Biden's Verbal Gaffes 'OK' Because of His 'Civil Record'

November 4th, 2007 8:53 AM

In an article that is otherwise fairly balanced, Delaware's biggest daily, the Wilmington News Journal, proclaims in a headline today that senior Senator Joe Biden has a "Tangled tongue, but a civil record," with the sub-header "Biden's bloopers don't jibe with his votes."

Sen. Joe Biden sees black supporters as his base and maintains a stellar voting record with the NAACP.

But he's also gotten in trouble for comments involving race or ethnicity.

Biden's supporters say the apparent gaffes are merely examples of his unscripted style, which they admire. Others say he should be more aware of how his words come across.

Most recently, Biden drew a comparison between the nation's capital and Iowa that suggested to some he was blaming Washington's large minority population for its low-performing schools.

Of course, before that there was Biden referring to fellow Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama as "clean," "articulate" and "nice-looking," not to mention his reference about Indians and Indian-Americans in that "you can't go into a Dunkin' Donuts or a 7-Eleven in Delaware 'unless you have a slight Indian accent.'" Oh, and how can one forget Joe's classic "Delaware was a former slave state" comment as a reason why he could compete for president against a Southern Democrat.

[Biden] communications director, Larry Rasky, added that only "a brick" would have failed to see, during the [Washington Post] editorial board meeting, that Biden was discussing socioeconomic factors that disproportionately affect minorities.

And that's just the point. The media frequently "fail to see" what GOPers actually said/meant in instances of their [racial] gaffes. A perfect example: Republicans get hammered for using a term like "tar baby," to describe "a debacle." If Biden were a Republican, would the News Journal -- or other media outlets -- be as forgiving in their headlines and corresponding articles? I think we all know the answer to that one. After all, as the first quote above states, Biden has a "stellar voting record with the NAACP." Besides one's party affiliation, such a voting record must be a close second for racial "forgiveness" and in that, the GOP doesn't stand a chance of having any apologies accepted. After all, every Senate Republican has received a grade of "F" by the NAACP for their "civil rights" voting records. A closer examination of how these "grades" are determined, however, shows that things like "extending unemployment benefits to aviation workers and increasing global AIDS financing" are examples of the factors considered. If you're wondering just what the heck extending unemployment benefits to aviation workers and global AIDS funding have to do wth American civil rights (especially in the historical context of the NAACP), you're not alone.

Furthermore, it's acceptable for Democrats to use the "black friends" rationale as well as the "old way of talking" excuse for their gaffes:

Some of Biden's black friends see no harm in his comments and concede they may have said similar things. Biden may let his mouth run away with him, but his friends say his heart is consistently in the right place -- fiercely defending civil rights.

"That's why it's so hard to understand some of these things being taken out of context," said Sam Latham, the first black president of the AFL-CIO in Delaware. "I don't think Joe would intentionally offend anyone."


When Biden came of age, politicians identified constituents by ethnicity -- they knew which voters were German and which were Italian, for example -- because neighborhoods were still organized that way, said Richard Ben Cramer, whose book, "What it takes," looked at the 1988 presidential race and Biden's first White House bid.

Cramer said he doesn't find Biden's comments surprising or intentionally hurtful but merely "an old way of talking."

"He doesn't lawyer his own comments, and it happens to him not just in reference to African-Americans -- it happens on all kinds of things," Cramer said. "That willingness to just speak is one of the things that I love about him. I can see him getting in trouble 50 times before this campaign is over."

Indeed. A "willingness to speak" is a lovable trait. Unfortunately, if you're a member of the "wrong" political party, that adjective is easily dropped.