Sooner or later the Vice President is going to get caught in a lie (again) or recant a dramatic statement (again) and it is going to be an unpleasant distraction for the administration, although he will probably get a pass on this one:
Republican strategist Karl Rove called Vice President Biden a “liar” on Thursday, dramatically escalating a feud between Biden and aides to former President George W. Bush over Biden’s claims to have rebuked Bush in private meetings.
Biden’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although Biden spokesman Jay Carney told Fox on Wednesday: “The vice president stands by his remarks.” Carney was referring to two controversial assertions by Biden, the latest coming Tuesday during an interview on CNN. “I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office,” Biden began, “‘Well, Joe,’ he said, ‘I’m a leader.’ And I said: ‘Mr. President, turn and around look behind you. No one is following.'”
The exchange is purely “fictional,” said Rove, who was Bush’s top political adviser in the White House.
The Vice President, of course, is famous for straying into the realm of fiction. He imploded during his run in the 1988 Primaries, and withdrew from the action shortly after this impromptu “I have a higher IQ than you” speech”:
While the latter half of then Senator Biden’s speech was an impassioned argument for leadership based on the Democratic Party’s principles and ideals, the former half of it (where he ticked off his personal list of accomplishments) was largely fiction that he was later forced to recant:
In his statement today, Mr. Biden, who attended the Syracuse College of Law and graduated 76th in a class of 85, acknowledged: ”I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school and my recollection of this was inaccurate.”
As for receiving three degrees, Mr. Biden said: ”I graduated from the University of Delaware with a double major in history and political science. My reference to degrees at the Claremont event was intended to refer to these majors – I said ‘three’ and should have said ‘two.’ ” Mr. Biden received a single B.A. in history and political science.
”With regard to my being the outstanding student in the political science department,” the statement went on. ”My name was put up for that award by David Ingersoll, who is still at the University of Delaware.”
In the Sunday interview, Mr. Biden said of his claim that he went to school on full academic scholarship: ”My recollection is – and I’d have to confirm this – but I don’t recall paying any money to go to law school.” Newsweek said Mr. Biden had gone to Syracuse ”on half scholarship based on financial need.” Says He Also Received Grant
In his statement today, Mr. Biden did not directly dispute this, but said he received a scholarship from the Syracuse University College of Law ”based in part on academics” as well as a grant from the Higher Education Scholarship Fund of the state of Delaware. He said the law school ”arranged for my first year’s room and board by placing me as an assitant resident adviser in the undergraduate school.”
As for the moot court competition, Mr. Biden said he had won such a competition, with a partner, in Kingston, Ontario, on Dec. 12, 1967.
Mr. Biden acknowledged that in the testy exchange in New Hampshire, he had lost his temper. ”I exaggerate when I’m angry,” Mr. Biden said, ”but I’ve never gone around telling people things that aren’t true about me.’‘ Mr. Biden’s questioner had made the query in a mild tone, but provoked an explosive response from Mr. Biden [emph added].
Of course, at that time, Biden was already tense after having to recant much of an autobiographical speech he lifted from British politician Neil Kinnock months earlier, which then beat reporter Maureen Dowd eviscerated in the New York Times:
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a Democratic hopeful, was particularly taken with [Neil Kinnock’s speech].
So taken, in fact, that he lifted Mr. Kinnock’s closing speech with phrases, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact for his own closing speech at a debate at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 23 – without crediting Mr. Kinnock.
In the commercial, the Briton began, ”Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?” Then pointing to his wife in the audience, he continued: ”Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?” Senator Biden began his remarks by saying the ideas had come to him spontaneously on the way to the debate. ”I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?” he said. Then, pointing to his wife, he continued: ”Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? 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?”
In his speech, Mr. Kinnock, an orator of great eloquence, rhetorically asked why his ancestors, Welsh coal miners, did not get ahead as fast as he. ”Did they lack talent?” he asked, in his lilting rhythm. ”Those people who could sing and play and recite and write poetry? Those people who could make wonderful beautiful things with their hands? Those people who could dream dreams, see visions? Why didn’t they get it? Was it because they were weak? Those people who could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football? Weak?”
Senator Biden’s Irish relations, it would seem, were similar, though they seemed to stay underground longer.
”Those same people who read poetry and wrote poetry and taught me how to sing verse?” continued Mr. Biden, whose father was a Chevrolet dealer in Wilmington. ”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 IQ speech and the Kinnock lift, along with subsequent disclosures of Biden’s plagiarism issues during his college days, sunk his primary campaign.
Nonetheless two decades later Biden is a sitting Vice President, and is still making statements that, after all the dust settles are at best exaggerations. And useless ones at that. Biden’s false statements do little more than make whatever he says interesting at the point when he says it, and serve no other purpose. They seem almost pathological, although other than embarrassing the speaker after the fact, they have done little harm. So far. But when the President has to sell a contentious piece of legislation in the near future, or make a highly controversial decision on a given pursuit, Biden’s loose grasp of the facts could sink the venture. Everyone seems to know this, except Joe Biden.