Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gestures before boarding her plane… (Shannon Stapleton / AFP/Getty…)
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration’s tightrope walk in the wake of Vice President Joe Biden’s recent comments regarding gay marriage has placed a new focus on the president’s second-in-command, a role that, in the opinion of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is one that requires less statesmanship and more following in the footsteps of the first lady.
“Being a vice president is kind of like being a first lady. You are there to support and serve the president. There is no job description,” Clinton said in an interview with the New York Times.
Biden’s gaffe-prone vice presidency has brought about persistent speculation that Clinton could slip in as a replacement for the 2012 presidential election, speculation that Biden commented on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“The thing that annoys me about it is the implication of that somehow President Clinton is weak and he needs some kind of help,” Biden said, before host David Gregory corrected him.
“President Obama is weak,” Biden continued. “That’s not directed at me and it’s unfair.”
Clinton has supported Biden in the past, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in April: “I'm very confident about the outcome of this election and as I've said many times, I think Joe Biden, who's a dear friend of ours, has served our country and served the president very well.”
What Biden served up on Sunday though, was a can of worms, after he said, “I am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women, and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”
Biden’s comments forced the administration to spend Monday addressing concerns that it wasn’t doing enough, or was being purposefully obtuse, in portraying Obama’s official stance on gay marriage.
“What the vice president said yesterday was to make the same point that the president has made previously, that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans and that we oppose any effort to roll back those rights,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
But, earlier this year, First lady Michelle Obama forced the administration to clarify her statements in a similar situation, regarding references she made to Americans being able to “love whomever they choose.”
“That line in the First Lady’s remarks has been in her campaign speeches since last summer and refers to the importance of the Supreme Court for deciding many issues,” Kristina Schake, the first lady's spokeswoman, said. “The president and first lady firmly believe that gay and lesbian Americans and their families deserve legal protections and the ability to thrive just like any other family.”
Biden’s comments arrived as North Carolina’s Amendment One, which would ban gay marriage and civil unions, is hitting the polls, and amid increasing pressure from gay rights advocates and the press for the president to speak more definitely on the topic. Regardless of whether Biden follows Clinton’s advice or not, the Obama administration will continue to face pointed questions on its stance on gay marriage.