Any baseball fan who has been alive in the last decade is familiar with a truism: "That's just Manny being Manny."
It has been used to describe one of the best outfielders in baseball history, Manny Ramirez, who -- like a certain Vice President -- had a way of stumbling into (and creating) some truly terrible press.
Like Joe Biden, Ramirez was colorful, beloved and often forgiven. He could be endearing, running an American flag out onto the field with a wide boyish smile after becoming a U.S. citizen. He was certainly amusing, retreating into the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park during the games to take a call, or high-fiving a fan in the middle of a play.
Sometimes his antics were cringe-worthy. There was the time he successfully stole second base, but effectively "returned" it when he was thrown out inexplicably jogging back to first.
And occasionally, Ramirez was a legitimate problem: shoving aging traveling secretary Jack McCormick over a ticket request, faking injuries to get out of key games, violating the league's drug policy and blasting his own team in the media.
Eventually shrugging off "Manny being Manny" became harder and harder to do. Biden, however, still seems to get away with "being Biden."
Until now, maybe. After criticizing key Arab allies in our fragile anti-ISIS coalition -- including Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia at a time when muscling the resolve to go after the terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq is a heavy lift for everyone involved -- Biden's "gaffe" is one that could come with significant consequences.
He quickly offered apologies to Turkey and the UAE for suggesting at a Harvard University forum that they had inadvertently helped strengthen ISIS. Issuing public apologies -- especially when technically Biden's assertions are true, if incomplete -- is an unequivocal embarrassment for the White House, which has been defending itself against criticism of incompetence all year.
Not to mention that getting this coalition together in the first place was, as Joe Biden might say, a big effing deal. And so, slamming our partners in a nakedly political attempt to defend President Obama's policies to a group of college students understandably didn't sit well with our friends overseas.
Biden seems to have a hard time remembering that he is a proxy for the President and the policies of the United States. In fact, back in 2012, Biden explained his spontaneous declaration that Obama was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage -- well before Obama was ready to -- this way, according to Jo Becker's book "Forcing the Spring:"
VP blames allies for ISIS, apologizes Turkey PM responds to Biden's accusation Biden apologizes to Turkey, UAE
"I didn't go out volunteering a position, but when asked a question...I had to respond to it."
Except, of course, that Biden did volunteer a position, not just his own but the President's. It was a moment that so confounded and infuriated the administration that Valerie Jarrett accused him of "downright disloyalty," according to Becker's book.
Publicly, anyway, Obama put on a happy face, saying he would have "preferred to have done this in my own way, on my own terms," but "all's well that ends well."
Unlike Biden's other category of gaffes -- off-color blurting and uncomfortable racial stereotyping -- this one had real political consequences, but ultimately boiled down to what was merely an election-year headache for the President.
Now, though, Biden's undiplomatic slam against our Arab coalition could unravel an already precarious military and political partnership that the Obama administration has leaned on heavily to sell intervention both abroad and here at home. Let's hope they don't decide this was just the excuse they needed to pull out altogether and once again leave the United States to shoulder the burden of fighting terrorism in their own backyards.