When he says outrageous, idiotic and reprehensible things, the mainstream press and the Democratic Party shrug, even smile, and say, "Oh, that's just Joe." And if he says something nobody can ignore, he's always allowed to take it back because everyone knows he has as much control over his mouth as Pakistan does over its tribal regions.
Biden may not matter much, but his boss does. And that's why it's worth pointing out that Biden isn't simply freelancing out there.
Like all vice presidents, part of his job is to carry water for his boss, and he carries more water than Gunga Din. "In my wildest dreams," he proclaimed of the stimulus, "I never thought it would work this well."
Biden has repeated his insinuation that if you're opposed to yet another stimulus to pay for municipal workers, you're OK with the fact that "Murder will continue to rise, rape will continue to rise, all crimes will continue to rise."
When his boss doesn't want him to repeat his crazy talk, Biden dutifully zips his yapper. Not this time. Why? Because this is part of the White House's overall strategy to demonize the opposition. It's from the same playbook that has Obama insisting that Republicans are for "dirtier air, dirtier water," and are woefully deficient in decency and honesty. It is also the same playbook that makes an absolute mockery of the new politics Obama routinely calls for.
Joe Biden is Barack Obama's loyal pet, and like even the most loyal dog, he sometimes has an accident on the carpet. But he still does his master's bidding when asked.
And that is the one way Biden matters. He is a reflection of his boss, and an accurate one at that.