When Joe Biden first entered the U.S. Senate in 1972 at the green and callow age of 30, he became the sixth-youngest man ever to hold that post. Clearly, he was one of those driven individuals born with a remarkable sense of mission and destiny.
Indeed, "Mr. Enthusiasm" might still be tossing legislative promises and threats in the congressional hopper had he not agreed to ride shotgun for Barack Obama as vice president in 2009, a position perhaps slightly longer in status than John Nance Gardner's bucket of warm spit.
Yet, judging by his heavy teasing over the last several months about running for the presidency in 2020, it seems safe to say that the political fire in his gregarious belly is far from cold.
But I wonder if even the irrepressible Mr. Biden, repeatedly charged in recent days of having a serious disregard of the private space of various resigned proteges, awkwardly shy endorsements and would-be supporters, is not finally having second thoughts about his high school career counselor's wise assessment.
Some kind administrator long chased from the classroom to proctor SAT tests and distribute college manuals might have tucked in his clip-on tie long enough to say, "Joey, go West, young man, go West.
"While I've never been beyond the Ohio myself, I have a rich cousin in Nebraska who tells me the meatpacking industry is desperately looking for young people just like you -- handsome and suave packages of charm, judgment and winning gab. Come to think about it, I think he said some of the top firms are willing to pay high signing bonuses for just the right guy who knows the exact moment to slap the republicans back and hug the happy neck in order to fill the morning kill.
"I know it may not seem like the family wheelhouse, Biden," the adviser may have continued. "But let's face it, these test scores are not likely to place you in a presidential sweepstakes anytime soon. Plus, I've heard impressive stories from card games, locker rooms, school dances and parent-teachers conference how Biden magic can suddenly explode.
"Oh, we've all heard the 'copycat' stories here and there. But that's the great thing about this fat-cattle job, so I understand. Any lie stuck to -- weights, yields, flattery and/or delivery dates -- is as good as the truth. I'm telling you, kid, here's a rich country job that could fit you like a glove."
OK, the former vice president probably never heard such a crazy suggestion as a floundering youth. According to biographies and Wikipedia, he might have groomed a dog here and a cat there, but the man's agriculture knowledge makes Donald Trump look like Izaak Walton. My guess is that Biden couldn't even find Michelle Obama's garden with a GPS.
Yet there was something about being a fat-cattle buyer in the early 1970s that would have been perfect for Joe Biden. Those were the days when packers were more than just order takers -- when they actually got out of cars and walked through cattle, when they went nose-to-nose with feedlot managers and were unafraid to hug over a good deal or shed a real tear over being truly short bought. Convincing emotions, fake or genuine, separated the great cattle buyers from the time-clock punchers.
Joe would have been perfect.
Of course, it's nothing but my impossible fantasy. But something tells me he'd rather be reminiscing today about how he once charmed his way into buying the right kind of steers and heifers than sorting through the exact innocence of random events of political enthusiasm.
John A. Harrington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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