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Let’s Not Forget About Biden’s Gaffes

Before he faced #MeToo scrutiny, Crazy Uncle Joe was best remembered for his many verbal miscues.
April 8, 2019
Let’s Not Forget About Biden’s Gaffes
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Democratic party has put the rest of its 2020 primary race on hold to fight over whether Joe Biden’s “tactile politics” disqualify him as a candidate in the #MeToo era.

This is an awkward time for the former vice president, but there is one silver lining: It helps everyone forget his long list of other gaffes. Once we’re done litigating his overly friendly hugs and hair sniffing, those could become the real liability for his campaign, assuming he jumps  in.

Because when Biden opens his mouth in front of real, voting Americans, bad things happen.

Campaigning ahead of the 2008 elections, Biden identified “the number-one job facing the middle class… a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs.” This was a radical departure from Biden’s long-standing top priority, also three-letter word, “E-R-U-D-I-T-I-O-N.”

In 2012, he had his own version of JEB! Bush’s “Please clap” moment, telling a crowd of donors, “You all look dull as hell, I might add. The dullest audience I have ever spoken to, just sitting there, staring at me. Pretend you like me!”

The same droll charm was on display when Biden shared his condolences with the Irish prime minister on the death of his mother – who he realized part-way through was still alive. “She’s – wait – you mom’s still – your mom’s still alive. You dad passed. God bless her soul.”

Nailed it.

At least Biden doesn’t have to worry about appearing low-energy. During the 1988 presidential race, a New Hampshire voter asked Biden about his law school record. Biden interrupted the man, gesturing vigorously,

I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect. I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship. The first year in law school I decided I didn’t want to be in law school, and ended up in the bottom two thirds of my class, and then decided I wanted to stay, going back to law school, and in fact ended up in the top half of my class. I won the international moot court competition. I was the outstanding student in the political science department at the end of my year. I graduated with three degrees from undergraduate school and 165 credits — only needed 123 credits – and I’d be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours if you’d like, Frank.

Poor Frank was eventually able to finish his question after Uncle Joe’s tirade, much of which turned out to be false. But hey, at least he fights?

Further examples of Biden’s tact and wit abound. There was the time he asked a man in a wheelchair to “Stand up, Chuck, let ‘em see ya!” Or the time he graced America with his remarks on cultural diversity in his home state of Delaware, where “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking!” Luckily for Biden, none of these gaffs turned out to be a “big f***ing deal.”

Does Biden really even want to run? It’s not like he’s missing out on a life of status and influence. As of now, he’s widely respected among Democrats, he has a cushy position as a non-teaching professor in charge of a program named after him within a large university, and he can play kingmaker with his endorsement in the primaries, assuming he can get the candidate’s name right.

And he doesn’t have to answer questions from Frank anymore.


Benjamin Parker

Benjamin Parker is a senior editor at The Bulwark.