The same Joe Biden who can display a mastery of the kind of face-to-face, hand-to-hand retail campaigning that President Obama is sometimes accused of lacking can also be a bit too candid, too over the top. That's always been the case, but the emergence of the highly scripted Paul D. Ryan as the Republican vice presidential candidate makes the contrast all the more pointed.
On balance, the campaign insists that Biden remains a valuable asset. But a firestorm over his remarks to a diverse audience here Tuesday — when he accused Republicans of wanting to "put y'all back in chains," in reference to Wall Street reform — points to the challenge of managing a blunt candidate in an era where unscripted moments go viral in an instant.And the unscripted moments can end up in Super PAC videos, too. From American Crossroads:
And long before viral video, there was C-SPAN. Biden's 1988 presidential campaign featured this moment in New Hampshire:
He had to withdraw from that race. In 2008, David Greenburg wrote at Slate that he repeatedly plagiarized a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.
Biden lifted Kinnock's precise turns of phrase and his sequences of ideas—a degree of plagiarism that would qualify any student for failure, if not expulsion from school. But the even greater sin was to borrow biographical facts from Kinnock that, although true about Kinnock, didn't apply to Biden. Unlike Kinnock, Biden wasn't the first person in his family history to attend college, as he asserted; nor were his ancestors coal miners, as he claimed when he used Kinnock's words. Once exposed, Biden's campaign team managed to come up with a great-grandfather who had been a mining engineer, but he hardly fit the candidate's description of one who "would come up [from the mines] after 12 hours and play football." At any rate, Biden had delivered his offending remarks with an introduction that clearly implied he had come up with them himself and that they pertained to his own life.