Audio: Joe Biden being Joe Biden, Jewish outreach edition; Update: “Poor choice of words”

posted at 9:21 am on September 17, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Is this just Joe Biden being Joe Biden, or is this — to use the Vice President’s own phrase — a big f’in’ deal? Biden drew the ire of the ADL’s Abraham Foxman for remarks made yesterday to a prominent association of attorneys in which he described bankers as “Shylocks” who “took advantage” of men and women serving in the military. Yahoo’s Olivier Knox broke the story last night:

Biden’s slip came in a speech to the Legal Services Corporation, which provides lawyers to Americans who could not afford them otherwise. In his remarks, the vice president described the experience of his son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, who was deployed for one year in Iraq.

“People would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being  I mean, these Shylocks who took advantage of these women and men while overseas,” Biden said. …

“Shylock represents the medieval stereotype about Jews and remains an offensive characterization to this day. The Vice President should have been more careful,” Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman said.

Shylock, the villain in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” is a Jewish moneylender who mercilessly demands a “pound of flesh” from the merchant who defaults on a loan. Whether the 16th-century play is anti-Semitic or reflects the anti-Semitism of the time is a subject of frequent, bitter debate, but the term Shylock is offensive enough that Florida stripped it from state law back in 2009. (Not everyone has gotten that memo).

Olivier cites a few of Biden’s greatest hits, including his 2006 statement on needing an Indian accent to go into convenience stores and his 2007 assessment of Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” The media gave Biden a pass on these statements in the past, even though any Republican who uttered anything remotely similar would get pilloried for it, and the entire party with it. The term “Shylock” from a GOP politician would be held up as an example of the party’s latent anti-Semitism and analyzed to death.

Don’t expect the same thing here, although my first instinct last night was to think this might get more scrutiny. Even apart from the media bias on issues like this and the general pass that Democrats get on political correctness, Joe Biden is … well, Joe Biden. If he had an important job people might take his rhetorical flubs more seriously. As it is, though, Biden is the clown prince, and very much not the heir apparent, in the Democratic Party. He’s there for amusement purposes, and Indians, African-Americans, and Jews had better just get used to it until a Republican takes control of the White House. At that point, the national media will be sure to man the Perpetual Outrage Towers, along with the Homelessness Crisis beat positions.

There is, however, one curious thing about Biden’s story. His son’s service in Iraq came almost entirely during the first year of the Obama administration; he returned from his deployment in Iraq in September 2009. Biden telling of this story suggests that his son got this feedback after his return, which would mean that the issue of regulating bankers to avoid any supposed injustices and abuses would have been the responsibility of … Barack Obama.

Update: Jeff Dunetz votes “big f’ing deal.”

Update: Biden backpedals:

No kidding.


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Miss Lamar

Schadenfreude on September 17, 2014 at 2:42 PM

There is, however, one curious thing about Biden’s story. His son’s service in Iraq came almost entirely during the first year of the Obama administration; he returned from his deployment in Iraq in September 2009. Biden telling of this story suggests that his son heard got this feedback after his return

Surely you’re not suggesting that Uncle Joe fabricated this story out of whole cloth, are you? He’d never do anything so dishonest. It’s not like he’s a well-known plagiarist or anything.

Syzygy on September 17, 2014 at 11:22 AM

OF COURSE NOT!!!

I’m sure he stole it from someone else already, er, fabricated and just made a few minor alterations.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 2:42 PM

Ah, Joe Biden…the David Letterman of the Administration.

Hmm, I wonder whom I slurred using THAT description?

BlaxPac on September 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Democrat Dictionary –

“poor choice of words” – when, for example, Joe Biden says what he’s really thinking; when, for example, Joe Biden speaks from the heart.

dissent555 on September 17, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Yes, because lack of familiarity with a character from a 450 year old bit of literature is exactly like being unfamiliar with the current leadership of your nation or the names of nations bordering your own.

No, because claiming that whatever one does not know must not be important is the same attitude often displayed when those students are confronted about their ignorance. Dismissing the foundational literature of the English language is an attempt to make a virtue of ignorance. Ignorance, in and of itself, is not a character flaw. We all have vast reserves of ignorance, encompassing all those things we don’t know. Defending ignorance is at best a character flaw, if not something much uglier.

fast richard on September 17, 2014 at 11:53 AM

Learnin’ Shakespear be acting white.

slickwillie2001 on September 17, 2014 at 2:48 PM

It seems to be a bit of ego defense for those who know their bodies of knowledge are interesting but not as useful as more practical bodies of knowledge. But then again, I see it in medicine at times as well. So maybe it’s more of a generalized phenomenon for people who just want to feel superior.

