Biden: Send In the Clowns

Democrats, Politics — By on August 23, 2008 at 11:17 pm

*Note: This post is being republished courtesy of John Mark Reynolds and the Scriptorium Daily*
Beltway reaction to the pick of Slow Joe Biden proves that commentators who spend too much time near the center of power lose their grip on what the rest of the country is thinking. (Is there any senator who does not think picking another senator is a sign of wisdom?)
Most of the rest of us in both parties are gob smacked, “Is that the best he could do?”
Those of us who have a fond spot for Senator Obama (and I do) know Senator Obama is very bright and full of ideas. It is disheartening that his only real chance at a presidential level decision was to elevate a serial plagiarist whose self-regard is matched only by his lack of discipline.
For most Republicans I know (who are outside the Beltway) the reaction to the Biden pick was glee . . . and laughter. Joe Biden is, how shall we say it charitably, one of the more clownish men to ever run for the presidency. One is thankful for clowns, some children seem to love them, and they brighten up multiple candidate debates, but Slow Joe got about fifteen actual votes in this years primaries for a reason.
Voters laughed with him, but also at him and so did not want him too near the levers of power.
However, Senator Biden has survived for a long time with power in Washington. This means he is officially Redeemed and Wise in the eyes of those who live only for political power. Wise in Washington-speak means old and powerful. After one wins a few cycles or survives a few scandals (see Biden), then one is automatically elevated to the pantheon of the All Knowing.
If Dan Quayle had stayed in the Senate, he too would now have been Redeemed and Strangely Smarter. Quayle’s “mistake” was giving up political power thus freezing the last judgment made of him. Washington hates a loser and quickly forgets anyone who goes home.
Any long serving dim wit eventually gets New Respect. The worst case of this in my own party had to be the relic of segregation Strom Thurmond . . . a Democrat turned Republican turned monument to longevity that earned Strange Respect by simply living long enough that the evil he did started seeming quaint.
The transformation seems to operate on one simple assumption:
Nobody could be that bad who manages to stay in the Senate forever!
If your thinking is all power centered, then there is truth to it. Senator Biden is good at staying in office, hires a good staff that writes good briefing papers for him, and is a good talker. He is an enjoyable lad about town and says unpredictable things on the record, which makes him popular with the press.
The press often confuses verbal incontinence with intelligence in a politician.
Like many lads about town he gets forgiven by cultivating a perfect NARAL score, which means he gets a Free Pass for all the horrifically politically incorrect things he says which would sink someone who had not sold their vote to the inquisitors of the left.
If you doubt this analysis, see how often Biden is allowed to speak without briefing papers, handlers, or a teleprompter near for help. Let’s see how well he, not his staff but the Senator, knows his business. He will give a great convention speech, because someone will write a great speech for him. He will read it well and his wisdom confirmed until he speaks once again without a script.
Biden is proof that Washington often confuses gravitas with endurance.
The effect of gravity on Biden is not gravitas. The press will love him, because at any moment he may insult some new ethnic group. Obama has entertainment covered at the convention.
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and Director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. John Mark is also a contributor to the Washington Post and Newsweek column On Faith.



  • Michael Butler

    Great post! I might offer a minor dissent, however, as to whether Biden is “cultivating a perfect NARAL score” since he’s currently rated 60 by that organization, partly for opposing late-term abortions and opposing federal funding. Although Biden may wish for a higher rating from this group, he doesn’t seem to be achieving it.
    NARAL Link: http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/choice-action-center/in-congress/congressional-record-on-choice/delaware.html
    H/T:
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/pontifications/2008/08/joe-biden-and-the-catholic-cha.html

  • ex-preacher

    This has to one of most juvenile posts ever posted here. I’m sad to see that Mr. Reynolds believes name-calling is a substitute for actual reasoning.

  • John Mark Reynolds

    Do I get a prize for Most Juvenile Post?
    If so, I would like to thank my children for keeping me young at heart, my wife Hope for all she has meant to me . . . and ex-preacher for agreeing to present this award.
    They love me . . . they really love me.

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  • Howie

    I am a Hillary fan and was upset with Obama’s “ways”….now that he has chosen Biden (the anti-Cheney), my vote is definitely with Obama

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Heh, heh. Thanks John Mark Reynolds. That was funny!
    One way to respond to an insult is to employ sarcastic and self-deprecating humor … which you have done here with good effect.
    Pax.

