January 31, 2007

Who Not to Vote For in the Democratic Primary

Joe Biden:

[in reference to Barack Obama): "you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy... I mean, that’s a storybook, man."

What a fucking racist.

Edit: I want to be sure it doesn't seem like I'm just throwing out a charge of racism recklessly.

The key here is the word "mainstream." What Biden means by "mainstream" is "white enough for whites to feel represented by him." Biden would probably even himself admit that this is his basic meaning—he's making the case that Obama is the first black national figure who is "white" enough that whites look at him and see themselves represented to some extent.

The racism kicks in when you consider that Biden connects being articulate, bright, and clean to being mainstream; the all too overt implication is that being "more white" means being more articulate, bright, and clean. That is racism, plain and simple.

51 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:31 AM

    I hope there's some context that would explain that at least somewhat.

    In this article, Biden says there is, and Obama says he's not offended, but I'm still not sure what Biden meant to say.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20070201-121837-7232r.htm

    My best guess is that he's saying Obama is the first legitimate black presidential candidate who appeals to the mainstream and doesn't have any obvious flaws. This is debatable, as Jesse Jackson had a solid showing in 1988, but it's not unreasonable to suggest that he didn't appeal to the mainstream.

    I don't know what to make of this. Part of me thinks that Biden was wrong to say what he said, and another part thinks that it's unfair to require everyone to walk on eggshells when discussing race.

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  2. Everyone is going to get caught saying idiotic things in this campaign, but Biden is going to be especially entertaining. He's a liberal who doesn't realize he's racist, and thats why he slips up like this. Biden thinks he meant to say that Obama is clean and mainstream and attractive, and is the first candidate with such broad appeal who happens to be African-American.
    But of course, when anybody starts relying on the "happens to be," it's an indication of the fact that they (like most) have trouble disassociating race from the way they view people.
    He fucked up last year when talking to an Indian-American political activist, dropping this gem: "In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian-Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking."
    He means well, probably wishes race didn't figure so prominently in how he views people, but hey - sometimes its liberals trying not to be racist that fuck it up the most, because their preoccupation with not being racist makes it impossible to ignore.

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  3. Oh, here's another

    Yukking it up with a Republican audience back home, he spoke about Delaware, noting it was a “slave state that fought beside the North. That’s only because we couldn’t figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way.”

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  4. Anonymous1:08 PM

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/washington/02cnd-biden.html?ei=5065&en=ef2e1f1bb7a627da&ex=1170910800&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print

    This pulls more of it together, though with a lot of the same language from the stuff already posted here.

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  5. It's not racist; when you put it in context, it's true. By "clean," Biden didn't mean bathes regularly, he meant "fresh," as in new ideas. And among other black leaders, which of the impressive, articulate ones have been mainstream? Sharpton and Jackson Sr. aren't wildly popular. Artur Davis isn't that high-profile. MLK is a hero now, but wasn't so popular in his day - even RFK wiretapped him. And let's discount Rice and Powell, given the partisan nature of a presidential primary. It's sad, but since when does sad mean not true?

    Anyone who talks as much as Biden is going to drop a word from a sentence here and there. They are going to get their meaning garbled in their words from time to time. He just needs to talk less, but there's nothing wrong with his meaning. This man is no racist.

    I am a proud member of the Biden for President NH Steering Committee. This guy's got the only real plan for Iraq beyond "end it" and "don't escalate," he's the author of the Violence Against Women Act and Biden Crime Bill, and he has the respect of the Foreign Relations Council.

    Here's who you really shouldn't vote for: http://mydd.com/story/2007/1/31/212536/298

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  6. I don't see too much wrong with the 7/11 quip either, Niral. It's a well-known fact that a high number of such stores are owned by Indians, Pakistanis, or similar ethnicities. Hence the Simpsons' Apu character. And why is this a bad thing? So a certain group of immigrants found a niche market to succeed in. Good. We're a capitalist country, that's a success story, it's not a bad thing. And if it's such a fact, why hide from it?

