January 31, 2007

"The word that got me in trouble is using the word 'clean.' I should have said 'fresh.' What I meant is: he's got new ideas."

Joe Biden is on "The Daily Show" tonight, and Jon Stewart confronts him with his dreadful quote about Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

(I wrote about the quote earlier today. And Best of the Web wrote about it here and connected it to my earlier post suggesting that there was racism implicit in the excessive praise we've been hearing for Obama.)

So how does Biden deal with it? He smiles very broadly (while audience members boo), then says: "Well, let me tell you something. I spoke to Barack today...." Stewart butts in: "I bet you did." Another big, toothy smile from Joe, and then: "I also spoke to Jesse and Al Sharpton and uh..." Stewart butts in again: "And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on. The Jackson 5. Who else?" Biden: "Michael didn't call me. Look, what I was attempting to be was not very artfully [sic] was complimentary. This is an incredible guy. This is a phenomenon. This guy is... And look, the other part of this thing is... I... The word that got me in trouble is using the word 'clean.' I should have said 'fresh.' What I meant is he's got new ideas. He a new guy on the block. And... it's not workin', right?"

Oh, man, is that not workin' out. No one says "clean" to mean "fresh" in the sense of new ideas! It's like they took out the thesaurus and looked up "clean" to fish around for other words that he could say he meant. Yeah, "fresh" is a substitute for "clean" maybe in some ad for soap or some feminine hygiene product. But no one stumbles into "clean" when they're going for "fresh ideas." And there's no "clean guy on the block."

Stewart does a bit where he repunctuates the quote, but it's not too clever. Biden does that smile again and kids "That's what I meant to say." Stewart asks if he feels like that guy in the Maxell ad:

And Biden says "I kinda did," and then "It reminded me: Welcome back to presidential politics" -- as if the response he got was somehow exaggerated and unfair.

How hopelessly inept! Ironically, the message he wanted to get out in his interview was that Bush is hopelessly inept and the next President must be someone with the sort of practiced competence that you aren't going to find in Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, that you'll have to come to Joe Biden for. What a joke!


XWL said...

Having been in the Senate for more than half of your life (first elected to the Senate in 1972 at the age of 30) has got to do strange things to a person.

And Senatorial term limits would be bad because?

The Counterfactualist said...

I don't think Biden meant fresh when he said clean. I think he's lying to make the problem go away. But I don't think he meant something racist when he said clean.

I think Biden's point was that Obama is a mainstream candidate with a lot of great qualities and that most of the previous "serious" black candidates have been rhyming racial mudslingers. Now, this isn't exactly true, given Carol Mosley Braun. But she wasn't really a serious candidate.

I understand that logic that he was either saying that Sharpton and Jackson were not mainstream or that both were either unclean, stupid, or inarticulate. First of all, an argument can be made that Sharpton is not mainstream, that Jackson's and Sharpton's racial shakedowns make them unclean, that Sharpton is not the sharpest tack around, that Jackson's rhyming palaver is often incoherent and deserving of mockery, and that Sharpton, who used to babble like an idiot, had drastically improved his public speaking skills, but still is not what one would call articulate.

But Biden absolutely did not mean that Sharpton or Jackson bathe less than Obama. That's just a cheap shot at Biden, who was praising Obama as a means of suggesting Obama is too good to be true. And, if you look a Biden's remarks, he mentions Obama in passing. The greater chunk deals with Edwards and Hillary.

I think the more important story is that Biden ripped Edwards for lacking any coherent understanding of foreign policy and ripped Hillary for triangulating on important foreign policy matters in a way likely to poll well but result in disaster. He might as well have said "The last time the Clintons were in the White House they dropped the ball on Osama and gave nuclear reactors to North Korea."

In conclusion, I think Matt Drudge is an asshole.

John Stodder said...

I think Biden's just thick. Like his ancestors.

Maxine Weiss said...

Yes, patronizing smile---the smarmy smile that says he-knows-far-more-than-you-do, because of his lifetime tenure.

He'll clarify things for the confused masses who haven't had the privilege of being a career lifer.

