As you have probably heard, Joe Biden did it again today: he forgot what century we are living in. This follows a bad day yesterday, when Biden forgot what state he was in, and then told a Virginia audience that the Republicans are “going to put y’all back in chains.” Oh, today Biden also referred to Paul Ryan as “Governor Ryan.”
Such blunders are conventionally referred to as gaffes, but with Biden they come so fast and furiously that one wonders whether something else is at work. Rudy Giuliani finally said yesterday what many have thought for a long time:
I think the vice president of the United States has become a laugh line on late night television. I mean, he — I’ve never seen a vice president that has made as many mistakes, said as many stupid things. I mean, there’s a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it. I mean, this guy just isn’t bright. He’s never been bright. He isn’t bright. And people think, “Well, he just talks a little too much.” Actually he’s just not very smart.
But “not very smart” doesn’t fully capture Biden’s incapacity either. Biden is a blowhard, but one who often displays a shocking lack of knowledge. Recall, for example, his debate with Sarah Palin in 2008. The press charitably scored the event a draw, but it included a number of howlers by Biden, the most astonishing of which was when Biden, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee for eight years, referred to executive powers as conferred by Article I of the Constitution–which, if you haven’t checked lately, relates to Congress. The executive power is treated in Article II. It is hard to convey what a remarkable error this is for someone who holds himself out as knowledgeable with respect to constitutional law. It is roughly equivalent to a man claiming to be an expert on the Bible, who tells you that the life of Jesus is detailed in the Old Testament. Or a purported expert on American history pompously declaiming on George Washington’s role in the Battle of Gettysburg.
It does seem that Biden’s condition, whatever it is, is getting worse. He has generally been treated as an object of humor–“Slow Joe,” the crazy but somewhat lovable uncle in the attic–but when he can’t get through a day without making the wrong kind of headlines, the situation is no longer funny.
Is there any chance that President Obama will dump Biden from the ticket, as some are urging? I don’t think so. The Obama campaign, more than anything else, is feverishly trying to preserve the illusion that everything is going fine. Replacing Biden would be seen as an act of desperation and–even worse from Obama’s perspective–an admission of error. So for better or worse, we can look forward to being entertained by Joe Biden until November, even as our reaction to that entertainment grows increasingly queasy.
UPDATE: Michael Ramirez identifies the ball and chain that weigh Joe Biden down: