The mainstream media and Democrats are not trying to conceal Joe Biden’s latest gaffes, which include the assertion that “poor kids are just as bright, just as talented as white kids.” In the age of social media, burying the mistake would be impossible anyway.
What they are doing, however, is attempting to dismiss the comment as nothing more than a slip of the tongue. The New York Times quotes Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, as saying:
Vice President Biden misspoke and immediately corrected himself during a refrain he often uses to make the point that all children deserve a fair shot, and children born into lower-income circumstances are just as smart as those born to wealthy parents. Joe Biden has spent his life fighting for civil rights and the dignity of all people.
Times writer Matt Stevens also uses the space to engage in a little whataboutism, writing that the comments “were part of a lengthy speech” and, hey, who cares because the guy Biden is hoping to run against in the general election “has a record of making incendiary comments about race.” Stevens then goes on to recite the well-rehearsed lies that Donald Trump said “that Mexicans are criminals and rapists and that there were “very fine people on both sides” of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.”
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But to call Biden’s unforced error a slip of the tongue is to overlook a lifelong history of embarrassments that suggest this self-styled “gaffe machine” has deep-seated problems when it comes to issues of race, sex, and more. In 1975, he effectively called segregation “black pride,” during an interview with NPR:
I think the concept of busing … that we are going to integrate people so that they all have the same access and they learn to grow up with one another and all the rest, is a rejection of the whole movement of black pride.
Who but a dyed-in-the-wool racist would say, as Biden did of Barack Obama in 2007, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”? I was a little surprised that Biden didn’t add to his “praise” the observation that his primary opponent never stole a hubcap.
In July, at a Pride week fundraiser in Seattle, he underscored the great strides the LGBT community had made by telling a group of wealthy businessmen that “just five years ago, it would have been acceptable for a businessman to make fun of a gay waiter.” He was evidently someone taken aback when his audience didn’t nod their heads in agreement.
His well-documented — and ongoing — proclivity for “touching” women is perhaps the most telling sign that he simply doesn’t oscillate in the same sphere as his fellow Democrats. When these unwanted incidents came to a head in April with the revelation in New York magazine that he leaned in behind Nevada State Assemblywoman Lucy Flores and sniffed her hair, Biden released a statement. In it he acknowledged that he had offered “countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort” during his years in public life, adding, “not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately.”
Therein lies the problem. He doesn’t think anything that he says or does is off-kilter or out of sync with acceptable human conduct. His ability to recover quickly from his comment about poor kids vs. white kids just shows he is getting better at attempting to cover over his own gaffes. It doesn’t excuse him from making them in the first place or from the pathology that underlies them.