The Founding Fathers warned us about people like him.

John Stodder said...

Not to give him an out, but it occured to me that he might have meant "clean-cut."

vbspurs said...

Not to give him an out, but it occured to me that he might have meant "clean-cut."

Hey, guys, I think John just figured out what Joe Biden meant to say. That sounds very plausible.


vbspurs said...

...but, if that's what he meant to say, why didn't he just say "clean-cut" on the Daily Show, right?

I think Joe Biden is so thick, his "it's on the tip of my tongue"-ism might not have figured it out yet.

I mean, even President Bush wouldn't make this associational mistake, and that's saying something.


vbspurs said...

...okay, my third post in a row about this, but bear with me, for some reason this "clean" malapropism is like peanut butter on the roof of your mind -- you can't get rid of it.

So, I'm thinking, John and doubtlessly others may have figured out that Biden meant to say "clean-cut".

So why didn't Biden just say that, on the Daily Show tonight?

Not to mix my pitching with my batting metaphors, but I think he was trying for the home-run save:

Sure, he knows he meant 'clean-cut', but at this stage, after having frikkin' called half of black America to explain his slip-of-the-tongue, he suspects 'clean-cut' is just too weak.

So he went for what he considers to be a stronger explanation, that he meant "fresh" as in ideas.

That, or he's an utter dipstick.


PeterP said...

So is it Biden as in 'Bid farewell to my candidacy' or as in simply 'Bye then folks'?

Anonymous said...

The day before this huge, gigantic "scandal" broke, I watched "A Hard Day's Night."

Remember the joke about Paul's grandfather being "clean"?

I think it was an innocent faux pas on Biden's part. It merely reflects his working-class English background.

PeterP said...

It merely reflects his working-class English background.

"I'm clean guv." - Working class English expression for "Whatever you may be thinking, you'll not find the evidence to pin this one on me Detective Constable."

"I'll come clean guv'nor." - Working class English expression for "All right, there is a shedload of circumstantial evidence you could nick me for, so I will admit to some small portion of the offence just to get you off my back, Detective Inspector."

"Cleaned out." - Working class English expression for "Sorry Mavis, I've got a five stretch for this one. Look after the kids for me while I'm inside."

KCFleming said...

Joe Biden's smile is insufferable; it goes on and off like a cheap motel sign. It is unattached to any emotion one would associate with "smile now." It's smarmy and condescending and therefore is not a smile at all, but instead reminds one of a fox or wolf baring its teeth before biting.

On full display during Chief Justice Robert's hearings, it drove me to think, "Why hasn't anyone slugged him yet?"

Sixty Bricks said...

Joe Biden. A guy like this is actually a force in running the country. Makes me sick.

RogerA said...

There is a war in Iraq the Democrats could get us out of tomorrow by cutting funding; social security and medicare will both be bankrupt in the foreseeable future, there are significant foreign policy issues with respect to east Asia and the Mid East--and the level of presidential debate is about the use of the word "clean" if it Trent Lott's verbal misstep was worse than Joe Biden's.

I love our priorities

drew said...

Sen Biden continues to be a verbal loose cannon; apparently, ever since he was able to stonewall his own issues related to his plagiarism of some British politician's speeches some years ago.

He probably believes that the smile you (an many others) refer to is some sort of anti-kryptonite; i.e., that it manages to mesmerize all the folks who might otherwise find his comments lacking (or, leaking) and forestalls any further question(s) or comment(s).

As stated earlier, he's a walking example of the need for term limits in the Senate, or (alternatively) massive voter-competency tests in his home electorate.

Al Maviva said...

By clean he probably meant "he hasn't instigated a violent race riot culminating in deaths, or spent his entire life trying to turn "race hustler" into a respectable occupational choice."

As for: "It reminded me: Welcome back to presidential politics," it reminded me of the classic Jerry Glanville comment to a referee: "This is the NFL, and that stands for 'not for long,' with calls like that."

AllenS said...

Senator Biden has just committed hari-Kerry.

Bruce Hayden said...

