How hard do we want to be on him for this? Is it a minor gaffe or a major gaffe?
A minor gaffe would be something like Obama saying on the trail in 2008 that he’d visited “57 states.” That was a simple (if amusing) misstatement, not an insight into his acuity. Politicians talk a lot, they spend long hours on the trail, inevitably they’re going to absentmindedly flub a basic fact while their thoughts are focused on something else.
A major gaffe would be if, hypothetically, an unusually old candidate whose mental sharpness was already in question was off by 10 years in remembering a wrenching political moment he lived through.
I think it’s a minor gaffe. Watch:
His timeline is correct and consistent. He notes that MLK and RFK were shot not long after he got out of school and got engaged. He graduated from college in 1965 and was married in 1966. Haight-Ashbury was all the rage at that time, he continues. Again, late 1960s. He even goes on to say “late 60s” after initially saying “late 70s.” He has the chronology of the shootings, which took place two months apart in 1968, more or less right. Minor gaffe.
If he had said, “I remember hearing that Dr. King was dead, I was at Studio 54 dancing to disco,” that would have been a major gaffe. For several reasons.
Maybe grandpa just needed a nap. He doesn’t sound great here, to be honest. “Low energy,” to borrow a term. On the other hand, notes Damon Linker, it doesn’t matter either way. Biden is essentially gaffe-proof:
People talk about the role of identity in politics all the time, but they usually default to categories of identity wrapped up with the groups that make up the electoral coalitions of the two parties. For the Democrats, this means women, blacks, urban whites, Latinos, members of the LGBT community. For Republicans, it means white men, conservative evangelicals, and rural voters.
But people can identify with other traits in politicians, too — including the way they speak and think…
In this one respect at least, Biden may well be the Democrats’ best possible answer to Trump. He’s a different kind of average guy than the president, but an average guy all the same — one who doesn’t try to sound like he’s the smartest guy or gal in the room, and who might use words like “guy” and “gal” without feeling the least bit self-conscious.
Biden’s base *is* pretty old. What if older voters find his gaffes relatable? “I too often can’t keep straight what decade MLK and RFK were shot in. Where’s my representation?”
No, seriously, though. He’s gonna lose. It’s a matter of time.