Joe Biden's first bid for the White House ended shortly after it began in 1988, when it was revealed that he had plagarized a stump speech from an address by Neal Kinnock, who led Britain's Labor Party in the days before Tony Blair.
Two decades later, it seems clear that Biden is better off using someone else's words, rather than his own. In an interview with the New York Observer, the Delaware Senator--who just launched his latest Presidential bid--offered this assessment of Democratic rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama:
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
Observer writer Jason Horowitz, who conducted the interview, apparently sees nothing wrong with Biden's comments, or prefers to let the remarks speak for themselves. In fact, the Senator's characterization of Obama is buried in the 14th paragraph of what is, essentially, a sympathetic potrait of Senator Biden, described as the Democratic Party's "go to" guys on foreign policy. Never mind that Biden's plan for Iraq essentially calls for partitioning the country, creating an environment that would allow Iran to carve out a larger sphere of influence in the south (or even annex that area), and pose an ever greater threat to the Persian Gulf region.
But Biden's comments about Senator Obama are generating the most buzz, and rightfully so. Now in his sixth term in the Senate, Biden has been dealing with a friendly press corps for more than three decades and he supposedly knows the rules of the game. When discussing your opponents, say something nice about the guy, then rip into his lack of experience (which Biden does), or just go on the attack, period. Instead, Senator Biden felt compelled to try the former approach, and offered that little ad-lib that may doom his latest presidential bid.
"First mainstream African-American who is articulate"
"And a nice-looking guy."
Where do you begin in refuting comments that are so obviously shallow, stupid, and even racist? Can someone tell me what constitutes a "mainstream African-American?" How are they different from other black Americans? Articulate? Flash for Senator Biden; the black community has never lacked for leaders who can express themselves, dating back to the days of Frederick Douglass. Clean? Is Biden referring to Mr. Obama's personal hygiene habits, or his (relative) lack of associated scandals.
Whatever the case, these comments reaffirm one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington, namely that Joe Biden is one of the dimmest bulbs in the U.S. Senate. If he can't handle a one-on-one interview with a "friendly" reporter in a Delaware diner, he is hardly prepared to articulate a bone-headed Middle East strategy as a prospective commander-in-chief.
Of course, Biden does have a couple of things going for him. First of all, as a Democrat, he's not held to the same standard as a Republican senator or Congressman. Could you imagine the uproar if say, Trent Lott, had offered the same words in "praise" of Barack Obama? And secondly, he's dealing with a chummy Washington press corps that will probably let the controversy die after one or two news cycles.
The Observer is right about one thing: Mr. Biden is a solid, "third tier" Democratic presidential hopeful. And if this interview is any indication, Biden is incapable of catapulting himself into the ranks of a legitimate contender. However, he is capable (on any given day), of saying utterly something stupid that will end his latest campaign, almost before it begins.