Doc Holliday on September 17, 2014 at 12:27 PM

Oh! You’re one of those “the arts aren’t nearly as important as the technical stuff I know” types.

Happy Nomad on September 17, 2014 at 12:45 PM

In the interests of comity, I suggest a compromise. All you STEM majors that don’t know literature just admit that you’re ignorant, and promise that, when necessary, you’ll ask the nearest barrista for enlightenment. Since she’s probably an art or literature major, anyway.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 2:53 PM

I’m not even sure that classic works like Shakespeare are taught in public schools…I know it was a hard slog for some, but that was the pint, it forced you to think-not only to translate the work into a more modern tongue, but to find the meaning behind the work itself.

Not to mention, we could have a fun round table ascribing some of Shakespeare’s works to the current political climate (fun, yeah…I AM weird)…:o)

Too bad works like this…and even other classics from Last of the Mohicans, Uncle Toms Cabin, Huck Finn…they’re not banned, per se but they’re not celebrated like they once were, and that is a damned tragedy.

BlaxPac on September 17, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Biden calls ‘Shylock’ comment a ‘poor choice of words‘

Uh, Shylock is only one word.

This whole thing is completely stupid – there is nothing offensive about using the word (name) Shylock – but hey, whiners are gonna whine.

Pork-Chop on September 17, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Shylock is definitely a slur, and Shylock was definitely Jewish, so I can see why some might assume it implies antisemitism.

Still, I always figured shylock was primarily used to refer to a sleazy, man-eating lawyer. It would never even occur to me as a racial slur.

In spite of the schadenfreude of watching Biden try to explain himself, I would have to say that shylock is primarily a lawyer slur, not a Jewish slur.

IOW, NOT a big f’in deal.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 2:59 PM

A snippet from the modern adaptation of Richard III

Richard III: A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

Joe Biden: Hey! This battle looks like a pretty big f**king deal!

Richard III: Alright, I’ve the back half of the beast! My kingdom for the front of the horse!

M240H on September 17, 2014 at 3:03 PM

“These Shylocks, who took advantage …”

Yeah, don’t let him off Scot free on that one…sheesh

;-)

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 17, 2014 at 3:24 PM

In spite of the schadenfreude of watching Biden try to explain himself, I would have to say that shylock is primarily a lawyer slur, not a Jewish slur.

IOW, NOT a big f’in deal.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Read or re-read The Merchant of Venice and then let us know if you have changed your mind about “Shylock” being a Jewish slur.

wren on September 17, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Not at all. But I would point out that reading a freakin’ book is not the same thing as getting an education. Too many “educated” people can tell you the facts without every understanding the “why it matters” part.

When it comes to having a good broad education in literature, the name Shylock should not come off as some arcane bit of trivia that nobody but nobody would know.

Happy Nomad on September 17, 2014 at 1:39 PM

In other words; yes, you are.

You may point that out, but it’s important for you to understand that that’s incorrect, even though you’re pointing it out.

There is a difference indeed, but it’s not what you think it is. You see, a person become educated by reading books; lots of them, as Abraham Lincoln clearly illustrates. A person does not become educated by listening to overpaid LSD dropping professors drone on through misspelled Power Point presentations. A book is perfectly capable of communicating the “why it matters” part all on its own. A knowledge gatekeeper is 100% unnecessary. Always.

Besides, the “why it matters” part is really just code for teachers excusing teaching what to think rather than how to think, which of course isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing at all.

How do I know this?

Because I spent 4 years receiving a “liberal education” at one of the top 25 film schools in America. It was worthless. All of it.

The first time I knew it was worthless was in the very first semester, when we were assigned to read an excerpt from a book about “Sound Imperialism.” I Snit you not.

More can be learned from watching YouTube tutorials and picking up a few good books, because the vast majority of a “liberal education” consists of nothing more than ramming the mad scribblings of Karl Marx down student’s throats, and forcing them to engage in fascism under the aegis of activism.

Unfortunately, the highly impressionable 18-22 year olds are too young and naive to understand that their professors are complete idiots, and that the material they’re wasting their time with is total garbage. It’s why graduates are emerging from universities without any employable skills. They aren’t being taught any. Do they know how to block a shot and edit the footage in Final Cut? No! But they can blather on about the finer points of social justice fantasy making.

