May 16, 2009
Biden: “We have overcome! Glory, Hallelujah!”
BIDEN’S LAST GAFFE: DECLARES SELF “FIRST ‘NEGRO’ VP”
In the latest in a series of verbal gaffes, flub-ups, and super-bloopers, U.S. Vice President Joseph P. Biden yesterday proclaimed himself “America’s first ‘negro’ Vice President”. The staggering statement immediately sparked confusion and rancor in his audience, and led to widespread calls for his resignation.
The comment came late in the day, when the increasingly unpredictable 66-year-old Biden is known to go off-script, and capped off a series of bizarre statements that put him at odds with the President’s official policy.
But Beltway insiders saw the breach coming: Biden was known to be unhappy about recently being excluded from important Presidential meetings because of what some were calling “inappropriate behavior.” At a meeting of Senate leaders a week earlier, Biden kept grabbing at Nancy Pelosi’s neck skin, insisting she should have cosmetic surgery. “Don’t let the turkey-neck get you down!” he said, grinning.
Later, in a Cabinet meeting, he had playfully gotten the President in a prolonged bear-hug from behind, refusing to let go until the President said “Joe Biden’s the best-looking Vice President ever.” Aides said that the President was “obviously uncomfortable”.
The “bear-hug incident” had been a last-straw for the President, who was privately “seething” and decided to exclude Biden from future top-level meetings. But Biden wouldn’t take the snub lying down and on Monday had vowed “to be my own man, come what may.”
Speaking to a pro-Israel group that morning he shocked reporters by declaring that a missile strike on Tehran was probably “imminent” — or “certainly would be if I had a damn thing to say about it. They don’t listen to me.”
An hour later, Biden was at it again, telling a small group of gay activists touring the Capitol that he was ready to put same-sex marriage into the Constitution “if that would help heal our nation.” He also said: “But you gays have to tell your buddy Barak to give me the access I was promised in the campaign!”
White House insiders were irate and immediately contacted the Vice President’s staff, demanding he issue clear retractions before the day’s news cycle came to a close. Biden’s advisers begged him to reverse course firmly and swiftly, with a press conference. Ironically, it was in an effort to do just that that Biden made what critics are calling the “worst gaffe of his gaffe-filled career.”
Biden understood that he needed to apologize and make it “crystal clear” that he was on the same page as the President. But in the process, he seemed to get carried away.
“Make no mistake, my friends,” he said, squinting thoughtfully and grasping the podium with both hands, “the Vice President is appointed by the President and serves at the President’s pleasure. And whatever I might have said to indicate that there was the slightest bit of daylight between my views and the President’s is sheer hogwash and tomfoolery! I am part of the Barack Obama administration — period — so by definition, whatever he stands for and whoever he is, I am a part of that, legally and politically and every other way you want to imagine. And that’s not my opinion; it’s how our government works! Read the Constitution!”
Then he seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. “Holy Cow!” he suddenly said, apparently thinking out loud, “I’m the first negro Vice-president!”
“I’d never thought of that before,” he muttered to himself, evidently as shocked as his audience by what he had just said. His statement was greeted with baffled silence and then scattered boos. Biden quickly sensed he’d said something amiss. “I probably shouldn’t say ‘negro.’” he said, “But back when I was a boy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, we used to say ‘colored.’ Negro was a step-up! So you’ll have to forgive me.”
“I know I’ll catch heck for it tomorrow, so let me set the record straight: I’m the first black — correction, I’m the first Afro-American Vice-President! I stand behind the policies and racial make-up of my President on every level! If he’s black, I’m black. And I’m damned proud of it! I stand shoulder to shoulder with Barack and Michelle and all of the blacks in this administration! And thank God there are so many of us! It’s about time!”
He then lifted his arms triumphantly, saying: “We have overcome! Glory, hallelujah!”, finally adding: “The President and I are soul brothers! Heavens to Betsy! Wait till my mother finds out!”
Reaction was swift, with condemnations coming from all quarters. Former President George H.W. Bush said he found Biden’s comments “appalling”, adding: “The fella’s gone plum loco”. Hollywood comedian Wanda Sykes was less measured: “ I must be going blind, cause if Biden’s black, Wesley Snipes is a damn albino!”
The Obama administration immediately distanced itself from the remark, with a White House official telling reporters: “President Obama has great affection for Joe, but we can make no more sense of the statement than any of you can. Joe Biden speaks for Joe Biden.” END
Enjoying a laugh before the recent difficulties.