Magazine August 30, 2010, Issue

‘Barack and I’

President Obama delivers remarks as then-Vice President Joe Biden looks on in Washington, D.C., July 21, 2010. (Jim Young/Reuters)
What’s in a first name?

Joe Biden was goofy, sometimes alarming, before he became vice president, and he’s goofy, sometimes alarming, now. He has said that he told Obama he would be his running mate on two conditions: “I’m not going to wear any funny hats, and I’m not changing my brand.” By “brand,” he apparently means “style” or “persona.” And, true to his word, he’s not changing.

One curious thing about Biden is his habit of referring to the president by his first name — in public, I mean. Or quasi-public. He did this at a Democratic “issues conference” in June; and he did it

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