5 Things We Wish Joe Biden Didn’t Say
Regardless of his politics, you have to love Vice President Joe Biden’s ability to put his foot in his mouth. His off-the-cuff remarks are often entertaining, but every now and then he does say something he really — seriously — shouldn’t have, like disclosing a private conversation with another country’s president. Here are five examples.
1. Sharing his conversation with Turkey’s president
Biden was actually forced to apologize for this one. When discussing Middle East efforts to oust the current Syrian government in a speech at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government this month, he revealed that in a private conversation Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told him, “You were right. We let too many people through. Now we are trying to seal the border.”
Erdogan denied that Turkey’s border was responsible for the crossing of militants in Syria and Iraq and demanded an apology from the vice president. “The vice president apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,” a spokeswoman for Biden said, according to The New York Times.
2. Assuming Syria needs an American hero
As it was made in the same speech in which Biden spilled his conversation with Erdogan, most media outlets overlooked this comment: “Americans think in every country in transition there’s a Thomas Jefferson hiding behind some rock or a James Madison beyond one sand dune.” But The Wall Street Journal caught it, and we agree with its assessment. The statement is rather ethnocentric, and it’s pretty offensive to overlook the Syrians who have faced dangerous conditions to revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
3. Calling Barack Obama the “first mainstream African-American”
When they were still rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination for the 2008 elections, Biden said of Obama, “I mean, 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.” Unsurprisingly, this comment was received as rather ignorant.
In the the midst of a campaign, Obama responded carefully, but pointed out the inaccuracy of the statement, without commenting on its offensive nature. “I didn’t take Senator Biden’s comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate,” he said, according to ABC News. “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, and no one would call them inarticulate.”
4. Telling a crowd Republicans would put them “all back in chains”
Speaking to a crowd in Danville, N.C., in 2012, Biden said of the GOP’s attempts to change regulations on Wall Street, “Romney wants to, he said in the first 100 days, he’s gonna let the big banks again write their own rules,” Biden said. “‘Unchain Wall Street!’ They’re going to put you all back in chains.” The comment was rather controversial because Danville’s population is nearly 48% black, and the metaphorical chains Biden spoke of suggest a connotation of slavery.
Romney’s team was obviously outraged and called the comment slanderous. Obama’s campaign quickly stepped in to clarify, saying, “the vice president was clearly using a metaphor to describe the devastating impact of deregulating Wall Street and the financial industry, as well as how Governor Romney’s policies would take us back to the same failed formula that led to the 2008 financial crisis.” We still think there was a better way Biden could have made this critique of Republicans.
5. On getting the stimulus package “wrong”
This one sounds kind of funny, until you hear he was talking about $900 billion. Discussing possible repercussions for Democratic support of the $900 billion economic stimulus package, Biden said in 2009, “If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there’s still a 30% chance we’re going to get it wrong.” Add the fact that he said this in reference to a meeting he’d had with Obama and senior advisers, and, yes, this remark is definitely worrisome and something he should’ve left unsaid.