“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”
― Socrates

P.S. Shakespeare sucks.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 3:24 PM

I’m not even sure that classic works like Shakespeare are taught in public schools

They can barely read and write modern English much less Middle English.

What would be the point?

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 3:26 PM

This is a distraction. The economy still sucks. Stay focused, people.

Bigurn on September 17, 2014 at 3:47 PM

It’s time for SloJo to re-Orient himself.

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on September 17, 2014 at 4:01 PM

I’m not even sure that classic works like Shakespeare are taught in public schools

Yes, they do. Now how many of them get it is your guess. But I think the same could be said for many, many students over the years.

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 17, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Flange on September 17, 2014 at 2:34 PM

It’s cool; I’m used to it.

Christien on September 17, 2014 at 4:15 PM

How about the tweets from the NYT reporter (a YALE grad, per his NYT bio) asking for a show of hands of those who’d not known the epithet “shylock” before the Biden controversy???? Yale! Hilarious.

ugottabekiddingme on September 17, 2014 at 4:29 PM

When it comes to having a good broad education in literature, the name Shylock should not come off as some arcane bit of trivia that nobody but nobody would know.

Happy Nomad on September 17, 2014 at 1:39 PM

Maybe nowadays, but the term “shylock” as slang meant an owed payment, as in loansharking…maybe it’s still used, I don’t know. Also there was a popular song by Rodgers and Hart called “I’ve Got Five Dollars” which was one of Ella Fitgerald’s hit recordings:

Mister Shylock was stingy
I was miserly too.
I was more selfish
and crabby than a shellfish…

P.S. Shakespeare sucks.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Seriously? One of the greatest wordsmiths in the English language “sucks”?

And we blame Obama and the Socialists for all of our problems. Wow.

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 17, 2014 at 4:33 PM

Seriously? One of the greatest wordsmiths in the English language “sucks”?

And we blame Obama and the Socialists for all of our problems. Wow.

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 17, 2014 at 4:33 PM

There’s no obligation to revere Shakespeare anymore than there’s an obligation to revere Alfred Hitchcock.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 4:40 PM

P.S. Shakespeare sucks.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Oh I knows. And Milton and Chaucer, they such a waste of time. Who cares what the most brilliant minds throughout our turbulent climb to civilized society thought about? They so old skool.

John the Libertarian on September 17, 2014 at 4:50 PM

This is a distraction. The economy still sucks. Stay focused, people.

Bigurn on September 17, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Unlike the leftist trolls that stink up this place, we are capable of keeping more than one thought in our heads at a time.

CurtZHP on September 17, 2014 at 4:58 PM

There’s no obligation to revere Shakespeare anymore than there’s an obligation to revere Alfred Hitchcock.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Why deny that you’re always going to view Kurosawa, Fellini, Godard, and Bergman through Hitchcock eyes?

Or do you really believe Bret Easton Ellis knows more about human nature than Shakespeare did?

M240H on September 17, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Oh I knows. And Milton and Chaucer, they such a waste of time. Who cares what the most brilliant minds throughout our turbulent climb to civilized society thought about? They so old skool.

John the Libertarian on September 17, 2014 at 4:50 PM

Milton and Chaucer are not waste of time.

Edward de Vere, not so much.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Why deny that you’re always going to view Kurosawa, Fellini, Godard, and Bergman through Hitchcock eyes?

Or do you really believe Bret Easton Ellis knows more about human nature than Shakespeare did?

M240H on September 17, 2014 at 5:09 PM

Because opinion on all art is entirely subjective.

Psycho and Rear Window were great. North by Northwest and Vertigo, not so much.

It’s how Blade Runner was considered a bomb in 1982, and a timeless classic in 2014. All opinion of art is subjective.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 5:12 PM

It’s how Blade Runner was considered a bomb in 1982, and a timeless classic in 2014. All opinion of art is subjective.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 5:12 PM

I don’t think timeless classic means what you think it means.

My sympathies on 4 years of film school. Mein gott! Why on earth did you continue to pay them money? I don’t know that you can necessarily translate that to 4 years of liberal arts education at a University, but it definitely isn’t what it used to be if a Yale grad never heard of Shylock before this.

It’s very sad that millions of young adults are led into paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthless classes on political correctness in its various and sundry forms (class credit for participating in OWS from Columbia, anyone?), while the fundamentals of math, science and literature are abandoned at institutes of “higher” learning.

talkingpoints on September 17, 2014 at 5:23 PM

Joey Biden, closet alcoholic, Grade A Schmoozer, and all around idiot who trres to impress others with his “education”.

