Talk of Joe Biden as Obama’s VP pick is focusing on Biden’s ability to bring strength to a ticket where Obama is weakest: foreign policy, knowledge of Washington as an experienced pol, his appeal to working class, white voters and to Catholics, and his appeal to the eastern part of swing-state Pennsylvania where Biden is well known.
What these commentaries fail to point out is that both men have a well-documented history of plagiarism.
Certainly we all remember Barack Obama’s propensity for lifting words from others’ speeches — notably, from his friend Duval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts. It was one of many instances where the debate intensified about what Obama really means when he says he means something. Words mattered one day, then didn’t matter the next. Or was it the other way around? Lacking firm convictions of his own and seeking to at least sound charismatic, Obama did what he had to: he stole somebody’s words and ideas.
As the presidential campaign has progressed beyond the primaries into the general election, Obama’s rhetoric has become less uplifting but the emptiness of his ideas and lack of conviction continue to sink his once unsinkable ship.
So, now, trying to plug the holes in his shaky campaign, some are saying Obama will select Joe Biden as his running mate.
There are two problems with Biden: 1) he is a serial plagiarist, and 2) in a very long career in Washington, he is best known for having accomplished nothing of significance. Can anyone name one event, one piece of legislation in which Biden played a significant role? Can’t think of anything? Neither can I. All I remember about Biden are the plagiarism charges, the hair plugs, and his endless appearances on Meet the Press and Face the Nation. One wonders if he has nothing else to do on Sunday mornings.
Back when Biden was still coming to New Hampshire and hoping he might stumble into the Democratic nomination, here was my take on the Delaware Senator:
Biden has been around Washington D.C. longer than the Jefferson Memorial. There’s a lot of Biden history there. The problem is that most of it is remarkably forgettable. I’ve seen him dozens of times on Meet the Press and other political shows and newscasts. I can’t remember a single important or interesting thing that he has said.
All I remember about Biden is that Mike Dukakis fatally kicked him in the groin during the 1988 Democratic presidential campaign for plagiarizing parts of a speech. The media then woke up and found numerous other cases of Biden “lifting” someone else’s work. According to the Washington Post, these included “a serious plagiarism incident involving Biden during his law school years; the senator’s boastful exaggerations of his academic record at a New Hampshire campaign event; and the discovery of other quotations in Biden’s speeches pilfered from past Democratic politicians.”
Here’s the complete post, Groceries or Joe Biden-Easy Choice!
Writing about Biden’s likely pick, MSNBC’s Howard Fineman has tried to minimize the importance of Biden’s plagiarism scandals by calling them “trivial.” For some people, cheating is trivial. For others, it reflects a central weakness in a person’s character. Fineman is not a priest but an insider like Biden, and is no position to obsolve Biden of his sins. In the hands of the McCain people and in the eyes of most voters, having two cheaters on the same Democratic ticket is not exactly a winning combination, regardless of Biden’s tenure on the Foreign Relations Committee.
But here he is, a week before the Democratic convention, poised to grasp Obama’s sweaty palm, perhaps to make history, but most likely to sink together in a sea of stolen ideas.