  • anonymouse

    San Diego Union-Tribune blogger Chris Reed recalls Biden’s 1988 response in Claremont, New Hampshire to a question about his law school record from a man identified only as ”Frank.” Biden looked at his questioner and said: ”I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.”
    Biden of course couldn’t leave it at that. He is not known for his concision or care with the facts. He added that he ”went to law school on a full academic scholarship — the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship.” He also said that he ”ended up in the top half” of his class and won a prize in an international moot court competition. Biden still wasn’t done. In college, Biden said, he was ”the outstanding student in the political science department” and ”graduated with three degrees from college.”
    Reed then turns to Biden’s subsequent statement on this exchange. At Syracuse College of Law, Biden graduated 76th in a class of 85. He acknowledged: ”I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school and my recollection of this was inacurate.” Just a slip of memory.
    As for receiving three degrees, Biden conceded: ”I graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in history and political science. My reference to degrees at the Claremont event was intended to refer to these majors — I said ‘three’ and should have said ‘two.”’ His arithmetic was off.
    As for his undergraduate preeminence in the political science department — well, that was somebody else. But one of his professors thought he fit the bill. ”With regard to my being the outstanding student in the political science department,” the statement went on, “my name was put up for that award by David Ingersoll, who is still at the University of Delaware.” Professor Ingersoll had it right!
    As for his claim that he went to school on full academic scholarship: ”My recollection is — and I’d have to confirm this — but I don’t recall paying any money to go to law school.” Reed cites a Newsweek report that Biden had gone to Syracuse ”on half scholarship based on financial need.” About that moot court competition, however, Biden may have nailed it. Biden said he had won such a competition, with a partner, in Kingston, Ontario, on Dec. 12, 1967. So there.
    The 1988 campaign also gave us Biden’s infamous appropriation of Neil Kinnock’s life — and his speech reflecting on it — as Biden’s own. An article by Walter Shapiro on the subject provided this helpful background:
    During his first months at Syracuse University Law School, in 1965, Biden failed a course because he wrote a paper that used five pages from a published law-review article without quotation marks or a proper footnote. Since Biden was allowed to make up the course, the revelation was front-page news only because it kept the copycat contretemps alive.
    Shapiro also speculated why Biden’s confession to plagiarizing Kinnock’s speech might not put the affair behind him. “With a rambling and disjointed opening statement,” Shapiro observed regarding Biden’s press confernece, “Biden failed to reap the benefits of public confession, even though he called himself ‘stupid’ and his actions ‘a mistake.’ Part of the problem is that he contradicted himself by also insisting that it was ‘ludicrous’ to attribute every political idea.”
    Crowley’s TNR profile concludes with a striking example of Biden’s foreign policy sophistication. In the wake of 9/11, in a meeting with his staff, Biden experienced an epiphany:
    Biden launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about what his [Senate Foreign Relations] committee should be doing, before he finally admits the obvious: “I’m groping here.” Then he hits on an idea: America needs to show the Arab world that we’re not bent on its destruction. “Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran,” Biden declares. He surveys the table with raised eyebrows, a How do ya like that? look on his face.
    Perhaps we can agree that the man and the moment have met.

  • AnonOmouse

    Let Clarence Thomas tell the story, via his powerful memoir, My Grandfather’s Son:
    Senator Biden was the first questioner. Instead of the softball questions he’d promised to ask, he threw a beanball straight at my head, quoting from a speech that I’d given four years earlier at the Pacific Legal Foundation and challenging me to defend what I’d said: “ ‘I find attractive the arguments of scholars such as Stephen Macedo, who defend an activist Supreme Court that would . . . strike down laws restricting property right.’ ” That caught me off guard, and I had no recollection of making so atypical a statement, which shook me up even more. “Now, it would seem to me what you were talking about,” Senator Biden went on to say, “is you find attractive the fact that they are activists and they would like to strike down existing laws that impact on restricting the use of property rights, because you know, that is what they write about.”
    Since I didn’t remember making the statement in the first place, I didn’t know how to respond to it. All I could say in reply was that “it has been quite some time since I have read Professor Macedo. . . . But I don’t believe that in my writings I have indicated that we should have an activist Supreme Court or that we should have any form of activism on the Supreme Court.” It was, I knew, a weak answer. Fortunately, though, the young lawyers who had helped prepare me for the hearings had loaded all of my speeches into a computer, and at the first break in the proceedings they looked this one up. The senator, they found, had wrenched my words out of context. I looked at the text of my speech and saw that the passage he’d read out loud had been immediately followed by two other sentences: “But the libertarian argument overlooks the place of the Supreme Court in a scheme of separation of powers. One does not strengthen self-government and the rule of law by having the non-democratic branch of the government make policy.” The point I’d been making was the opposite of the one that Senator Biden claimed I had made.

  • Robski

    Now I see the nature of the change here. It is not a dramatic one; it’s just different guys pounding the same political themes.
    Will the name change to reflect the content? How about “the republican outpost”? Or maybe “The Not-Ready-for-Faux-News Pundits”?

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Ex is correct, this is an exceptionally juvenile post. I hope this isn’t Joe’s idea of ‘big changes’ in his blog.
    Essentially the only actual facts/arguments here are:
    1. Biden is pro-choice.
    2. Years ago Biden did plagerize some of his speeches which is a fair ding on him.
    3. The author seems to think childish name calling “slow”, “clown” etc. is an actual argument for anything other than his own idiocy.