One good thing about Joey; he’s been an excellent life insurance policy for Obama.

Don’t have to think it, just say “President Biden”.

Chills down your spine, right?

GarandFan on September 17, 2014 at 5:48 PM

Biden reading Shakespeare is about as believable as Obama reading the Constitution.

Rambotito on September 17, 2014 at 6:12 PM

Meh. It’s Biden. Nothing to see here.

bigjack on September 17, 2014 at 6:26 PM

My sympathies on 4 years of film school. Mein gott! Why on earth did you continue to pay them money? I don’t know that you can necessarily translate that to 4 years of liberal arts education at a University, but it definitely isn’t what it used to be if a Yale grad never heard of Shylock before this.

It’s a long story, but it was at a major university in the state in which I live.

I didn’t learn more about film making than what I learned from watching the extras on DVD, but I did earn an honorary Bachelor’s Degree in leftist psychopathology.

Thank god I already knew the technical aspects of it before going in, so I’m able to find work. Otherwise all I’d have would be anecdotes of Marxist pontificating.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 6:32 PM

In spite of the schadenfreude of watching Biden try to explain himself, I would have to say that shylock is primarily a lawyer slur, not a Jewish slur.

IOW, NOT a big f’in deal.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Read or re-read The Merchant of Venice and then let us know if you have changed your mind about “Shylock” being a Jewish slur.

wren on September 17, 2014 at 3:24 PM

I’m referring to the pop culture meaning of shylock, which for most people has nothing to do with Jewishness, and everything to do with lawyers.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 6:39 PM

And yet Jews will flock to the polls to pull the lever for a Democrat.

ButterflyDragon on September 17, 2014 at 7:04 PM

I’m referring to the pop culture meaning of shylock, which for most people has nothing to do with Jewishness, and everything to do with lawyers.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Um…. Yeah. There is no such thing as a pop culture meaning of Shylock. Just a bunch of ignorant idiots unaware of the offensive meaning of the term.

Happy Nomad on September 17, 2014 at 7:15 PM

And yet Jews will flock to the polls to pull the lever for a Democrat.

ButterflyDragon on September 17, 2014 at 7:04 PM

Which Jews? The practicing type or the heritage type? The former voting for Democrats is inexcusable. The latter is just another faithless liberal who wraps themselves in identity politics.

Happy Nomad on September 17, 2014 at 7:17 PM

Much of this outrage is beginning to sound forced.

Probably staged to divert further attention from Prenzit Eff-up’s latest eff-ups.

Another story is out there about Biden calling Asia the Orient….

… well for much of history parts east were called Oriental because they were east of Europe.

Next thing you know the Australians will be rioting in the streets for being considered austral.

The Northern Lights are called boreal, too… Dagnabbit !!!

viking01 on September 17, 2014 at 7:35 PM

A snippet from the modern adaptation of Richard III …

Richard III: A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!

Joe Biden: Hey! This battle looks like a pretty big f**king deal!

Richard III: Alright, I’ve the back half of the beast! My kingdom for the front of the horse!

M240H on September 17, 2014 at 3:03 PM

haha, loved this one!

Apparently, Old Joe did not learn much about literature from his wife, the English teacher?

c4 on September 17, 2014 at 8:09 PM

Still, I always figured shylock was primarily used to refer to a sleazy, man-eating lawyer. It would never even occur to me as a racial slur.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 2:59 PM

“Shylock” is absolutely an offensive term, especially when referring to lawyers, many of whom are, indeed, Jewish. I’m not easily offended and don’t much care, but the Political Correctness Police should be all over this– and would be, if Joe were a righty.

They can barely read and write modern English much less Middle English.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Shakespeare wrote in Modern English.

Joey Biden, closet alcoholic, Grade A Schmoozer, and all around idiot who trres to impress others with his “education”.

GarandFan on September 17, 2014 at 5:48 PM

Yeah, that’s about right.

ChicagoJewishGuy on September 17, 2014 at 8:40 PM

No amount of education in and of itself will turn a putz into a sage. Biden (among others) is a putz.

Just be sure you’ve got your quill in hand when ISIS comes a-callin’. /

S. D. on September 17, 2014 at 10:23 PM

“Poor choice-of-words” … poor choice of VP.