    And he's right. Deleware was a slave state. He said this in response to a question about whether he could win in the South, and he was saying Deleware, as a border state with slaves, has more in common with Southern heritage than Northeastern heritage. Is it a stretch? Sure, but put it in context and criticize it for the right reasons.

    This man is no racist. He's the man who should be our nominee.

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  7. Delaware. Oops. I'd cite typo, but I did it twice.

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  8. Either Biden's racist but tries to stifle it, or he's not, but tries too hard. Either way, he's not as bad as some blatantly racist legislators out there. But it's besides the point. He's a fucking moron, like literally lacks the intellect to argue his way out of a paper bag, has absolutely no fucking tact and is thoroughly unelectable...
    But, on the 7/11 thing...the fact that its a common stereotype of South Asians doesn't make Apu a defensible character. Its the Simpsons, its funny, I get it, but its also barely a few notches above blackface. Its this stupid exaggerated accent with atrocious English, a plot device for stupid quips that further misconceptions of Indian culture, and, well fuck Apu too.
    As for how much he talks, yeah, he's a prick about it. Despite having a position on the war that he's taken up to posture himself as a middle-of-the-road candidate (which is always a brilliant primaries strategy), he's a bit too late on the anti-war bandwagon. He manages to piss off every single person on the FR committee with him by interrupting them and never shutting the fuck up.
    So Biden, even if he's not racist, even if you forgive him for the idiotic things that come out of his mouth, the plagiarized speech in his 88 campaign for the nomination, his incoherent policy stances based on pandering more than principle or knowledge, and that MBNA legislation, and his weak as fuck platform
    oh wait.
    Joe Biden can go eat a bag of dicks.
    Nathan, he's a waste of your time. And I don't need to pull the racism card to discredit him - even if his policy ideas were sound (they're not), he's got a track record of fuckups. Let's all resign ourselves to the inevitable and start defending Hillary any time she comes up in conversation. its gotta start somewhere

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  9. You're the first person I've ever heard call Biden stupid. He's generally regarded as one of the smartest, brightest Senators.

    I wouldn't call him anti-war. More anti-war than many, and certainly anti-incompetence, but not anti-war. What makes him middle of the road is how often he works with respectable Republicans like Hagel and Lugar. You may be right about tact, though.

    Hillary's campaign is based on the "It's inevitable" platform. Live free or die, I say. I'll vote for who I bloody well want, and if the rest of NH would remember that, it's possible someone could beat her. Remember, there's a year to go.

    As for '88: Biden came to the Senate as a young hothead, but has matured into one of its elder statesmen. No one is the same person today they were twenty years ago. And in a world where we face problems like Iraq, Iran, North Korea, loose nukes, al Qaeda, Darfur, Russian power grabs, climate change, Gulf Coast incompetence, health care issues, and more... I think I'll let '88 slide. Especially when you consider that holy grail of college sources, Wikipedia: "After Biden withdrew from the race, it was learned that he had correctly credited Kinnock on other occasions but failed to do so in an Iowa speech that was recorded and distributed to reporters by aides to Michael Dukakis."

    You're persuasive about Apu and that comment, though, so I should cede that.

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  10. "he has the respect of the Foreign Relations Council."

    And? Your point is? The Washington foreign establishment that went along with the Iraq war also loves Biden?

    (I'm assuming you mean the Council on Foreign Relations)

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  11. 'As for '88: Biden came to the Senate as a young hothead, but has matured into one of its elder statesmen. No one is the same person today they were twenty years ago."

    Biden apparently is the same gaffe machine he was some odd years ago.

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  12. Nathan- you said you conceded the Apu thing. So then what do you think of his 7/11 comment?

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  13. "Especially when you consider that holy grail of college sources, Wikipedia:"

    Holy grail? "college sources"? Like when you need to write a paper and the first thing you look at is wikipedia? This a defense of Biden?

