Oh No, Poor Joe!

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In 1988, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush campaigned to succeed his boss, President Ronald Reagan, in the big chair down the hall. Although Bush was facing the difficult task of filling some of the largest shoes ever to tread the carpet in the Oval Office, the Democrats responded with the very mere Michael Dukakis, the Lilliputian liberal Governor of Massachussetts.

Despite the presence of Dukakis’ somewhat less ridiculous running mate, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, it became abundantly clear early on that Dukakis could offer little more than enough of a campaign to convince the Democrats to nominate him over an extraordinarily weak field.

Given the massive shortcomings of their ticket, the Democrats chose to try to convince voters that Bush’s running mate — Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana — was too stupid to leave alone in the Naval Observatory, much less the Oval Office. Fortunately, Quayle played into their hands with a series of miscues which were embarrassing enough to give the electorate pause, however brief. As the election approached, Dukakis continued to come up short in nearly every category, prompting The Chicago Tribune to suggest they try the old Herbert Humphrey ’68 tactic of scaring the voters with the spectre of an unprepared Vice President: “The Democrats have been running against George Bush and Ronald Reagan. They ought to be running against Dan Quayle.” So, Dukakis tried the Humphrey suit on for size:

If (then-Vice President Bush) truly believes that Dan Quayle is qualified to be one heartbeat away from the presidency, how can we trust his judgment when America`s future is on the line?

But Dukakis simply didn’t rise to the Presidential challenge, and returned to his Bay State bog.

Meanwhile, one of his erstwhile primary challengers returned to his Senate office. Senator Joe Biden kept a high enough profile to return to the Presidential arena in 2008, this time as the theoretical Bentsen to Barack Obama’s Dukakis. And the Democrats forgot all about their effort to terrify voters into voting based on the cardiac proximity to the Presidency of a grossly underqualified — and, therefore, potentially dangerous — gaffe machine.

And what a gaffe machine Biden has turned out to be. Where Quayle’s spelling was as atrocious as President Obama’s geography, Biden appears incapable of leaving his office without tripping over his own tongue. Whether he’s:

  • Displaying nary a shred of racial prejudice: “You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent…I’m not joking.”
  • Showing sensitivity to the handicapped by exhorting wheelchair-bound Missouri state Senator Chuck Graham to “Stand up, Chuck, let ‘em see ya!”
  • Or proving himself to be a spelling bee rival to Quayle: “…a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs.”

Biden suffers from the sort of verbal diarrhea which makes opposition researchers feel all warm and fuzzy. However, none of his previous rhetorical missteps could have prepared us for last week’s gallop to goofy-town. Speaking to the liberal glossy Newsweek, Biden blurted out this blooper:

Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical…There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy.

Forget Dan Quayle; even former Vice President Walter Mondale would have raised an eyebrow at that blunder — and he played second fiddle to the guy who lost the Battle of the Chattahoochee Bunny. The idea that anyone allowed inside the West Wing would so casually dismiss a movement as evil and committed to destroying freedom (which would include U.S., Mr. Vice President) as the Taliban is slasher-movie scary. This is the man Barack Obama wants “one heartbeat away from the Presidency?” Even prominent Democrats have begun hinting at showing Biden the front door and welcoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the back.

To be fair, Obama’s own Presidential resume is weak enough to allow for a fight to the finish next fall. And in an Administration which includes Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and their ilk, Biden is far from the lone embarrassment on the roster. But if Obama chooses to keep a backup as appallingly underqualified as Biden on the ticket, then the GOP should absolutely — and fairly — question the competency of a President who would keep him that proverbial heartbeat from the Presidency.

–Ben Crystal

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.