Media figures get reprimanded, suspended, or even fired when caught plagiarizing the work of others. But politicians who get caught sometimes get promotions. A case in point is former Senator and failed presidential candidate Joe Biden, now the nation’s vice-president and “one heartbeat away” from the Oval Office.
Known for making humorous and outrageous gaffes and statements, Biden’s history of plagiarism goes back to the time when he ran for president in 1988. Biden had delivered, without attribution, passages from a speech by British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.
Political scientist Larry Sabato has noted that this led to revelations about a serious plagiarism incident involving Biden during his law school years, reports of exaggerations of his academic record, and the discovery that he had stolen quotations from other politicians, including Bobby Kennedy, in other speeches.
But don’t expect the major media to remind voters of Biden’s history of plagiarism. They are gearing up to declare him the winner of Thursday’s vice-presidential debate, no matter what happens.
But another taboo subject remains: Does the so-called “Gaffe-O-Matic” Vice President suffer from Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia?
Henry I. Miller has written in Forbes that Biden’s utterances “suggest some sort of dementia.” Biden, who will be 70 in November, “frequently has fumbled and bumbled in his public remarks,” says Miller.
Conservative writer Ben Hart says, “Biden raised eyebrows most recently when he insisted in a speech to a predominantly black audience that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are ‘gonna put y’all back in chains.’ But this is just the latest in an endless catalogue of bizarre statements by Joe Biden, who often doesn’t seem to know where he is or even what century he’s living in. Much of the time, he appears to be confused, addled.”
He adds, “One or two crazy statements here and there would not be so alarming. But Biden is now saying crazy things every time he speaks, every time he opens his mouth. I actually listened to Biden’s entire ‘y’all in chains’ speech, and very little of it made any sense at all.”
“Expectations are extremely low for Biden,” notes John David Dyche in the Louisville Courier-Journal. “So gaffe-prone that he previously resorted to plagiarizing campaign speeches, Biden recently admitted that the middle class has been ‘buried’ during the last four years. But the national press, desperate to redeem their fallen champion Obama, will proclaim Biden the winner if he does anything more than drool on the Norton Center [Norton Center For The Arts at Centre College] stage.”
Centre College in Kentucky is hosting the vice presidential debate.
Writing in the Boston Herald, Holly Robichaud says, “It will be big if Ryan wins Thursday night’s exchange with the seasoned vice president. However, you cannot expect the mainstream media to play it that way—especially after last week’s exercise in giving every excuse in the book for President Obama’s lackluster performance.”
As we noted back in 2007 on the issue of Biden’s plagiarism, Biden had insisted in a book, Promises to Keep, that he failed to credit Kinnock on only one occasion, and that the media had exaggerated the incident. But why was he quoting from a biographical speech by Kinnock in the first place? Didn’t Biden have his own story to tell? In another case, a reporter asked about Biden using a Bobby Kennedy quote without attribution. Biden blamed this on “one of my speechwriters” who “had inserted an RFK line” into the speech “without telling me.”
This is the closest Biden has come to admitting he doesn’t write his own material, and that he repeats what others put in front of him. On other occasions, however, he is on his own, and that seems to be the most worrisome.
Incredibly, Steve Kornacki, a co-host of the MSNBC show, The Cycle, has written an article under the headline, “Joe Biden to the rescue? The vice president has a chance to remind his party what a real debater looks and sounds like.”
On the other hand, he writes, “Again, it’s possible that Biden will fall flat on his face Thursday, or that his performance will fall somewhere in the forgettable middle. But after 40 years in national politics, he has an unusual opportunity both to alter his own image and to enhance his future political prospects.”
Whatever the result, About.com has compiled “Bidenisms,” a series of “Dumb Joe Biden Quotes and Gaffes.” Some of the best:
- “Folks, I can tell you I’ve known eight presidents, three of them intimately.”
- “I promise you, the president has a big stick. I promise you.”
- “A man I’m proud to call my friend. A man who will be the next President of the United States—Barack America!”
Time Magazine compiled the “Top 10 Joe Biden Gaffes,” noting, “Throughout his decades of public service, the former Senator and current Vice President has earned a reputation for often saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.”
After Thursday’s debate, the list may get longer. But will the major media bother to notice?
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.