Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama's Veep: The Perfect Accompaniment of Lies and Deceit

Barack Obama officially launched Democratic convention week with the selection of Delaware Senator Joseph Biden as his vice-presidential running mate.

No matter who he picked, Obama would have received both praise and censure. With Biden, it's clear that Obama's deeply concerned about his lack of experience in foreign affairs. Biden, a member of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee,
has served in Washington for 35 years. The obvious hope is that Biden will provide ballast on international affairs, and he might help Obama negotiate the political attack culture that's central to electoral battles.

I'm not sure I can add a whole lot of incisive analysis on Biden's assets or liabilities.
Lots of folks have already weighed in, and we'll have a full week of near-exclusive focus on the Democratic Party, with all types of interesting analyses.

I can say that the first thing that always pops into my mind when Biden's in the news is his disastrous plagiarism scandal from the 1988 presidential primaries.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred have provided some nice links to refresh our memories of Biden's ignominious debut in presidential politics. Here's this, from the Washington Post:

Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr., a U.S. senator from Delaware, was driven from the nomination battle after delivering, without attribution, passages from a speech by British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock. A barrage of subsidiary revelations by the press also contributed to Biden's withdrawal: a serious plagiarism incident involving Biden during his law school years; the senator's boastful exaggerations of his academic record at a New Hampshire campaign event; and the discovery of other quotations in Biden's speeches pilfered from past Democratic politicians.
It turns out that the Biden's Kinnock klepto-moment was not an isolated incident. Here's more from Sigmund, Carl and Alfred:

In 1965 Biden plagiarized while writing a paper as a student at the Syracuse University Law School in a legal methods course which he failed because of that copied paper. Such “stressless scholarship” as it is euphemistically called has become all too common in the modern Internet era with countless cheatsites and “research services” offering to sell students papers on topics from A to Z.

Biden’s case demonstrates that student plagiarism is nothing new. Only the methods of cheating have changed. Today, cheating has gone digital with the proliferation of Internet based paper filing and distributions systems, but the principles—or lack thereof—are the same. And as the Biden case illustrates, getting caught for such academic dishonesty may have serious ramifications for one’s political career. Joe Biden’s failed bid for the Democratic ticket is a case in point.

“Stressless scholarship” may seem like a pretty good idea at the time that many students make that decision to ‘crib’, copy, or dowload a paper off the Internet, but in Biden’s case the plagiarism of his student days came back to haunt his bid for the democratic presidential nomination like a spectre from his past.

In an article entitled “Biden’s Belly Flop”, Newsweek printed Joe Biden’s yearbook picture from his college days and a copy of his law school transcripts with the big “F” in his transcripts circled. Biden was given a chance to repeat his legal methods course, and above the “F” his retake grade of 80% was eventually penciled in. Being a repeat offender when it came to plagiarism made things much, much worse for Biden than they might have been otherwise in his failed bid for the Democratic presidential ticket in 1987.

Senator Biden’s plagiarism of a speech by British Labor Party leader Neal Kinnock took place at a campaign stump at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. In closing his speech, Biden took Kinnock’s ideas and language as if they were his very own inspired thoughts, prefacing Kinnock’s ideas with the phrase “I started thinking as I was coming over here . . . “. Little did Biden suspect that video footage of this speech would be spliced together with footage of Kinnock’s speech in an “attack video” which would be distributed by members of the Dukakis campaign.

Making the headline news in the New York Times, and the evening news on TV, the video was a stab in the back for Biden by his democratic competitor, and although he insisted that “I’m in this race to stay. I’m in this race to win,” the resulting publicity surrounding his unacknowledged use of Neal Kinnock’s speech was what eventually forced him out of the race. Name recognition was no longer a problem for Biden, but not the kind of name recognition which would assist his campaign for the democratic presidential nomination. His name was now a byword for plagiarism. His situation became a classic example of plagiarism for high school teachers and college instructors across the nation lecturing on the evils of unacknowledged source use.
You know, "Biden" really is a "byword" for plagiarism. When the Delaware Senator ran for the Democratic nomination this year, the Kinnock controversy was always front and center for me - and that's the case even though Biden appears as an otherwise good man.

But let me close with one more quote, from
Tom Bevan at Real Clear Poliltics, who shares this passage on Biden's character from Peggy Noonan:

The great thing about Joe Biden during the Alito hearings, the reason he is, to me, actually endearing, is that as he speaks, as he goes on and on and spins his long statements, hypotheticals, and free associations--as he demonstrates yet again, as he did in the Roberts hearings and even the Thomas hearings, that he is incapable of staying on the river of a thought, and is constantly lured down tributaries from which he can never quite work his way back--you can see him batting the little paddles of his mind against the weeds, trying desperately to return to the river but not remembering where it is, or where it was going. I love him. He's human, like a garrulous uncle after a drink.
More on Biden, of course, will be forthcoming. Obama's pick, for me, is a classic "birds of a feather" selection. Biden's plagiarism is a perfect accompaniment for Obama's presidential campaign of lies and deceit, seen now in the Illinios Senator's abortion and Annenberg scandals.

It's not a good sign, however, that Obama's running-mate is already being attacked as "
racist," and that prominent left-wing bloggers are distressed at the pick, with one saying "I'm going to try and come around to believing I should vote for this ticket. It won't be easy."