I used to use Joe Biden as a bad example for the English classes I teach. "Look, kids," I would say, "plagiarism is just wrong. In fact, you should know that if you're caught, the best you'll be able to do in life is be Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Let that be a lesson to you."
As the implications of that sunk in, I could tell my students were really reconsidering whether or not they would go home that night and google up some SparkNotes on Jane Eyre.
But I've let that drop, given more recent history--the personal peccadilloes of those who've actually won the White House, not to mention of those who seek it currently. (I'm thinking about moralizing, "If you cheat on your cancer-ridden wife with an intern, you'll never make it past Speaker of the House!")
However, it's time to bring back Biden the Bad Example. Biden is again running for president, and again doing everything in his power to fail miserably before he can even get out of the gates. I suppose you probably saw this already:
Sen. Biden (D-DE) [. . .] manages to call either all previous African-American presidential candidates or possibly all other African-Americans in public life dumb, ugly and corrupt. The actual quote has him calling Sen. Obama (D-IL) "you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."Given the chance to "clarify" what he said, Biden later admitted that no, it is what it sounds like. I just don't get it; clearly, Biden cannot be that stupid, right? But there it is, out there for everyone to see, Biden the doesn't-know-he's-a-racist-inside trying to compliment a brother by calling him articulate. And while perhaps in this day of "nu-you-lar" and "is our children learning," articulateness may well be an unspoken prerequisite for the 2008 campaign, you still don't say that about someone like Obama. You don't say that at all, with the implication being, of course, that someone like Al Sharpton, who relies more heavily on an African-American cadence and vernacular in his speech, is somehow an inarticulate buffoon.
Others have pointed out that Biden may, after the plagiarism episode, just be blocking out the whole of 1988, since Jesse Jackson won 11 Democratic primaries and nearly seven million votes, certainly enough to be "mainstream." Carol Mosely Braun, who droped out before any votes were cast, was one of the brightest in the 2004 field.
Obama, characteristically, responds with class:
I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally, but obviously they are historically inaccurate. After all, we've had presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Mosely Braun and Al Sharpton. They gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns and no one would call them inarticulate.So that's that, Biden's killing of his own campaign for a second time because, as much as he may know about foreign policy, he's apparently just dumb.