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  14. "Anyone who talks as much as Biden is going to drop a word from a sentence here and there. They are going to get their meaning garbled in their words from time to time. He just needs to talk less, but there's nothing wrong with his meaning."

    Biden talk less? Impossible. And you say the inevitable consequence of such a big talker is gaffes. So the inevitable consequence of a Biden candidancy is gaffes. We can do better. Unless you want to maintain that Biden, who hasn't learned how to stop his mouth in the last 20 years (on his way to becoming his elder statesmen), is suddenly going to learn now. If wishes were ponies...

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  15. Nathan,

    Let me just say that Biden's comment as you describe it was really fucked up.

    "And he's right. Deleware was a slave state. He said this in response to a question about whether he could win in the South, and he was saying Deleware, as a border state with slaves, has more in common with Southern heritage than Northeastern heritage. Is it a stretch? Sure, but put it in context and criticize it for the right reasons."

    What "context" do you mean? Biden is appealing to Southerners by saying, hey we were a SLAVE state too. Is that the right reason to criticize him?

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  16. Timothy,

    The 7/11 comment was innapropriate.

    Wiki - "holy grail" was sarcastic. I would never cite it in a paper, though for conversations like this and higher trafficed articles like Biden, it's generally reliable.

    Council on Foreign Relations. Excuse me, you're right. Yes, the group that was misled by bad WMD. The group starring Madeline Albright and, one of my favorites, James Fallows.

    DE/Slave state - He wasn't trying to appeal to Southerners. He was talking strategy with pundits - why he thought he could win. Not that he would pitch it that way, but that it was the background info, the atmosphere of DE and the South that all candidates would have to contend with. 'Twas analysis, not a stump speech or a pitch.

    Gaffes/candidacy of them - I don't look for someone who will make a good candidate. I look for someone who will make a good President, and then work hard to craft the campaign to get them elected despite their campaign flaws. I'm not a True Believer, but I'm not a gamer, either.

    Racism: Newsweek: "It is a credit to Biden that, considering this record, hardly anyone is suggesting he might actual harbor racist feelings. He simply cannot control what comes out of his mouth." I think that's more damning of his political skills than his personal character, intelligence, and qualifications. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16933246/site/newsweek/)

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  17. I can't find anything, other than conservative blogs, on whether or not Biden apologized for the 7/11 remark.

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  18. Biden's wrong on policy and politics.

    He's a tool of the credit card companies. He's never been a strong enough voice against the Iraq war. He's endorsing the 'incompetance dodge'.

    If I wanted someone moderate, I'd go with Hilary. Her main problem is electability, but hey... if you say Biden can't keep his mouth shut...

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  19. "I can't find anything, other than conservative blogs, on whether or not Biden apologized for the 7/11 remark."

    Well, that doesn't tell us your assessment of Biden's comment. Originally you thought it fine. Presumably you don't need to know Biden's reaction to tell us whether you thought it was worth apologizing for the comment.

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  20. "Wiki - "holy grail" was sarcastic. I would never cite it in a paper,"

    Nathan- sorry I didn't pick up the sarcasm. I'm touches because I have seen such papers.

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  21. On the idea that Biden was engaging merely with political analysts on Delaware, that could be possible Nathan, BUT look where he said it, and who he said it to. Consider the context:

    In November, Biden joked about South Carolina's Confederate past at a Rotary Club meeting in Columbia after organizers said their Christmas party at the Department of Archives and History would include a chance to see the state's original copy of the Articles of Secession.

    Biden noted Delaware was "a slave state that fought beside the North. That's only because we couldn't figure out how to get to the South -- there were a couple of other states in the way."


    http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/15/democrats.king.ap/index.html

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  22. Anyway, Nathan, If I go on, I'm probably just going to repeat all the bad things I've heard about Biden about lefty blogs over the years. Cheers.

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  23. Anonymous1:14 AM

    Whatever, Biden's kinda right. Al Sharpton's dirty as a dog.

