August 26, 2008
Wishful Thinking?

The Seattle newspapers both praised Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his running mate.  First, the Seattle Times.

Joe Biden adds heft to the Democratic ticket and brings few liabilities.  The senior senator from Delaware gives Barack Obama some things he does not have: long experience in the nation's capital and a deep knowledge of foreign policy.

Next, the Seattle PI.

Obama's new partner is a solid choice, and a decent political figure, and, ironically, one of McCain's best friends in the Senate.  We like that because American democracy is well served when there is a healthy, spirited debate among friends about the direction of the country.

Especially when that friend is no damn fool.

And both newspapers excused Biden's plagiarism in much the same way.

Seattle Times:

Biden's name is often associated with two negatives: slips of the tongue and the plagiarism of a speech by British politician Neil Kinnock.  The plagiarism was long ago and nobody cares about it.   The slips of the tongue have had to do with propriety, not substance, and are a fault that for many Americans make the man more likable.

Seattle PI:

One rap against Biden -- that of plagiarism -- isn't quite fair.  It's true that in one 1988 stump speech, Biden, then a presidential candidate, stole the words of British Labor leader Neil Kinnock without attribution.  But, as The Washington Post reported at the time, "John Quinlan, a reporter for the Sioux City Journal, said his notes showed Biden said he was quoting Kinnock when he used the same passage in a speech Aug. 14."  This is a storyline that should be retired.

Both newspapers are wrong.  Here's what David Greenberg says in Slate.  (Which is not a conservative publication.)

But Biden's exit from the 1988 race is worth recalling in detail, because his transgressions far exceeded Obama's own relatively innocent lifting of rhetorical set pieces from his friend Deval Patrick, which occasioned a brief flap last February.  Biden's misdeeds encompassed numerous self-aggrandizing thefts, misstatements, and exaggerations that seemed to point to a serious character defect.

So there was more than one instance of plagiarism; there were "numerous" instances, going all the way back to law school.  And borrowing from Kinnock wasn't a harmless slip, because in some speeches Biden also borrowed Kinnock's biography, claiming, for instance, that he was the first one in his family to go to college, which was true for Kinnock, but not Biden.  Greenberg has more examples of falsehoods from Biden during that campaign.  Individually each falsehood might not seem serious, but together they raise serious doubts about his character.

I'm not sure why the Seattle papers made this mistake.  But both newspapers should run corrections.  And they might want to take a hint from my title.  Are they failing to get basic facts right because they are too committed to Obama, because too many people at both papers have stopped being journalists and have become Obama boys and girls?

Cross posted at Jim Miller on Politics.

(For what it is worth, a far left British newspaper, the Independent, also likes Biden, but doesn't mention his plagiarism in their editorial.  They do say he has "straight-talking charm", which may cause some to chuckle.

There's some interesting background on Biden's plagiarism in this Jack Shafer column.)

Posted by Jim Miller at August 26, 2008 04:00 PM | Email This
1. How come the papers don't mention the problem of Biden only recently telling us all that he stands behind his statement that Obama isn't ready to be president?? Or that Biden praised Obama for being a neat and "clean" black candidate?

Posted by: Michele on August 26, 2008 04:35 PM
2. Times:

"Biden, the solid choice"

I agree that Biden is solid. A solid number two.

Posted by: Gary on August 26, 2008 04:42 PM
3. @1: How come the papers don't mention the fact that McCain will "hate the gooks for as long as he lives"?

Posted by: demo kid on August 26, 2008 04:43 PM
4. demo, are you saying he shouldn't?

I would.

Posted by: Gary on August 26, 2008 04:45 PM
5. I'm not sure why the Seattle papers made this mistake.

You have got to be kidding! Like much of the MSM, if Seattle papers were any more in the bag for Obambi they would suffocate. The pass given Obambi because of his skin color is a good reason why the Dem's nominated a flyweight machine politician with murdering friends and corrupt fixers.

Which does lead to the old (now) joke "What do Obama and Osama have in common? Both have friends who tried to bomb the Pentagon". Tho in Obambi's case, his friends succeeded. Nice choice in leaders, Dems.

Posted by: iconoclast on August 26, 2008 04:47 PM
6. demo

you of course have a link to a reputable website verifying this was said in the past 20 years. right? yeah, right.

Posted by: iconoclast on August 26, 2008 04:52 PM
7. The Seattle papers are probably going easy on Biden given his special "connection" with the Junior Senator from Washington State.

Posted by: Rick Hunter on August 26, 2008 04:59 PM
8. To be honest, I've never heard the song 'the villages' done as well as Sen Biden did it; thus understandable why our media is enamored with him. :)
'Viva la Biden' of the 'village people'

Posted by: Duffman on August 26, 2008 05:13 PM
9. Poor Joe Biden. He just hasn't quite caught on yet that the REAL VP is going to be Michelle.

