Joe Biden cannot stop lying.
Younger readers and many journalists don’t remember, but in 1987 then-Senator Biden was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential primary. The New York Times described him as “the hot property of the Democratic field, a meteor in a sky of slow-moving planets.”
Biden moved crowds with powerful speeches about his humble beginnings in Scranton, Pennsylvania and his upward journey through local politics all the way to the United States Senate. But Biden’s campaign used speeches by British Labour Leader Neil Kinnock as models for their own candidate. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but Biden soon went well beyond imitation.
Seemingly forgetting details of his own life story, Biden started telling crowds about his coal miner ancestors, and about how he was the first in his family to go to college. But these were not true of Biden nor his family – the anecdotes were unique to Kinnock.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was one of the first to notice Biden’s trick:
“Mr. Biden’s borrowing raises questions about how much a candidate can adapt someone else’s language and thoughts, whether he remembers to give credit or not,” Dowd wrote in 1987.
Smelling blood in the water, 80s journalists began digging into Biden’s speeches and writings.
In addition to Kinnock, it turned out Biden had plagiarized speeches from both John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, as well as Hubert Humphrey. He claimed to have marched in the Civil Rights movement, which was not true. And faced with mounting pressure, Biden withdrew from the primary campaign in ignominy.
“I’ve done some dumb things, and I’ll do dumb things again,” he said.
More than thirty years on, Joe Biden is still doing dumb things.
In addition to his plagiarism and lies, Biden now adds forgetfulness to his list of foibles.
“SOME DUMB THINGS.”
The once fiery and quick-witted speaker has deteriorated into an almost incoherent spectacle on the campaign trail, more deserving of pity than scorn. In several speeches, he has seemingly forgotten that he is no longer vice president.
He promised to appoint a woman of color to the U.S. Senate (rather than the Supreme Court, as he surely meant). He accidentally called the Paris Agreement the “Paris Peace Accord,” mistaking a climate treaty with the end of the Vietnam War. He forgot the name of Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the UK. He claimed that Russian election interference – which allegedly occurred during the 2016 campaign, while Biden was still vice president – would not have occurred on his watch.
While these gaffes raise fears of Biden’s diminished mental state, it is the outright fabrications that are more damning.
History shows Joe Biden has never had a problem with stealing stories or even just making things up. Whether it was marching with Martin Luther King or winning the respect of a gangster named Corn Pop, Biden has been inventing his life story out of thin air for more than thirty years.
With just six weeks until Election Day, Biden shows no sign of letting up on mendacity.
Mainstream news media has their work cut out for them as they play defense for the dissembling former veep. This week, Biden claimed that President Trump should have brought up the COVID-19 pandemic in his State of the Union Address, apparently forgetting (or lying about the fact that) Trump did exactly that.
This election is Scranton vs. Park Avenue.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 18, 2020
At a recent CNN town hall event, Joe Biden made a push for the blue-collar voters who abandoned the Democrats in 2016. He proclaimed that this election was between “Scranton and Park Avenue,” portraying himself as a humble blue-collar champion against the rich and powerful. Mainstream media repeated this formulation without comment, but residents of Park Avenue in New York City donated eight times as much to Biden as they had to President Trump. Sure, this was just a figure of speech on Biden’s part, but the working-class voters who once made up the core of the Democratic Party are more at home in Trump’s corner than Biden’s.
Biden continued to burnish his blue-collar bona-fides by claiming if elected, he would be the first president without an Ivy League degree. It turns out that not only did Ronald Reagan lack an Ivy League degree, so did fellow Republicans Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower, not to mention Democrats Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson, and Harry Truman. CNN helpfully clarified Biden’s remarks, pointing out that he would be the first president in forty years without such a degree.
And Joe Biden could not help but go back to his favorite lie one more time. At the same town hall, he claimed to be a first-generation college graduate, contrasting his humble roots with President Trump’s supposed elitism.
This was the exact same lie he told in 1987 when running for president the first time.
Back then the media had more objectivity, and appropriately called him out. The New York Times said at the time:
“…borrowing Mr. Kinnock’s sentiments, Mr. Biden had said he was ‘the first in his family ever to go to university.’ In fact, Mr. Biden said today, ‘there are Finnegans, my mother’s family, that went to college.’”
This was a clear lie in 1987, and it has not become any more true in the succeeding three decades.
Perhaps Joe Biden’s deteriorating mental faculties have left him unable to tell what the truth is anymore. Neither mendacity, however, nor senility are laudable characteristics of a nominee for President of the United States.