Democrats, please direct your attention to the starting gate. It is there that you will find the latest controversy to hit the race - Cleangate. Senator Joe Biden officially declared himself a candidate yesterday, and quickly overshadowed even himself by putting one foot forward, and the other directly in his mouf. In a now famous article in the New York Observer, Biden took issue with some of his primary competitors, most notably on their Iraq policies.
Referring to Clinton, Obama and Edwards Biden said the following: "Let me put it this way, you didn’t hear any one of them get in this debate at all until they announced for President." Bold. To be honest, though, it is not entirely without truth. Clinton's rhetoric underwent a recent and dramatic ramp-up with timing that only a friend would call coincidental. Edwards has been speaking out against the war for the past year or two, but again it has seemed to be in tune with his own candidacy post-2005. Obama, however, has his 2002 speech to his credit as well as his perhaps critical timing for not being around for the authorization vote.
Fitting, it was with Obama that Biden really did his damage. The Delaware senator referred to Barack the candidate as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." A squall erupted shortly thereafter, mostly from the blogoshpere - which is now tumultuously known to bring the ionic fury on a regular basis. There was a cacaphonic shout of the old Eminem line, "ah, wait, no way, youre kidding, he didnt just say what I think he did, did he?" Obama came out nice at first noting that he "didn’t take it personally and I don’t think he intended to offend. But the way he constructed the statement was probably a little unfortunate.” But a few hours later the handlers got to him and he came back with a much harsher retort when he said, “I didn’t take Senator Biden’s comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Mosely-Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate.”
Al Sharpton was predictably pissed, and Jesse Jackson even mocked the fact that he outdrew Biden in '88 by extreme margins. And Biden retaliated with a full-scale apology assault, as any Senator worth his weight in votes would do. But the real issue was whether this was merely a linguistic lapse or, more distressingly, another macaca moment. Biden is well-known as long-winded, and on first appearance it seems that he just said a few too many words at a time when he was a little too hopped up to make a politically clear statement, given his singeing of his other colleagues. But who can really say? In spite of the reaction from Jackson and Sharpton, Obama really is the first African-American candidate with a chance. I don't care how PC you are, to quote Ron Burgundy, "It's a fact" that no one has had a chance until Barack. Did his use of the combination of "clean", "bright", and "articulate" to emphasize the difference between Obama and his candidatorial predecessors fall flat on it's face? Yes. Was it totally inaccurate? Probably. But was it malicious or just a mistake? Only Joe's conscience knows. I have a feeling it was the former, rather than the latter.
The thing is, Biden never had a shot to have Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton in his corner. In some respects he really shouldn't give a shit about what they have to say. They were going to turn on him at one point or another until/unless he got the nomination. But then again, it is not the first flub he has made. There was the 7-11 comment last year, and he also once said that he could run well in the South because "Delaware was one of our slave states." The first one was clearly insensitive; the second one, hilarious. Insensitive because it is reinforcing a negative cultural stereotype. Hilarious because it was a slight against the Republican South, and nothing else. What it ultimately comes down to is that Biden can't keep hold of his tongue, and rightly so. Will he be elected President come 2008? No. Did anyone ever think that he would? Besides himself and his biggest suck-up friends, No. I just hope that this latest comment won't detract from the positive impact he can have on the debate this upcoming year, because I think Biden will have good things to say, and may even force a response from his rivals. A response that will nevertheless eventually be attributed to the political boneyard, most recently represented in Delaware lore by Pete DuPont. Soon enough Wilmington will be singing Pierre, roll over, I just hope it won't be until late February at the very least.
Racer 5 big bottle,