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  24. Timothy,

    7-11: No, wondering about an apology doesn't explain my position, but look at my last lengthy post. I said ok, the remark was inappropriate.

    DE/slave state - Hm, I've seen that before, but had forgotten about it. It muddles things, you can't really be sure what he meant. My guess is he was just trying to fit in in a room where he usually wouldn't. That's something a lot of people, particularly politicians, feel compulsively they want to try to do. Maybe it's a character flaw in the same vein as yakking, but it's not racism.

    Electability: Hillary is considered "unelectable" not because of her persona, but because she's seen as a power-grabbing evil liberal. Which is wrong, but it's the perception. Kerry lost not because he was seen as a windbad (though he was and is), but because he was seen as a flip-flopper. So, Biden's electability wouldn't factor on persona, either; it would be about policy. And you can disagree about policy, but that's not what most of this comment discussion has been about.

    Opposing war - no, Biden never really did stand up against the war, although he did change the initial bill W brought in '03 from attack-any-country-any-time-on-my-own to maybe-attack-Iraq-with-Congressional-backing. Biden/Lugar also had an amendment that would force the President to come back to Congress again before the actual war - making the bill that pass giving him muscle but not the ability to use it - sadly, that amendment failed. And then all along the way, Biden called mistakes and proposed alternative paths. He wouldn't be my guy in '02-'03 or even '04, but we're past stopping the start of the war. The '06-'08 position, what they'll actually do, forward looking, is important now.

    The bankruptcy bill did suck, and I was ticked about that, but Carper voted for it too, and I'm guessing if Boxer and Kerry were from Delaware so would they. Sigh. Politics.

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  25. well, at least he sort of held his own on the daily show. he came off as a bit of a tool, but most congressfolk do, and at least he was marginally sincere-seeming.
    although, he is all up in this 'war on drugs' business, which is a pretty stark failure...
    but anyway, all that aside, i'd be surprised if he made it past the first few primaries next year.

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  26. "I said ok, the remark was inappropriate."

    You did. I missed that last night. My bad.

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  27. "My guess is he was just trying to fit in in a room where he usually wouldn't. That's something a lot of people, particularly politicians, feel compulsively they want to try to do. Maybe it's a character flaw in the same vein as yakking, but it's not racism."

    I think you should rethink using this defense. He's bonding over the fact that he's from a slave state?

    Generally speaking, it can be wrong for a politician to "try to fit in". It rightly gets him into a lot of trouble. This is not the same as Trent Lott's defense (I was just honoring a man at his birthday), but Lott does show the problem with using the "it was the situation, and I was just trying to be a good-ole-boy" defense.

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  28. "So, Biden's electability wouldn't factor on persona, either; it would be about policy"

    Uh, I don't understand the argument for this conclusion. I missed the logic here.

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  29. Nathan: "...we're past stopping the start of the war."

    I'm not sure how to respond to this. If Biden's great virtue is his foreign policy experience, and he still hasn't seen that what was wrong with the Iraq war was more than just how it was implemented, then he's not going to be a good President who has good judgment on foreign policy. And no, the fact that the "establishment" Council on Foreign Relations likes him means litte if the foreign policy "establishment" a group has had a remarkably bad track record recently.

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  30. And Biden/Luger was a good thing- imagine if Bush had had to come back and certify. But he still voted for the resolution with that amendment (as did Kerry).

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  31. by the way, Biden is adopting the "comma" defense on Al Sharpton's radio show. This means he is trying to claim that his statement was not trying to diss Al or Jessie Jackson.

    (btw- Nathan- stop with the insult that no black "mainstream" leader has had these qualities. It's pretty clear that Biden was only referring to Presidential candidates, not all leaders. And now with the comma defense, he says he was not even claiming that.)

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  32. Sorry, the "comma defense" is explained here:

    http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/012209.php

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  33. Matt Stoller on myDD.com has this to say about Biden: "My problem with Joe Biden is that he is crippled by a severe narcissism that clouds his judgment and capacity to learn. Biden has a serious judgment problem, and his instincts lean against progressive positions and against what is good for America."

