Monday, August 25, 2008

Weekly Opinion/Editorial
by Steve Fair
Barack Obama has tapped Senator Joe Biden, D- Delaware, to be his running mate. Biden, 66, is a lawyer who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1973. Biden’s first wife and an infant daughter were killed in a car wreck right after he was elected to the Senate. He has two sons from that marriage. The sons were hurt in the wreck, but recovered completely. He considered resigning from the Senate to care for his sons, but was talked out of it. When he was elected, he was only thirty and one of the youngest Senators to have ever been elected in U.S. history. Both of his sons are now grown and are lawyers.

Biden married Jill Jacobs in 1977. They have one daughter. Jill is an English professor. In his six terms in the Senate, Biden has never been seriously challenged at the polls in Delaware. Biden is a Roman Catholic with middle-class roots and at least some tie to the possibly-in-play state of Pennsylvania, all of which likely played into his selection as Barack Obama’s running mate. Senator Biden has twice run as a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, in 1988 and again this year.

Biden serves as Chairman of the powerful committee on Foreign Relations. According to the committee’s website, it is one of the oldest in the Senate, dating back to 1816. It has oversight over the foreign policy agencies of the U.S. government, including the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and the Peace Corps. The Committee reviews and considers all diplomatic nominations and international treaties, as well as legislation relating to U.S. foreign policy.
But Biden is a loose cannon and his problem is his mouth. He set off a firestorm during the primary when he said about Obama, “he is an articulate, bright and clean African-American.” Black Americans were outraged. Instead of apologizing, Biden went into his characteristic “explanation” mode. After a week of enduring continual criticism, he relented and apologized.

Biden loves to talk. Many Americans first encountered Joe Biden during the high-profile hearings on Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. He would ask for three more minutes from the Chairman of the committee and speak for forty-five without a breath. Americans just wanted him to shut up. His rambling questioning was redONEITt and meaningless.

The reputation for Biden’s inability to control his tongue came up at the first 2008 Democratic Presidential primary debate. When asked if he could discipline himself and control his tongue, Joe gave a one-word answer, “Yes" which was met with laughter, because he then began a long outpouring of explanation, reflection, analysis, and counterfactuals as to how he would do it.

Biden also has some creditability issues. When he was running for President in 1988, he was accused of plagiarizing a speech given by a British chap. Neil Kinnock, who was then head of the British Labour Party, gave a speech which included the lines: "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?" Biden gave almost the same speech- with an American twist- at a campaign stop and the Dukakis campaign secretly made a video showcasing the Biden/Kinnock comparison and distributed it to news outlets.

It was also discovered that, while law student at Syracuse Law School, Biden had plagiarized a law review article. Though the then-dean of the law school, as well as Biden's former professor, played down the incident of plagiarism, they did find Biden drew "chunks of heavy legal prose directly from" the article in question. Biden said it was inadvertent due to his not knowing the proper rules of citation, and Biden was permitted to retake the course after receiving a grade of F, which was subsequently dropped from his record. Biden quitely withdrew from the Presidential race shortly thereafter.

Perhaps that’s why Obama choose Biden. They share the penchant for plagiarism. In a November 2007 campaign speech, Obama used the exact same words that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had used 18 months before without crediting the Guv. The line was, “I am not asking anybody to take a chance on me. I’m asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations.” The Clinton campaign pointed out Obama had used Patrick’s line, but Obama just dismissed it as a mistake.
Plagiarizing seem like a small thing to most Americans but those who engage in it reveal one of two things about themselves- an unwillingness to credit others intellectual work or a dishonest spirit. Neither are acceptable traits for the highest office in the land. If the Democrat responses in the debates sound familiar, it may because the lines may have been used before.

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