Joe Biden is a US Senator from Delaware. He has never been anything BUT a US Senator from Delaware. He is, according to his official bio, "currently serving his 6th term."
Joe Biden was elected when he was not yet 30 (although he had turned 30 by the time the Senate convened in 1973). He will be 65 this November. He is not new at this.
That is why his statement, the other day, about Barak Obama was so astonishing. If you were absent from the Earth this week, Biden said, in an interview of Obama's run for the Presidency:
"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
Someone, in effect, Joe Biden would be happy to have dinner with. Not at the country club, of course, but certainly in a public restaurant. In Washington, DC. Where there are plenty of clean African-Americans.
Even assuming Biden meant "clean" as in "clean slate" that still doesn't say much for his cultural sensitivity. But it says volumes about the way he thinks of two other pretty well-known African-American former candidates for President: Jesse Jackson (1984 and 1988) and Al Sharpton (2004).
We can't determine whether or not Biden thinks either Jackson or Sharpton is "mainstream," but Biden would probably check the "articulate" box if only because they each calls himself "Reverend."
Biden would have to concede that both Jackson and Sharpton are "bright," assuming he is using that in the intellectual, not the Jeffersonian, sense.
And Jackson, in his day, was a "nice-looking guy" although I've never thought Sharpton was terribly attractive.
So, when Biden said that Obama was the first African-American with ALL of those attributes, the only adjective which fits Obama, and Obama alone, is … clean.
Joe Biden thinks Obama is the first "clean" African-American to run for President.
This has not gone unnoticed in the popular press. So much so that Biden felt it necessary to go on television that night to explain himself. On Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
The Daily show gets about 1.5 million viewers per night.
The O'Reilly Factor on Fox gets about 2.1 million per night.
The third rated national newscast (and it's a distant third) - the CBS Evening News - gets over six million viewers per night.
So, if Biden really cared about patching up this cultural gaffe he would have asked for time on CBS or ABC or NBC.
Comedy Central? Who's his strategist, Soupy Sales?
You have to wonder what Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) thinks about all this. At the 100th Birthday Party for Strom Thurmond, Lott said about Strom's Presidential campaign as the candidate of the States Rights Party in 1948: [Mississippi] voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.
The controversy over the "we wouldn't have had all these problems" line forced Lott to resign as Senate Majority Leader.
Al Gore said at the time, according to CNN, that "Lott should apologize for his comments or face censure by the Senate."
Large Al has not weighed in on the Biden slur, nor has any other Senator demanded Biden step down from his position as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Robert C. Byrd, a former pooh-bah in the KKK, used the N-word in an interview taped for Fox by Tony Snow. Byrd's staff pleaded with Fox not to use the expletive, but Fox did the journalistically appropriate thing and ran the interview unedited.
"There are white n*****s. I've seen a lot of white n*****s in my time; I'm going to use that word."
Senator Byrd's use of the N-word on Fox caused the thunderous sound of one eyebrow being briefly raised by the Washington press corps.
"Well, it was way back in the 40's," was how it was explained away by the Popular Press. So was Thurmond's Presidential campaign, but that didn't matter.
Joe Biden has been a Senator for 30-something years. He will be a Senator until he retires or expires.
For some Senators their time comes and goes. For Joe Biden, his time will never be.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the actual interview in the New York Observer, to a clip of Byrd's interview on Fox, and to CNN's coverage of the Trent Lott affair, and to an explanation of the "in the Jeffersonian sense" line. Also a Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day from Boston.