behind sitting outside on the porch steps overlooking the Rose Garden, looking lost. A woman sits beside him as if trying to ask where he belongs.

Just as with the picture of Mrs. Clinton, the message here is clear, too: Mr. Biden is old, doddering, lost, out-of-touch and should not be president.

If this is how Mr. Obama treats the elderly people he knows personally, just imagine what he plans to do to older Americans under Obamacare. All Sarah Palin’s talk of death panels sound more and more possible with every passing White House photo.

Charles Hurt can be reached at charleshurt@live.com or on Twitter @charleshurt.