The Slatest

Obama Appears to Have Surprised Joe Biden With an Assignment to Cure Cancer

US Vice President Joe Biden
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and House Speaker Paul Ryan at the State of the Union address on Jan. 12, 2016.

Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden decided not to run for the presidency in 2016 in part because he said he had not had time to prepare for a campaign while grieving for his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in May 2015. In making that announcement in October, Biden called for “a moon shot in this country to cure cancer.” At Tuesday night’s State of the Union, President Obama appears to have surprised Biden by putting him in charge of that “moon shot.” The video:

“I didn’t know that! That’s news to me,” Biden appeared to say. The transcript:

Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control. For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.

Biden’s surprise: genuine, or crafty political theater? The president’s remarks were, after all, made public even before he began the speech. Either way: classic Uncle Joe.

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the State of the Union.