Jon Sanders

Never let it be said that Vice President Joe Biden is a useless gaffe-a-minute bumbler who sorely tries his president's fear of public ridicule. As a little noted occurrence Friday showed, Biden is not useless.

Our story begins last week, when on July 9 a notice appeared on the Federal Business Opportunities web site. It seems the Bureau of the Public Debt within the Office of the Treasury had determined a need for "Humor in the Workplace."

The announcement came as a bit of a shock, actually, given the frequent peals of laughter coming from within Treasury walls of late. Said laughter, however, is that peculiar form of humorless staccato cackling often mimicked on stage and film by an overdrawn, overmatched villain concurrent with the execution of his mad, evil, transparently futile scheme. Which is to say, it was just Secretary Timothy Geithner having yet another fit of "MORE SPENDING MOREMOREMORE!" convulsions.

That necessary clarification having been made, here is what the Treasury Dept. sought:

"The purpose of this announcement is to seek qualified contractors with the capability to provide presentations for The Department of Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt (BPD), Management Meeting with experience in meeting the objectives as described herein.

"The Contractor shall conduct two, 3-hour, Humor in the Workplace programs that will discuss the power of humor in the workplace, the close relationship between humor and stress, and why humor is one of the most important ways that we communicate in business and office life. Participants shall experience demonstrations of cartoons being created on the spot. The contractor shall have the ability to create cartoons on the spot about BPD jobs."

Honestly, whose workplace isn't crying out for someone, anyone able to draw up a cartoon on the spot? We all assumed the "Hope and Change" mantra included a thousand points of lightning-quick 'toonsmiths in offices everywhere, did we not?

In keeping with those expectations, Treasury hoped that participants in this contractor's workshops would, among other things, "Understand the importance and power of humor in the workplace," know "How to use talents in a creative way that adds humor to everyday experiences," and perceive that humor helps "Alleviate stress in home and the office" and even "Prevent burn-out."

This job announcement languished till Friday, July 17, when one of the better angels of good humor brought it to the attention of the Drudge Report, where it was posted that morning at the very top of the page — and given two headlines!


Jon Sanders

Jon Sanders is associate director of research at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.