  • Robski

    Now I see the nature of the change here. It is not a dramatic one; it’s just different guys pounding the same political themes.
    Will the name change to reflect the content? How about “the republican outpost”? Or maybe “The Not-Ready-for-Faux-News Pundits”?

  • Nick

    If this is the new direction for EO, I’m not liking it at all. Previously, we had Joe blogging about the intersection of evangelical Christianity with politics and culture. Now we have various people who happen to be Christians (I suppose) writing puerile political commentary with almost no link to Christianity. I didn’t always agree with Joe, but at least he was thoughtful, and the content of the blog matched its name.

  • Elwood

    I am a Christian, like Joe Carter’s blog, like what I’ve read from JMR in the past. However, I also cringed when I read JMR refer to Biden as Slow Joe. That’s beneath any Christian to do, much less a someone paid to work a specifically Christian job as teacher/prof, whatever.
    I also do not like the changes I’ve seen so far. Go back to the old, Joe.

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    (Sorry to be picky.)
    Your blogroll needs a (vertical) scroll bar.
    Nobody can see my link! ;=)

  • Robski

    Sorry about the double-post; I have no idea how it happened, especially 14 minutes apart.

  • EricR11

    Biden is a lifelong Catholic and a prolife Democrat – at least I can imagine having a spirited and uplifting debate about Christ, God, and one’s personal faith with him. And Barack Obama’s 2006 Call to Renewal Keynote Address is a positive manifesto about his own personal religious nature within a democracy.
    But somehow I just don’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling about having such a discussion with John McCain, his ‘cross in the sand’ story (quite possibly plagiarized) notwithstanding.

  • Mike Toreno

    What concerns me is what this says about Biola. I know that Bible colleges don’t have a great reputation as fonts of learning, but I mean, zomg, Reynolds is a professor of philosophy. That means people are supposed to go to the school to learn from him. That means they should know less than he does. How is that possible? Biola isn’t preschool for retarded people, is it? Than how can it have students who are ignorant enough that they can learn from Reynolds? He thinks the way to argue is to deliberately misinterpret what his detractor is saying, which is what he does above with ex-preacher. Or maybe I misjudge him. It’s clear enough from his main post that he’s stupid; I guess it is possible that he’s stupid enough that he doesn’t know that the meaning of “juvenile” in the sense in which ex-preacher used it is “childish, immature”. In any event, either Reynolds is so stupid that he doesn’t know the meaning of plain words, or so lacking in integrity that he seeks to win arguments by misrepresenting what his opponents say. In either case, how is he fit to draw a paycheck from a college? I’m aware that Biola is a Bible college, rather than a Christian college, so that moral standards there don’t have to be all that high, but still. . .

  • AnonOmouse

    What a bunch of whitewashed sepulchers!
    In the Senate Judiciary hearings of the last 20 years Biden has routinely engaged in character assasination of some of the finest legal minds in US history, including Bork, Roberts and Thomas.
    He has been described as a “gaff” machine by his own party — even publically by the moderator of the 2008 Democrate debates. So somebody refered to him as a clown? That is a mild characterization when you consider the damage he has done to this country.
    What else would you say of a man who after 9-11 proposed sending $200 million to Iran (no questions asked) as an “act of goodwill toward the Arabs?” Does someone need to remind him that Iran is not an Arab country?
    The other reasons for not doing so is probably above your pay grade.
    Regarding Biden’s and Obama’s recent religious
    overtures — you will know them by their fruits. And any vote for them makes the voter indirectly culpable for the decisions they make. Believe me, it would be better not to vote at all.

  • journeyman

    “Those of us who have a fond spot for Senator Obama (and I do) know Senator Obama is very bright and full of ideas.”
    Mr. Reynolds, you’ve got to be kidding, right?

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  • Drew I.

    Spambots pushing their way through the system…

  • Sunday Ricks

    their is a time and place for everything, and slander should not become a part of this just facts. we all know that we need a change but becouse of we are all different some are afraid of this change. Rather than getting on board the life boat they would rather sink. What happen to we the people, or is it some people and not all the people. We have allowed some of the people to turn oue great nation into the world’s biggest joke. We need to ask ourself is it worth taking our children down with us.

  • Robski

    “In any event, either Reynolds is so stupid that he doesn’t know the meaning of plain words, or so lacking in integrity that he seeks to win arguments by misrepresenting what his opponents say.”
    Might I suggest a third possibility, Mike? I interpret this as an attempt at good-natured “aw shucks” humorous parry, a la Ronald Reagan.

  • Bob

    Make fun of Joe Biden all you want – at least he knows how to give a decent interview. Katie Couric is like the softest of possible interviewers and Palin still messes it up. Palin is smart and talented, but not quite ready for the big leagues yet.

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