Washington – Vice President Joe Biden has alarmed President Barack Obama and other members of the Obama administration in recent days by offering to arm-wrestle each world leader that has come to meet with the president, according to sources who attended the meetings.
“The vice president first did it with President [Felipe] Calderon of Mexico, when he visited the White House earlier this year,” said a senior White House aide who attended several meetings between President Obama and leaders from other nations. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the meetings. “He said, when they were in the Oval Office, ‘President Calderon, how about you and me, a little mano e mano, huh? What do you say?’ And he put his arm on the president’s desk and bent down. ‘I bet I’ll have you saying “no mas” within 30 seconds.'”
The aide said that situation was quickly diffused by President Obama, who referred to the challenge as a joke. “And we thought he was done then,” the aide said, referring to Vice President Biden.
But this week, with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan in Washington for three-way talks with the president, the vice president was up to old tricks.
“When Karzai showed up, Biden said, ‘Hey, Mr. President, how about a quick match, huh?’,” recounted the aide. “And his arm was already on the table waiting. And he wiggled his fingers and raised his eyebrows. And Karzai just looked at him and smiled nervously. He didn’t know how to react. Nobody did.”
President Obama quickly and firmly steered the meeting back to the subject at hand, namely pushing back against Taliban forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The president reportedly said, “Uh, Joe, as much as everyone would love to see you arm-wrestle President Karzai right now, and as fun as that would be, there are other matters to attend to. So why don’t you put your arm down and we’ll try to get this meeting started.”
“And Biden said, ‘Yeah, sure. No problem’ and put his arm down,” the aide added. “But then he threw in, ‘I also thumb-wrestle, if you prefer. Either way, I’m taking you you down.’ And President Obama glared at him and went back to leading the meeting.”
The aide said the situation worsened when Pakistani President Zardari joined the talks. Just after greeting Mr. Zardari, the aide said Mr. Biden grabbed for the leader’s arm. “He said, ‘Hey, lemme see that bicep.’ And he squeezed Zardari’s arm. And then he said, ‘Oh, I can take you, no problem. Let’s go right now.’ And he got down on his knees and put his arm up on the small side table nearby, and said, ‘Come on. Let’s go, Zardari. Let’s see what you got. Or are you chicken?'”
President Obama was then forced to remove Vice President Biden from the meeting, according to the aide. “Vice President Biden is not to be included in any of these meetings until further notice,” the aide said. The aide said Mr. Biden left the meeting willingly, and didn’t seem angry or hurt.
“He seemed to take it okay. He went down to the game room and played air hockey with one of the security guards. Last I heard, he was in there till two in the morning.”