    He lists Biden's problems on race, his bad judgment in foreign policy, and his pushing of the backruptcy bill

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  34. Timothy, what I meant by "So, Biden's electability wouldn't factor on persona, either; it would be about policy" is peoplea re viewed as unelectable because of controversial policy-based negatives (Gore liar, Kerry flip-flop, HRC "ultra liberal"), not persona problems (Biden yakyak). There are no such policy negatives affixed to Biden in the MSM, so the unelectablity factors that harm other candidates aren't so severe with Biden.

    Not sure if Biden has expressed regret about his '03 war vote or not, but I know he's as upset as anyone about being duped on the WMD front, having felt W would let the weapons inspectors finish their job. Had he known W wouldn't allow that, he probably would have voted differently. But what counts now is how you deal with the current situation, and I like his plan for that.

    CFR was subject to W's lies and Powell's perception, the standard defense. I will say this: Fallows is great.

    You're right, "it was the situation" defense is not a good one - but that doesn't mean it's not true. It's a problem, but a different kind of problem than racism. And it's one that plagues many people with good experience and policy qualifications.

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  35. Any Senator from DE would push the bankruptcy bill. It's dumb, but it's politics, and if you put any other candidate in those shoes, they do the same dumb thing. The question is, would a President from the whole Electoral College do same?

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  36. Anonymous7:33 PM

    Racism isn't about whose feelings get hurt; it's about ensuring basic rights are protected. Pointing out a mistake of speech that a man made and apologized for just makes your blog petty and intellectually irresponsible.

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  37. Biden will make gaffes => gaffes make news => media focuses on them, not policy.

    I don't understand why you find this hard to understand.

    Keep in mind that Kerry's reputation for flip flopping in good part from his: i voted for it before i voted against it.

    Also, at best you can argue that Biden won't suffer because of his personality. He won't be BETTER off than the other candidates. The GOP smear machine will go after anyone. (the Gore lying thing is mainly a media manufactured thing, if you don't know.)

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  38. presidents help their donors.

    Biden gets lots of donations for the credit card companies.

    Yes, he will likely aid them in office.

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  39. "Racism isn't about whose feelings get hurt; it's about ensuring basic rights are protected."

    Sidenote: Obama's feelings weren't hurt. He doesn't think the race should be about this.

    However, let's take a look at the contention of this anonymous poster. Are you saying that racism is only about protecting basic right? I assume you don't think that Kramer violated any one's basic rights. Yet, he's racist, right? So why reduce racism to ONLY a violation of basic rights? If you hurl a racial insult at someone else, that isn't racism? If I use the N-word, that isn't racism? (Or are you a lefty who think that being called the N-word is a violation of basic rights?) You could argue that Biden's statement isn't as bad. Fine. Then make that argument, not that speech does't haven't anything to do with racism. To argue that racism is only about basic rights is well silly. Maybe you didn't mean that anonymous. No big deal: just be intellectually responsible and rephrase what you meant.

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  40. Anonymous9:17 PM

    Tim, aren't you like 40 by now? Isn't it time to stop fighting blog-offs with undergrads and cherche la femme, peut etre?

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  41. Anon,

    Tim isn't fighting with undergrads - he's discussing the Biden campaign with a representative of that campaign (NH Steering Committee), and is attempting to educate the next generation of fellow NAS students. :P

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  42. Timothy,

    Biden's personality won't hurt him is the crux of the argument I was making there.

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  43. "I don't understand why you find this hard to understand."

    I hate it when people pull a line like this. Disagreeing with you over something, or emphasizing other parts of the subject, is NOT the same thing as misunderstanding you. Understanding doesn't always lead to the same position, and a failure to grasp that has often damned the left.


