The LuLac Edition #143, Feb. 1, 2007
PHOTO INDEX: SCRANTON BORN U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN, DELAWARE DEMOCRAT AND THE LATE DESI ARNEZ, CUBAN BANDLEADER.
JOE'S GOT A LOT
OF 'SPLAIN' TO DO
On the day Senator Joseph Biden announed for the Presidency, he found himself embroiled in a controversy right out of the gate by making comments about some of the other Democratic candidates. As the late Desi Arnez in the character of Rickty Ricardo used to say to Lucy, "you got a lot of 'splain' to do".
Biden spent his first day as an official presidential candidate explaining why he had described a Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, as "clean" and why he had criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards.
The six-term lawmaker from Delaware, who has said for months that he would be a candidate in 2008, formally established his presidential committee yesterday and launched a campaign Web site, www.joebiden.com. It's the second presidential bid for Biden, who also sought the 1988 nomination. Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and will be up for re-election in 2008. At the end of his term in 2008, he will have served 36 years.
But in a conference call with reporters to discuss his candidacy, Biden was peppered with questions about remarks he made to the New York Observer, a weekly newspaper.
In the article, published yesterday, Biden harshly criticized Clinton and Edwards for their proposals to end the Iraq war. He also questioned the credentials of another candidate, first-term Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, while calling him "a mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean."
Biden told reporters that he had used the word clean to describe Obama as "fresh and new," and that the choice of words was not meant to disparage black candidates who had run for president in the past. Biden most likely wanted to say but could not find the proper words, Obama is finally a black candidate that has no baggage and is acceptable to the American people at this time.
Obama, Biden said, "is probably the most exciting candidate the Democratic or Republican Parties have produced since I've been around. He's fresh, new, smart, insightful. Lightning in a jar." And you know that this has to stick in Biden's craw, that after nearly 36 years in the Senate, hew is a second tier candidate while a two year veteran of the Senate has become the darling of the liberal wing of the Democratic party.
When you look at the past black candidates, all of them brought political baggage. Shirley Chisholm was a black woman trying for a Presidential nomination in 1972 and while she had an impeccable character and record, no black or woman or combination thereof was going to be taken seriously in 1972. The Jesse Jackson candidacies were overshadowed by his financial doings with Operation: PUSH, his claim that (disputed by members of the SBLC-Southern Baptist Leadership Council) he cradled the dying Dr. Martin Luther King in his arms and his comment about New York City being "hymie town" Al Sharpton has had dubious financial doings as well as his involvement in the infamous Tawana Brawley case in New York. Perhaps if Biden had brought up these shortcomings instead of the word "clean", he might've still started a firestorm but one that was factual and not a guessing game as to why he chose the word "clean".
Biden also said he called Obama after the controversy surfaced to patch things up.
"He said, 'Joe, I knew what you meant,' " Biden said.
Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor confirmed the two men had talked. Later, Obama released a statement saying Biden's remarks seemed to undercut past black presidential candidates.
"I didn't take Senator Biden's comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate," Obama said. "African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns."
For his part, Jackson said he believed Biden's remark was "a gaffe."
"I know Joe Biden is a smart, decent guy," Jackson said in an interview. "I hope this doesn't diminish the light he brings to future debates."
But, he added, "next time he should use the words fresh and new. It's subject to less interpretation."
Biden was also grilled about comments he made regarding proposals offered by Clinton and Edwards to stabilize the situation in Iraq.
A 34-year Senate veteran known for his foreign-policy expertise, Biden, 64, called Clinton's proposal - which would cap American troops and threatens to cut funding to Iraqi security forces - "nothing but disaster." He also criticized Edwards, who has proposed immediately removing 40,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops from Iraq.
"I don't think John Edwards knows what the heck he is talking about," Biden said of his party's 2004 vice presidential nominee.
Pressed to explain, Biden reiterated his assertion that his rivals' Iraq plans were a mistake. He also said that while the Democratic field had a number of well-qualified contenders, he was the best qualified to serve as president.
"That I can say someone is qualified but can't take issue with their ideas is a strange phenomenon," he added.
Known for his windy oratory and habit of thinking out loud, Biden has gotten into trouble before with his comments. In July, he defended his remark that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent." Biden said his words had been taken out of context.
And as a candidate for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, Biden withdrew from the race in 1987 amid accusations that he had plagiarized passages in a campaign speech from former British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.
Asked whether his verbosity would be a handicap on the campaign trail, Biden demurred. "That's for voters to decide," he said. "I don't see it as a problem."
Biden will transfer $3 million from his Senate account to his presidential campaign, and said he believed he needed to raise $20 million total to be competitive in next year's early primaries. Analysts believe Clinton and Obama are likely to raise $100 million each this year.
Most political observers believe Biden will recover from this mistake but this is not how candidates want to break out of the starting gate. It is interesting that Biden has talked about the other candidate's percieved failings, even though he had to backpedal some, it is something other candidates have not done. When the debates start, (first one believe it or not is slated for April of this year) Biden might be more free to distinguish his record from the others precisely because he was critical right out of the gate. Only time will tell. In the meantime, Biden hopes he's 'splained everything sufficiently enough.
Here is a breakdown of Biden's record:
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was born on November 20, 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was first elected to the United States Senate in 1972 and re-elected in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2002. He is currently serving his 6th term.
EDUCATION Syracuse University College of Law, J.D. 1968University of Delaware, B.A. 1965 (Double Major: History/Political Science)Archmere Academy 1961
PROFESSIONAL Adjunct Professor, 1991-present Widener University School of Law
HISTORICAL In January of 1973 Joe Biden was sworn into office at the age of 30 years, one month, and 14 days. He is the fifth youngest person to ever serve in the U.S. Senate (John Henry Eaton of Tennessee, Armistead Mason of Virginia, Henry Clay of Kentucky, and Rush Holt of West Virginia were younger).
PRIOR TO THE SENATE New Castle County (Delaware) Council 1970-1972Attorney, Wilmington, Delaware 1968-1972
LEADERSHIP AND MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS Senate Democratic Steering and Coordination CommitteeCo-Chairman, Senate NATO Observer GroupCo-Chairman, Senate National Security Working GroupVice Chairman, NATO Parliamentary AssemblyCo-Chairman, Congressional Fireman's CaucusCo-Chairman, Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus Member, Congressional Air Force CaucusMember, National Guard CaucusMember, Senate Auto CaucusMember, Senate Biotechnology CaucusMember, Congressional Port Security Caucus PERSONAL Married: Wife, Jill Tracy BidenChildren: Beau Biden; Hunter Biden; Ashley BidenGrandchildren: Naomi Biden; Finnegan Biden; Roberta Mabel Biden; Natalie Biden; Robert Hunter Biden
O'BRIEN SEEKS NOMINATION
Corey O'Brien, an Attorney from Moosic has said he will form a committee to start raising funds for the Democratic nomination for Lackawanna County Commissioner. O'Brien seems to be telling the Democratic Leadership in the county to "get off the pot" and make an endorsement for the Democratic Commissioner ticket. Minority Commissioner Mike Washo has said as far back as December that his decisiuon on a running mate will be coming soon. O'Brien has talk shows on Fox TV as well as WILK Radio, has been a member of the Clinton administration in Washington and is legal counsel to the Mohegan Sun Casino Group in Plains.