White House says Biden is not a distraction

Vice President Joe Biden is once again the center of attention and controversy.

Known for speaking his mind, and for perhaps sometimes speaking more honestly than the Obama administration would like, Biden's most recent gaffe occurred this weekend in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he characterized Russia as a weakened country and suggested the US has the upper hand in dealing with its old foe. "I think we vastly underestimate the hand that we hold," Biden said.

"Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions," the vice president extrapolated. "They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable."

Biden's remarks seem to contradict President's Obama's remarks in Russia earlier this month in which he emphasized America's desire to see "a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia" and noted "we also recognize the future benefit that will come from a strong and vibrant Russia."

The vice president's remarks were not well received in Moscow, and the opposing administration sentiments have left many Russians asking who is actually shaping US foreign policy.

At today's briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs assured reporters there is a unified voice coming from 1600 Pennsylvania. "The president and the vice president are in agreement that Russia -- it's in our national interest to have improved relations with Russia, just as it is Russia's national interest to seek improved relations with this country, on a whole host of issues that are important to each," Gibbs said, adding, "I think it's safe to say that the president addressed a lot of these issues on his recent trip to Moscow. And the vice president is supportive of those policies."

When pressed on whether or not the vice president is becoming more of a distraction to the president and his agenda, Gibbs gave a very firm "no".

Gibbs has been forced to defend, or rather clarify Biden statements in the past, most notably back in April when the H1N1 flu was first on the rise. The vice president said in a television interview that he would tell his family, "I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now" which raised eyebrows since the such advice was not being given to the public at large. Later that day the White House press secretary was forced to infamously say, "what the Vice President meant to say was..."

But today, despite the "distractions" the press might enumerate, Gibbs insisted vice president Biden has been helpful to the Obama agenda. "I think he's an enormous asset to the administration," Gibbs said. "I think the president and his team are enormously helped by the vice president..whether it is the implementation of the stimulus ...to being involved the politics and the political reconciliation that has to happen in order to make Iraq a safer place and to see us fulfill our commitment to remove our troops under the timetable that the president has proposed."

Vice President Biden did not have any public events today. He was in his home state of Delaware with his wife who had a doctor's appointment following shoulder surgery.