But the silver-lining is that Joe will waste Democrat time trying to be the next President, against the insufferable Hillary. It’s going to be quite a show!

virgo on September 17, 2014 at 11:16 PM

There’s no obligation to revere Shakespeare anymore than there’s an obligation to revere Alfred Hitchcock.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 4:40 PM

True…one can say, “I don’t like Shakespeare’s work”, or “I don’t get Shakespeare” or “I’d rather read something else besides Shakespeare”.

But saying something like “Shakespeare sucks” is like saying the “the Mona Lisa sucks”, or “Brahms sucks” or “Beethoven sucks”, “Michelangelo sucks” etc.

Just sounds rather ignorant given that folks still revere certain works and artists hundreds of years later.

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 17, 2014 at 11:34 PM

I can see where younger folks don’t know the meaning behind “Shylock” but a literate person of Biden’s age probably knows the implication – OK, maybe Biden isn’t that “literate” haha. Nevertheless I doubt he intended any anti-Semitism by it.

I’m Jewish and while the usage raises an eyebrow it doesn’t really cause me any heartburn. The most important fact about this incident, as usual, is that thanks to the MFM Biden will get a pass on it while a Republican would have been pilloried.

FOAF on September 18, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Shylock is a character in a Shakespeare play (Merchant of Venice) who is Jewish, and is noted for being representative of the anti-Semitic sentiments of the era, mostly about being shrewd and greedy. Curiously, Shylock also has a famous soliloquy decrying anti-Semitic sentiments, in which the famous line “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” is coined. Mel Brooks has a movie in which a character stalls Nazis by beautifully rendering this soliloquy, bringing them to tears. One of my favorite scenes from that movie.

So, it’s complicated but I believe you’re wondering about some politician calling some group of people “Shylocks” which is kind of anti-Semitic. There are plenty of ways to call someone greedy without referring to the single most well-known Jewish character outside the Bible, even if he is also greedy.

Response of my 24 yo to query on “who is Shylock, is the term anti-semitic?”, BA from OSU

Shylock is the villain of The Merchant of Venice and is often thought to be an anti-Semitic ​caricature. I suppose if someone was called that it would be anti-Semitic.

Response of my 25 yo, BA from OSU

Neither has a job right now that requires a college degree, so while in some respects they are well educated, that and a couple bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

I like the “some politician” reference in my 24 yo’s response.

talkingpoints on September 18, 2014 at 5:13 AM

I’m referring to the pop culture meaning of shylock, which for most people has nothing to do with Jewishness, and everything to do with lawyers.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 17, 2014 at 6:39 PM

Um…. Yeah. There is no such thing as a pop culture meaning of Shylock. Just a bunch of ignorant idiots unaware of the offensive meaning of the term.

Happy Nomad on September 17, 2014 at 7:15 PM

I’m not so sure that isn’t the exact meaning of “pop culture:” something everyone knows, even if it’s wrong.

Obviously, if a Republican said it, the outrage would be off the charts. But we established that a long time ago with “macaca,” which virtually no one even recognized as a potentially racist slur until a Republican used the term.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 18, 2014 at 11:31 AM

They can barely read and write modern English much less Middle English.

Star Bird on September 17, 2014 at 3:26 PM

Shakespeare wrote in Modern English.

ChicagoJewishGuy on September 17, 2014 at 8:40 PM

Middle English sounds about right, but unfortunately that term is already taken to apply to English around the time of Chaucer, or about 1100-1500, depending on who you ask.

The language changed rapidly at that point, and Shakespear started writing right about the turn of the century, or about 1600. So, it’s very close to Middle English in terms of pure time, but in those 100 years the language change radically.

Which makes Shakespeare archaic Modern English.

It’s understandable that people might think Shakespeare wrote in Middle English, but a side-by-side comparison with Chaucer shows the huge difference between Middle English and even the archaic Modern English of Shakespeare.

As for whether Shylock is offensive, I would not interpret it as an anti-Jewish slur, but as an anti-lawyer slur. But I would still defer to those who find it objectionable.

I suspect the term Biden was going for was “shyster.” But I guess we’ll never know.

There Goes the Neighborhood on September 18, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.

William Shakespeare

Schadenfreude on September 18, 2014 at 11:53 AM

The vice president is spouting bullhsit again.

For nearly as long as I’ve been a lender, there has been a Soldiers/Sailors Relief Act and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. It has undergone many changes over the years but the servicemember who is deployed is not getting foreclosed on. If such a thing is happening, there are plenty of options.

I have not, in all my years of lending, ever seen a servicemember deployed that was foreclosed upon.

Biden is a frackking moron.

john1schn on September 20, 2014 at 12:09 AM