What does a Senator do who has spent half his lifetime in the Senate and is bored silly, despite having an IQ probably lower than his body temperature? Run for president, of course.

Here in Colorado, it appears you have to go back to the 1950s or so to find a Senator serving more than two terms. And that is the way I like it.

What we see when Sens. and Reps. stay too long in office is corruption and ineptitude. It is no surprise that Sen. Byrd is currently both the longest serving and the best at getting pork for his state.

The amazing thing is that anyone takes Biden even 10% seriously whenever he gets bored enough to run for president. And it is esp. ridiculous this time, since we have had six years so far of a verbally inept president, and Biden is worse. One thing that is likely this time around is that we get a much more verbally adept president, in reaction to Bush, and not someone like Biden who is worse.

But at least with Bush, there is evidence that his analytical skills greatly outpace his verbal skills (as evidence, for example, by his higher math SAT scores than his verbal ones). Biden seems to be both verbally inept AND stupid.

Jazz Bass said...

The man got hair plugs. He's a car salesman, period. Nixon had more personality and a better grasp of the big picture, especially for a career politician.

Look at it this way: One less to cull later.

I'm putting my money on the carpetbagger from Illinois and the white black man with the big ears. They will show those dumb hicks what enlightened voters know, and how, as they shake their blue-state of mind fist

Wade Garrett said...


You're right -- our problem is that our elected officials are too experienced. What we need more of are johnny-come-lately sons of privilege who aren't serious or intelligent enough to run for office in the first place. This is ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuur country.

As for the commentors who have suggested that the media would have come down harder on Trent Lott for making the same comments, well, you're right, because Lott, but not Biden, has a history of pandering to white racism to win elections. You sleep in the bed you make.

eelpout said...

Biden is creepiest of creeps, and everything that is wrong about the Democratic Party. He chastises his fellow Democrats for not screaming atop rooftops loudly enough during the Iraq buildup, and even claiming that Democrats were letting the Republicans "get away" with stealing a Democratic idea. Then takes a courageous machine-generated focus group approved call for Rumsfeld's resignation. And now suddenly he is a foreign policy expert, and we are to listen to him? He couldn't put a round peg into a round hole.

This clown has taken hundreds of thousands from credit companies, sides with banking lobbies over his constiuents, and even blocked an amendment that would have exempted soldiers in Iraq from losing their homes during deployment, and some debt protection for spouses of slain servicemen. He is just another corporate whore that gladly spreads his legs for his donors, and the only thing he has to solve is how much he can sell his donor's policies "back home" that they paid him to enact.

It's one giant Incumbency Protection Racket who's election campaigns are run by the same companies that sell you toothpaste and tampons.

WhatsAPundit said...

Considering recent history, this ensures the Iowa Caucuses will undoubtedly go to Biden, who will then go on to win the nomination.

I'm only half-way joking.

Steven said...

It's easy enough to figure out what Biden really meant, and why it's not acceptable for him to give the explanation.

For example, Jesse Jackson regularly used the threat of Rainbow/PUSH boycotts and the ensuing negative publicity against corporations to push the companies into giving large donations to the organization. At the same, he diverted organization funds to personal purposes (like the $36,000 payoff to his mistress).

That is, Jesse Jackson's an extortionist running a racket. Which makes him "dirty" in the sense of "morally unclean or corrupt".

Al Sharpton, of course, has a number of unsavory connections, and the Tawana Brawley case in his record.

And similarly, many black elected officials have been accused of corruption, including U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings; U.S. Representative William Jefferson; U.S. Representative John Conyers; and U.S. Representative Harold Ford, Sr.

And let's not forget that Senator Obama is from Chicago, controlled by the Daley machine, where he served as a state representativve for many years.

So the fact that Barrack Obama is not even allegedly corrupt is remarkable for a black leader of his media prominence. He's "clean" in the sense of "free from moral corruption or sinister connections of any kind", and that is unusual and politically valuable.

But, you can't go out and say, "I meant clean as free from corruption, while most other prominent black leaders are crooks." That's political suicide, even if it isn't necessarily racist.