Joe Biden has always had the gift of gaffe, so to speak, but it seems to be peaking at the worst possible moment. Biden desperately needs a win in South Carolina on Saturday in order to remain a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination for … I’m sorry, which office?
Old habits die hard, I guess:
“My name’s Joe Biden, I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States senate—if you like what you see, help out, if not, vote for the other Biden”
The other Biden??pic.twitter.com/AmYIF5TFCd
— Alana Mastrangelo (@ARmastrangelo) February 25, 2020
You’re the ones who sent Barack Obama to the presidency. I have a simple proposition here. I’m here to ask you for your help. Where I come from, you don’t get far unless you ask. My name’s Joe Biden, I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate. Look me over, if you like what you see, help me out. If not, vote for the other Biden. Give me a look, though, okay? That’s all I really got to say to you.
Just to be clear, Joe Biden was last in the US Senate eleven years ago, and last ran for that office in 2008, beating Christine O’Donnell handily (after which he resigned to be VP). That might be just a force-of-habit mix-up, but it’s a strange one to have after nearly a year of running for president and two consecutive terms of running for vice-president. On top of that, the delivery almost sounds as though Biden’s on autopilot, using a speech he might have written in 1978 and regurgitating as though it’s the best his memory can do.
And maybe that’s exactly what is happening.
That’s not a great look for a candidate about to enter the debate arena with his political career on the line, but at least it’s explicable. The next gaffe hits much closer to Biden’s supposed specialty on foreign affairs and might cause some serious concern over Biden’s faculties. In another appearance, Biden took credit for negotiating the Paris Climate Accord with a world leader who had been dead for more than a decade at the time:
Joe Biden claimed tonight that he worked with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping on the Paris Climate Accord.
Except the current Chinese President is Xi Jinping.
Deng Xiapoing left office in 1992 and has been dead for 23 years. pic.twitter.com/ddEAmPhkZi
— Zach Parkinson (@AZachParkinson) February 25, 2020
And folks, one of the things I’m proudest of is getting passed, getting moved, getting control of the Paris Climate Accord. I’m the guy that came back after meeting with Deng Xiaoping and making the case that I believe China would join if we put pressure on them.
Zach Parkinson points out the obvious issues with this statement well enough. Deng couldn’t have participated in the Paris meeting in 2016 unless it was by seance. (Jeff Dunetz has fun with the seance idea.) But even if Biden meant Xi Jinping, there’s little evidence that Biden personally twisted Xi’s arm, either. Barack Obama handled direct negotiations with Xi, as one would expect in diplomatic protocols, on the Paris Climate Accord. In the New York Times report on the effort, Joe Biden’s name doesn’t even come up as a footnote. Nor does any mention of Biden’s personal negotiation at that level come up in a Bing search. Either Biden’s trying — badly — to claim personal credit for Obama’s work or he has a whole new level of memory issues at play here.
Finally, in what is perhaps the most bizarre of his recent outbursts, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave Biden four Pinocchios for claiming to have been arrested in South Africa while attempting to visit an imprisoned Nelson Mandela. It’s not “remotely credible,” Kessler concludes:
Biden’s first statement above is rather jumbled. Soweto, a township near Johannesburg, is nearly 900 miles from Robben — not Robbens — Island, which is off the coast of Cape Town. He appears to be referring to a trip in 1977, but the U.N. ambassador from 1977 to 1979, Andrew Young, told The Fact Checker that he was never arrested in South Africa.
“There is no chance I ever was arrested in South Africa, and I don’t think Joe was, either,” said Young, who as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr. on civil rights demonstrations. “I was arrested twice, in Savannah and Atlanta.” …
He speculated that Biden was mixing up stories about congressional delegations that would fly into Lesotho, a landlocked country surrounded by South Africa. He said he believed he traveled on at least three trips with Biden when he was a member of Congress.
Young said that on one trip, “we were not jailed, but we were retained by South Africa police,” who would not let the lawmakers get back to a military base in Lesotho so they could board their plane. A colonel finally came and sorted everything out. Young, with a laugh, recalled that then-Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), who headed the delegation, “got pretty worked up about it.”
The point of this goes beyond dunking on a gaffe-prone politician like Biden, who’s made a career out of sticking his foot in his mouth. This sounds more like a competence issue in relation to the massive challenges inherent in the job Biden seeks. Biden seems to be running out gas in that sense, and perhaps it’s not a bad thing if South Carolina sticks a fork in his third and final run for the presidency — as long as they don’t vote for the socialist septuagenarian in his place.