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Joe Biden: A gaffe a minute

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, September 22, 2008

Poor Joe Biden. Ever since John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, the media continue to flock to the Alaskan governor like moths to a flame, leaving Biden standing alone in the shadows of obscurity.

However, the lack of Biden coverage may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Obama campaign. As long as the press is kept occupied with other matters, such as the Obama camp’s quest to prove that their presidential nominee’s experience outweighs that of the Republican vice presidential nominee, they have less time to devote to repeating sound bites of Biden’s ever-increasing number of gaffes.

As you might have heard, the Senator is not only infamous for his remarkable verbosity, but for being extraordinarily gaffe-prone, like some bizarre cross between Al Gore and George W. Bush. His most recent presidential bid was ill-fated from the start, thanks in part to his description of his future running mate as the “first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

On a similar note, Biden referred to the presumptive Democratic nominee as “Barack America” during their first event together, right after Obama announced him as the next president of the United States. Where’s the teleprompter when you need it?

Needless to say, McCain supporters were elated when they got wind of their opponent’s decision. The Republican National Committee has even launched a “Biden Gaffe Clock” on their website to count down the time until his next misstatement.

To be fair, the majority of his blunders are more or less harmless, at least for those of us who haven’t placed his name under our own on a presidential ticket. For instance, he mistakenly called Palin the “lieutenant governor” of Alaska, mixed up army battalions with brigades multiple times, and referred to the “Biden administration” before quickly correcting himself.

Other gaffes are downright confusing, such as when he described his “drop-dead gorgeous” wife’s possession of a doctorate as “problematic.” A few are truly cringe-worthy.

Recently in Missouri, he recognized State Senator Chuck Graham by telling him to “stand up and let the people see you,” just before realizing that Graham is a paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair.

Perhaps the most troubling verbal slips, though, are the ones that reveal a propensity toward racism. Now I’m not one to go around haphazardly accusing people of being racists when something they say could, with the aid of some advanced mental gymnastics, be construed as such. Yet if we are to apply the same standards that the mainstream media often uses, it becomes clear that there is something amiss.

Take his comments regarding Indian-Americans for example. “In Delaware,” he told a political activist, “the largest growth of population is Indian-Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

When asked to explain the performance difference between schools in Iowa and those in Washington, DC, Biden responded, “There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington?”

And then there is his most recent description of Obama as “clean” and “articulate.”

If McCain, or any Republican for that matter, made similar remarks, he might as well be caught wearing a white hood; the media would have a field day. But for Biden, they make excuses for him, defend his comments as mere “verbal slips,” and offer explanations for what he really meant.

Luckily for him, many of these gaffes go virtually unnoticed by the general public, thanks again to the lack of press coverage. Yet the fact that Palin’s nomination has generated so much excitement while Biden’s has been dismissed as old news may not bode well for the Obama campaign.

“Make no mistake about this,” Biden said at a New Hampshire rally last week, “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America … and quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me.”

Obama is probably thinking the same thing.

Christie Pesavento is a junior Political Science major, and would like to remind a certain someone that “gaffe” does not rhyme with “Raffi,” even though her way sounds much funnier. She can be reached at cpesaven@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necesarily those of The Observer.