Crack Open a Cold One and Let Joe Biden Tell You a Story

Philip Bump
The Atlantic Wire

The ever-savvy White House digital team has a new bid to turn the administration's pop culture currency into internet traffic: you can now stream to story time with Vice President Biden. If this new strategy works because public perception of Joe Biden the credit is mostly due to The Onion — a paunchy, above-middle-aged party animal who is perfectly happy with the attitudes, styles, and automobiles of Tennessee, circa 1982. It would be hard to associate that profile with a lifelong politician from Delaware were it not for three things: Joe Biden loves people, Joe Biden says goofy things, and Joe Biden takes one hell of a photo.

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Joe Biden also works for a White House that has proven exceptional at turning gaffes and weird, unflattering moments into self-effacing victories. This is a White House that took the president's dumb joke about a "Jedi mind meld" and turned it into joke image a few hours later. That burned Clint Eastwood on Twitter after the actor's (weird) convention speech. The White House takes any lemon, makes some lemonade, and Instagrams it.

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And so: The pivot on Diamond Joe Biden. Man, wouldn't you love to hear Biden the the story behind some of those pictures he's in? Here you go. Presenting "Being Joe Biden", the administration's new photo/podcast series in which Biden does exactly that.

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Maybe you think Biden's will tell bawdy tales about cocktail waitresses at a dive bar in Tuscaloosa. Maybe you expect grandfatherly stories about bouncing one of his five grandchildren on his knee. Maybe you're hoping he'll accidentally admit that the Obama administration plans to deport the rich. Whatever you might expect, the White House knows you're going to tune in to find out. And so the White House is happy to oblige.

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As episode one demonstrates, you're getting something quite different. Click play below to hear Biden tell the story of the photo at the top of this page.

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What you get is a flat-but-not-uninteresting story about a flat-but-not-uninteresting photo. Hunters meeting the vice president, which serves as an opportunity for Biden to tout his support for the Second Amendment. It's the White House's "spoonful of sugar" media strategy, best exemplified in the response to the Death Star petition: lure people in, then drop some talking points on them.

No, the first episode isn't that great. It's not bawdy or touching or sinister. But the White House didn't need this first one to be. It knew that the Legend of Joe Biden was enough to get that first click. If traffic ever starts to dip, they'll bring out the big gun: this photo. Wouldn't you love to hear that story? Guaranteed, you will. And guaranteed, it will be related to some policy initiative the White House is working on.