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Biden, Just So Far
Reporters have taken to alluding to Joe Biden’s “trouble” with a motor-mouth. The word "bloviating" is used, far too much. But it is not just that he loves to hear himself speak, and can do so for hours, but that his speech reflects both a certain kind of mental disarray and also allows his ignorance – a well-credentialed ignorance, because now he is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which makes his confusion and his lapses even more obviously inexcusable– to be put on undeniable display.
Here is a sentence, in all its helter-skelter mumble-jumble,from a speech delivered by Biden at Al Sharpton's National Action Coalition, in April 2007:
"I would argue, since 1994 with the Gingrich revolution, just take a look at Iraq, Venezuela, Katrina, what's gone down at Virginia Tech, Darfur, Imus. Take a look. This didn't happen accidentally, all these things."
One more time: “Iraq, Venezuela, Katrina, what’s gone down at Virginia Tech, Darfur, Imus…This didn’t happen accidentally, all these things.”
Literary critics south of the border, down Mexico way, might charitably describe it as merely a variant on the enumeracion caotica in the grand Borgesian manner. Some might suggest it was a subtle appeal for the Hispanic vote. Or for the MLA vote. Or something.
In his defense Biden might claim that he had merely been plagiarizing and as a consequence had not been paying too much attention to what he was saying. That could well be. He’s been known to have plagiarized on more than one occasion before (see Neil Kinnock), but on the other hand, the quoted comments have the authentic bidenesque ring. And how can Biden, or how can his only-begetter Obama (with his own liftings) simply claim that, after all, these are “just words.” We’ve heard that exact phrase before and, come to think of it, even before that (see Deval Patrick).
Why did Obama not go the whole stream-of-consciousness hog, and select Molly Bloom as his running-mate instead? That would have been another way to get the Catholic or at least Irish Catholic vote. On the other hand, selecting Biden is equivalent, in its way, to forthrightly kissing the Blarney Stone.
Biden offers fodder, and then some, for the Republican foe. Take, for example, the concluding paragraphs of an article by Michael Cowley on Joe Biden for The New Republic. Here is how Cowley describes Biden’s first rapid-response bright idea after the attacks on September 11, 2001:
"[S]ome Democrats worry that Biden's flapping tongue could cause p.r. problems down the road."There probably should be some small concern," says the Democratic strategist. Any wrongheaded declaration by Biden "would not be deliberate; it would not be that he stopped being a team player and decided to go out and conduct foreign policy on his own. It would be just that he was out there and talking."
At the Tuesday-morning meeting with committee staffers, Biden launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about what his 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.
The staffers sit in silence. Finally somebody ventures a response: "I think they'd send it back." Then another aide speaks up delicately: "The thing I would worry about is that it would almost look like a publicity stunt." Still another reminds Biden that an Iranian delegation is in Moscow that very day to discuss a $300 million arms deal with Vladimir Putin that the United States has strongly condemned. But Joe Biden is barely listening anymore. He's already moved on to something else.”
This part of the penultimate paragraph would make a good television spot:
Scenes of death and destruction at the World Trade Center. The airplanes. The collapsing buildings. The people running screaming away from the Towers. Then those scenes of Bin Laden, in his den, mirthfully smirking at the glad news of so much death and destruction, and even at the news that – so he is told -- because, rather than despite this, “20,000 people have converted to Islam in The Netherlands.” Then a film of Joe Biden, serious of mien and purpose, striding manfully down the Capitol Steps, and now we see him marching along a Senate Office Building corridor, into his office, where now he is seated in a room, surrounded by aides, and at this point, off-screen, a voice is heard reading the following from Crowley’s article in “The New Republic”:
“At the Tuesday-morning meeting with committee staffers, Biden launches into a stream-of-consciousness monologue about what his 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.”
“Then actors voicing what the staffers said, with one saying ‘I think they'd send it back’ and then another aide (the one who “speaks up delicately”) reminding Biden that ‘[t]he thing I would worry about is that it would almost look like a publicity stunt’ while still a third audibly ‘reminds Biden that an Iranian delegation is in Moscow that very day to discuss a $300 million arms deal with Vladimir Putin that the United States has strongly condemned.’
Then there are a few moment of silence to allow the listener time to sense his own stupor. And then a voice comes on. It is the voice of John McCain. And the voice says:
“Oh, and one more thing, Joe. Iran is not an Arab country.”
What more do you need?