Biden Meeting With Wolf Raises Speculation

Ridin' with Biden

Image courtesy of Draft Biden 2016

Biden Meeting With Wolf Raises Speculation
| published September 14, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

Vice-President Joe Biden may be going in circles, much like the character Raymond in the movie Rainman—an “excellent driver” as long as he remains in that loop in the driveway. But despite his inner torment and his public face of someone not certain about his emotional commitment to running for President in 2016, in private his meetings and conferences look to be the activities of a man seriously weighing his political options.

Just days ago Biden gave an emotionally ambiguous response to Stephen Colbert on CBS’s Late Night Show, telling Colbert and the audience that he was not there yet. It was just one of scores of recent clues—pro, con, indifferent, intriguing—as to Biden’s intention in the crowded Presidential contest. Weeks ago, even the White House weighed-in on the subject, seemingly inching away from total neutrality by suggesting that not only had Biden’s time arrived, but that he may receive tacit support from Barack Obama. The White House nod not only sparked wider discussion of a Biden candidacy, but also seemed to instantly open up an old wound—largely unhealed—between the Obama inner circle and Hillary Clinton.

Adding this week to the speculation are reports that over the weekend Biden held a New York City meeting with one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors and fundraisers, Robert Wolf, a Wall Street heavyweight with substantial experience in political backing and deal-making. Wolf has been a solid private-sector backer of President Obama, as well as a quiet supporter of Hillary Clinton. Close analysts of the complex nature of Democratic Party politics, however, suggest that Wolf may be one of many rainmakers troubled by the ongoing email controversies and Servergate issues which have dogged the Clinton campaign since January of this year.

Servergate has not only taken a toll on Clinton’s poll numbers in the two critical states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders now maintains a solid lead, but it has also placed a strain on the campaign, forcing Clinton and her spokespersons to remain largely off-message, and spurring a major strategic overhaul last week. Servergate has also begun to generate panic among many top Democratic givers and fundraisers, a few of whom may be considering cutting their losses and looking elsewhere for someone to challenge the eventual GOP nominee.

Wolf raised a pile of cash for both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns of Obama, and he has served as a sideline operative for the White House, including multiple gigs as an appointee to various economic panels, as well as the unofficial role of Obama’s man-on-Wall-Street. Wolf is also about as close a friend to Obama as anyone else within the rarified world of investments and markets. In that sense, Biden’s meeting with Wolf is no accident.

Though folks close to both Wolf and Biden say that the meeting was one of issues and policy discussion, few political observers think that economics was truly at the center of discussion. To some analysts, the Biden-Wolf meeting was yet another indication that the Vice-President is seriously considering all of his options, most especially that most important of political factors—money.

Biden’s political stock has risen substantially in the last months, almost in direct proportion to the troubles which now dog the Clinton campaign on a daily basis. Clinton has faced a storm of criticism over her decision to use a privately-crafted email account while serving as U.S. Secretary of State from early 2009 to 2013. The decision, which she says was made strictly for the sake of convenience, has proven problematic since the beginning of this year. Among other things, Clinton acknowledges that she personally deleted some 31, 000 emails when her tenure as top diplomat ended. This has stoked a seemingly inextinguishable fire—among reporters, investigators, and Republicans in Congress—that Clinton has deliberately dodged accountability and transparency.

For many months Clinton long avoided apologizing for the situation regarding her email accounts, and her campaign has consistently denied that Clinton engaged in any wrongdoing by deleting emails.

Federal guidelines require that public officials use only email accounts set up by, and maintained by, government intranet services. Those guidelines have been further sharpened by changes to the Federal Records Act—originally written in the 1950s but amended and updated numerous times to accommodate changes in technology. Clinton’s use of the private email address, and her use of the homebuilt server, may yet prove to be a deeper problem for Clinton if it is shown that she used the unsecure account to transmit or receive classified documents or top secret correspondence. An Inspector General’s investigation in August, using a random sampling of Clinton State Department emails, found several emails which were characterized as classified at the time they were sent or received.

In the meantime, talk of a Biden candidacy continues to gain momentum in some circles. Clinton remains the Democratic front-runner, beating all of her party competition in national polls. But her slippage in Iowa and New Hampshire has put her campaign in jeopardy and stoked the talk of a Biden candidacy. Biden’s meeting with Wolf may be one of many signs that the Vice-President is looking at every contingency regarding a Presidential run in 2016.

Biden will have to make a firm decision very soon if he wants to qualify for the ballots in several early states. He may also choose to decide quickly, based on the need to qualify to appear on stage when the Democratic Party hosts its first major candidates’ debate in October. Biden already has the active support of a group called Draft Biden 2016, a movement organization raising money, recruiting volunteers, seeking media exposure, selling Biden campaign items online. The Super PAC recently posted on its newsfeed that it had secured the endorsement of Iowa state senator Chaz Allen as a supporter and backer. The group's website lists more than a dozen Iowa politicians who have offered their support for a Biden candidacy. Draft Biden 2016 says it has secured some 200,000 signatures in support of a Biden candidacy.

Besides Clinton and Sanders, there are several other Democratic candidates, among them former Virginia Senator James Webb, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, and author, technologist, and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig’s recent crowdfunding campaign raised more than $1 million dollars in just a few weeks.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Will Biden Receive Obama’s Blessing?; Thursday Review staff ; Thursday Review; August 25, 2015.

Lessig Announces Presidential Bid; Thursday Review staff ; Thursday Review; Sept. 11, 2015.