From the Left



Don't like Biden's gaffes? Consider the alternatives

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

OK, we saw this coming, didn't we?

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has a well-known history of gaffes, spouted another one Thursday night by telling a group of mostly minority voters in Iowa that "poor kids" are just as bright as "white kids."

That's awkward. But let us not even try to pretend a moral equivalence between Biden's racial gaffes and the verbal assaults against minority lawmakers that President Donald Trump has committed on purpose.

Biden's latest blooper occurred while he was speaking off the cuff -- always a risky proposition for the talkative Joe -- on the issue of education at a town hall in Des Moines hosted by the Asian and Latino Coalition. "We should challenge students in these schools that have advanced placement programs in these schools," he says on a video clip from the event. "We have this notion that somehow if you're poor, you cannot do it. Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids."

He paused there for a moment, perhaps to play back in his mind whether he had just said what he meant to say. Some audience members notably broke into applause, indicating that they heard what he meant to say. Over the applause, he added, "Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids, no I really mean it, but think how we think about it."

Of course, a lot of people soon were thinking about what Biden was thinking and what he said about it.


Biden has been running well ahead of the crowded Democratic race for the presidential nomination, although Elizabeth Warren has been closing the gap in at least one new poll. That poll, released by Monmouth University on Thursday, shows Biden ahead with 28% of likely 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus voters, and Warren moving up to 19% support, compared to 7% in April.

The misfortune of Biden's latest blooper is in its reminder of questions that have persistently dogged his candidacy. Is the 76-year-old still sharp enough to handle the presidency or even his own campaign? Can he suppress his tendency on the campaign stump to cheerfully talk his way into linguistic and diplomatic potholes? Is he "woke" enough to satisfy the party's progressive wing? Or do they ask too much?

Who, for example, could forget the gaffe that sank his second presidential campaign? On the day in February 2007 when he launched that effort, the then-senator from Delaware found himself defending comments he'd made a week earlier about his rival contender, then-Sen. Barack Obama from Illinois.

Biden intended to compliment Obama in an interview with the New York Observer when he described him as "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."


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