Posted by: katomar on August 26, 2008 05:27 PM
10. @8~ what is it with you liberals and villages...the irony here is that Mrs. Clinton (and Bill for that matter) was cast out of the DNC equivelent of one as the obligatory "idiot" - unfortunately for Senator Fauxbama, that idiot has 18 millions reasons not to go down with a whimper this election, but instead, reload for 2012.

As for Biden, Stay tuned and see Mitt Romney expose him for the smarmy blatherskite he is in the VP debates. Romney will wipe the floor with him and independents will be turned off by his arrogance.

I have little doubt the political version of the 'hindenberg' will come crashing to the ground this November...leaving the Democratic party in cinders and more fractured than it has been in its history.

Posted by: Rick D. on August 26, 2008 06:35 PM
11. Biden is yet another example of how Democrats like to steal defeat from victory. There are plenty of better choices. But Progressives are more concerned with their collective. They view this as a safe choice inside their cocoon, but are unwilling to look at the wider implications of such a choice with respect to the rest of the electorate. And this rings true with Progressive ideas in general. Al Gore admonishes us to reduce our carbon footprints while living with a kingly footprint himself. Other Progressives look the other way and fawn over him, even as his credibility is destroyed in mainstream culture.

As usual, what matters in the Progressive reality is self aggrandizement and impressing others in that reality. It's like a giant game of Second Life. It should be called "Progressive Life." A giant and ludicrous virtual reality that most mainstream people see as a foolish waste of time.

Posted by: Jeff B. on August 26, 2008 07:45 PM
12. Am listening to Hillary at the convention. It appears she is actually still campaigning - for herself. The look on Michelle Obama's face is priceless. She throw's in Barak's name every once in a while, but it seems just in passing. What a hoot! This, after Warner getting booted as the keynote speaker because he didn't want to say what the Convention dictated, just highlights what a circus this is becoming.

Posted by: katomar on August 26, 2008 08:05 PM
13. I couldn't care less about this plagiarism thing. I consider lifting of passages for speeches the same as lifting phrases and rifts in music. When written, then I demand attribution. Spoken? I just don't care.

And even in writing, lapses happen. One time I wrote a song and I swear I heard the riff before. I passed it around to friends to see if they could help. It wasn't familiar to anyone. I would not be surprised if someday someone accused me of stealing it.

However, what is a more serious problem is that Biden basically lied about himself in presenting those portions of the speech. This is a problem, a big one.

Posted by: pudge on August 26, 2008 08:11 PM
14. mmmm, pass the popcorn please. I am waiting for the acceptance speech with the Greek temple motif. A full serving of crazy that night.

It is entertaining to watch such an ineffectual, and small man like Obama try so hard to be taken seriously. I wonder if the MSM will ever really understand how much of a disservice they did to the Democrats by covering up this flyweight's shortcomings...

Posted by: iconoclast on August 26, 2008 08:16 PM
15. I, personally, am deafened by the crickets chirping as we wait for the leftist allegations against Biden of draft dodging.

After all, it was such a HUGE concern aimed at Cheney and Rumsfeld (even tho he actually served) yet not a peep about Biden.

Besides rank hypocrisy... what's the hold up?

Posted by: Hinton on August 26, 2008 10:52 PM
16. CNN is reporting that CLINTON TO SKIP OBAMA'S BIG SPEECH and the Washington Post is reporting that Clinton Advisers Skipping Obama Speech.

Pass the popcorn indeed! What a hoot!

Posted by: Ragnar Danneskjold on August 26, 2008 11:22 PM
17. Obama's new partner is a solid choice, and a decent political figure, and, ironically, one of McCain's best friends in the Senate. We like that because American democracy is well served when there is a healthy, spirited debate among friends about the direction of the country.

Tonight, and throughout the campaign, we'll get to see how much of a "best friend" Biden really is.

Posted by: SouthernRoots on August 27, 2008 07:02 AM
18. Where's barry's bounce?

He dropped a couple points with his Biden announcement and the wifely contribution to his barrypalooza.

Where's barry's bounce?

I read that he's hemorrhaging conservative democrats and that his handlers want >A HREF="">Pelosi to sit down and shut the hell up.

Where's barry's bounce?

History of these things tell us he should have picked up close to 10 points by now.

Where's barry's bounce?

I guess barry is a few springs short of a trampoline!

Posted by: Ragnar Danneskjold on August 27, 2008 04:18 PM
19. After some 30 years of historical analysis (I know, I know, Democrats never learn) you would think that Hanoi Joe Biden's role as the North Vietnamese Armys greatest, or second greatest, ally in Congress would provide a sound target.

Posted by: JB on August 28, 2008 12:25 AM
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