One of the more pleasant surprises of the Obama campaign up to now has been Joe Biden’s ability to mostly keep his foot out of his mouth since being selected as the Democratic vice presidential nominee almost a month ago. Yesterday, in an interview with Katie Couric, Biden’s history of footoholism reared it’s ugly head, and the temptation to get a little taste of those sweet, sweet Oxfords became too much for him to resist.
COURIC: Are you disappointed with the tone of the campaign? The lipstick on the pig stuff and some of the ads. And you guys haven’t been completely guilt-free, making fun of John McCain’s inability to use a computer.
BIDEN: I thought that was terrible, by the way.
COURIC: Why’d you do it then?
BIDEN: I didn’t know we did it and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it. And I don’t think Barack, you know… I mean, I just think that was, uh…
COURIC: Did Barack Obama approve that ad? He said he did, right?
BIDEN: The answer is I don’t think anything was intentional about that. They were trying to make another point.
And just like that, the meme goes from near universal media acceptance that John McCain’s campaign is the one playing dirty to the inevitable takeaway from this interview: “Even Joe Biden thinks the Obama campaign has gone too far, calling their own attack ads against John McCain ‘terrible.’”
First of all, there’s the obvious problem, Joe. You never, ever criticize your own campaign’s ads. Ever! Why? Because they all end with this: “I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.” When you criticize the ad, you’re directly criticizing your own candidate. And when you say that an ad being run by your side is “terrible” and that if you were in charge, “we never would have done it,” you– the man whose sole job for the next six weeks is to be the lead attack dog against John McCain and the lead surrogate for Barack Obama– are simultaneously drawing sympathy for McCain and calling Obama’s ethics into question. That strikes me as the exact opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing.
Second, there’s the other problem, Joe. As I’ve said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the ad (watch for yourself). There is absolutely nothing wrong with pointing out the fact that your opponent, who is running to lead the most technologically advanced government of the most technologically advanced nation in the history of mankind, doesn’t even know how to send e-mail. If John McCain’s admission that, “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” is fair game, then so is this. Computers are quickly becoming the means by which every American business and individual do everything, and that’s been the case for the last two decades. Not only is John McCain’s computer illiteracy relevant, but I’d argue that it’s crucial. In fact, the best thing that happened in that short interview clip is that Katie Couric relayed to viewers through her question that John McCain doesn’t know how to use a computer. But why is she doing Joe Biden’s job for him?
Later in the same interview, Biden took another swig of shoe, outlining the type of leadership it will take to solve the current economic crisis:
When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed. He said, “Look, here’s what happened.”
Jesse Walker at Reason quips, “And if you owned an experimental TV set in 1929, you would have seen him. And you would have said to yourself, ‘Who is that guy? What happened to President Hoover?’” Biden will likely get a pass on this one, and it’s a pretty trivial mix-up, but imagine if Sarah Palin had made that quote. She’d be absolutely crucified by the left. Furthermore, the next time Palin does make a history-scrambling gaffe (that is, if she ever gives another interview), even if it’s a much more fundamental one, she’ll have this Biden gem to point to and shrug, “Nobody’s perfect.”
And these two gaffes come in a week when Biden has contradicted Obama on both energy policy and financial policy, the latter leading Obama into an awkward moment with Matt Lauer (3:15 into the video).
Look, I think Joe Biden will make a great vice president, and I think it’s fantastic that he doesn’t agree with Obama on every issue and will bring a bit of much needed devil’s advocate to the executive branch. But you have to get there first; you have to win the election. You have to effectively communicate your vision to the American people. And you’re not going to do it with mixed messages and contradictions. There are only two people on the ticket; it shouldn’t be this difficult to get them on the same page.
Get your head in the game and your foot out of your mouth, Joe.