Why take Joe Biden seriously?

Dominic Lawson:

Joseph Robinette Biden – known to all as "Joe" – was once the most talked about American politician in Britain. Unfortunately for the senior Delaware Senator, all the talk was accompanied by incredulous laughter. As part of his Presidential campaign 20 years ago, he lifted verbatim and without attribution Neil Kinnock's celebrated remarks: "Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to a University ... was it because all our predecessors were thick, those people who could work eight hours underground and then come up to play football?"

Biden told an audience at an Iowa fairground: "I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden's the first in his family ever to go to University ... is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright... who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football?"

Note the overt claim to spontaneity at the outset of the plagiarism; but it wasn't just that which left his run for the Presidency buried under an avalanche of ridicule. It rapidly emerged that Biden was not the first member of his family to go to university, and that the closest any ancestral Bidens came to working underground was a grandfather who was a mining engineer – and during the campaign Biden also told a number of gratuitous untruths about his own academic record.

It would be very difficult for a politician in this country to be taken seriously ever again, after such a humiliation; but Americans are a more forgiving people, and so Biden was able to entertain them once again during the current race for the White House. Thus last year he declared that his then rival, Barack Obama, was "not yet ready for the Presidency", which was not a post suitable for "on-the-job training", but graciously acknowledged: " I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that's a storybook, man."

Other African-American politicians were hardly amused by the imputation that they were not "clean", and I don't suppose Obama himself was grateful. Still, the Illinois Senator was happy to choose Biden as his vice-presidential running-mate, for several reasons. He is not married to Bill Clinton; he has a strong following among white blue-collar voters, which Obama desperately needs; above all, he is said to have the experience which Obama lacks – he has been a Senator for 36 years and is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For all the longevity of his tenure, Biden does not deserve the description lavished on him last month by the Los Angeles Times (among others) as "an acknowledged foreign policy sage". He voted against using American military force to remove Saddam Hussein's army from occupied Kuwait, but voted for the American invasion of sovereign Iraq in 2003. Later, he voted against the "surge" which has brought a degree of stability to that benighted country, proposing instead that it be allowed to break up along ethnic lines – the now discredited "Biden Plan". Experience is a wonderful thing, of course – but only if you learn the right lessons from it.

Doubtless, however, Joe Biden will stress the immense superiority of his acquired wisdom over Sarah Palin's much briefer curriculum vitae, when their one-off vice-presidential debate takes place on Thursday in St Louis, Missouri. Indeed, the Democrats and their camp-followers in the press have been chortling in anticipation of a massacre, especially after Mrs Palin's performance when interviewed last week by CBS's Katie Couric.

The Republican vice-presidential candidate had been unable to elaborate on the way in which John McCain had attempted to enforce greater regulation on the finance industry, beyond his demand for more supervision of the biggest mortgage lenders; and she struggled to justify her claim that being Governor of Alaska gave her a special insight into the threats from Russia.

Neither of her responses was articulate. But they weren't factually incorrect. She didn't make anything up. That's Biden territory. When he faced the deceptively easy-going Ms Couric, he told the CBS anchorwoman, a propos deals to rescue Wall Street: "When the stock market crashed, Franklin D Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened'." As others, but not Ms Couric, have since observed, the US President at the time of the 1929 stock market crash was not Roosevelt, but Herbert Hoover; and Roosevelt didn't go on television, probably because no-one in America owned one at the time.


Unfortunately, the mainstream media has decided that the fix is in and they must deride Palin and ignore Biden's tendency to make things up in whole. They don't care that it is not fare as long as they get their guy Obama, even if he is an incompetent liberal with no experience beyond giving away other peoples money and writing two autobiographies.

This is what it means to be in the tank for a liberal. While they have been busy covering for the Obama-Biden ticket before the election what are they going to do when that team becomes responsible? Perhaps they will continue to blame things on Bush for a few months but eventually they will have to confront the failure of liberalism again.

It is too bad we have to get the best critiques of the candidates from the UK.


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