    Yes, the Gore lying thing was very much media manufactured, just as, I think, the Kerry flipflops, Bush stupidity, Dean crazy, and HRC extreme liberalism are all over-hyped by the media, as well (though it's toned down somewhat on HRC). It makes for good stories. That's sad and wrong, but my point was media coverage/voter perception, not actual truth.

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  44. "Biden will make gaffes => gaffes make news => media focuses on them, not policy."

    I look for the candidate who would make the best President, and then work hard to get him/her to the White House. Just how hard we'll have to work is an afterthought - qualifications for the actual job come first. This is also, I believe, on a sidenote, the approach Presidential nominees should take to picking running mates: 1) Be from a different geographic region so that our government may reflect our populace, and 2) Be who you would want to run if you weren't running, given that you might die and leave us him/her as our President. But maybe I'm too much of an idealist.

    Seal told me today, btw, that he didn't expect this post to get ANY comments, much less 40+. Heads up, Andrew: expect all Biden posts to get comments. :)

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  45. Anonymous6:19 PM

    what happened to that unassuming seal who wouldnt leave his room or talk to girls? ur nuts these days

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  46. Anonymous7:14 PM

    Seal - your update is wrong. Biden would NOT, I don't believe, himself say that that was what he meant.

    -Nathan Empsall, tired of relogging in all the time

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  47. Nathan- you can be an idealist or not. That's up to you, and we can disagree about which it is better to be. If I were voting for the ideal President, I wouldn't vote for Biden. We disagree on this, but we do understand each other. I were voting on who is like to fare better in a campaign, I would definitely not choose Biden. You don't seem to understand me here. I'm saying Biden is as or (much) more vulnerable to bad media portrayal because of his gaffes. (And he is therefore less electable.) You have two defense of Biden against this argument (it seems): (1) Other candidates have personality problems, but Biden does not, so he should be fine. (2) We should not use this criteria, but should elect based on who we think should be the ideal president.

    Response (2) is fine, but it says NOTHING to people who want to judge, and think we should judge on non-ideal grounds OR to people who think that Biden is not the ideal candidate.

    Response (1) would be fine, except you have presented NO evidence for it. I think the opposite is obviously true.

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  48. "Biden's personality won't hurt him is the crux of the argument I was making there"

    Again, this is what I don't understand. If you were saying it might hurt him, but Biden is the better president, I would understand that.

    You admit that the media distorted things about Gore. Gore gave them some ammunition, but what Biden says is even bigger ammunition. You don't think that he'll produce a bunch of gaffes that the media will jump on? You don't think this will occupy his campaign? (and to some extent crowd out campaigning on substances). You could argue this treatment by the media would happen to any Democrat. But you don't say that. And I think Biden is particularly vulnerable because he is a gaffe maachine. I'm saying: I don't understand why you don't get this point. If you don't like that, then: you have given no real argument against what I say. If you think you have, tell me what it is.

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  49. Travis9:16 PM

    Oh, Nasty Nate...

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  50. Carlos11:12 AM

    Nathan: Niral is the first person to call Joe Biden stupid? Let’s examine some of the Google results for “Joe Biden” and “stupid.” This excludes the many more from the GOP and other conservatives.

    “Biden is a Moron” –The Democratic Veteran webblog on Joe Biden

    “Joe Biden: moron racist, or poorly transcribed?” –headline from The Economist online edition about Joe Biden

    “Joe Biden has a history of saying crazy, stupid stuff.” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) on Joe Biden

    “Wow, that was a stupid thing I said and I'm sorry.” -Joe Biden on Joe Biden

    I’m sure that Joe Biden is well regarded among the members of the Biden for President NH Steering Committee, but it seems clear that opinions about him in the rest of the world seem to be a bit more mixed.

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  51. Carlos - The Democratic Veteran weblog? I don't count random blogs as credible opinions.

    The Economist didn't call him stupid, it asked a question.

    Cleaver and Biden himself weren't calling Biden stupid; they were calling his remarks stupid. The entirety of a person and one sentence they once happened to say are not the same thing.

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