Britain’s Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock had talked about his coal miner ancestors. “Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university…Was it because all our predecessors were thick? . . . Those people who could sing and play and recite and write poetry? . . . Those people who could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football?”

Mr. Biden had stolen the lines: “Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? . . . Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree? That I was smarter than the rest? Those same people who read poetry and wrote poetry and taught me how to sing verse? Is it because they didn’t work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours?”

The problem was, Mr. Biden was not the first in his family to go to college. Mr. Biden also did not have any coal-miner relatives.