Conservatives looked forward to Joe Biden’s characteristic gaffes in the vice presidential candidates’ debate on Thursday night. We didn’t get them. Instead, Biden served up a panoply of what I’ll call — in the interest of civility — whoppers. Some of the whoppers are shameful. If we had a free press, one or more of these whoppers would lead the news until next week’s presidential debate. They would be deemed to raise a profound questions of the man’s fitness for office, let alone the presidency. I want to itemize four of these whoppers:
1. Biden said: “With regard to the assault on the Catholic Church, let me make it absolutely clear. No religious institution—Catholic or otherwise, including Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital—none has to either refer contraception, none has to pay for contraception, none has to be a vehicle to get contraception in any insurance policy they provide. That is a fact. That is a fact.”
This whopper earned a rebuke for its falsity from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Has that ever before happened in American history? Here is how the bishops tactfully put it:
This is not a fact. The HHS mandate contains a narrow, four-part exemption for certain “religious employers.” That exemption was made final in February and does not extend to “Catholic social services, Georgetown hospital, Mercy hospital, any hospital,” or any other religious charity that offers its services to all, regardless of the faith of those served.
HHS has proposed an additional “accommodation” for religious organizations like these, which HHS itself describes as “non-exempt.” That proposal does not even potentially relieve these organizations from the obligation “to pay for contraception” and “to be a vehicle to get contraception.” They will have to serve as a vehicle, because they will still be forced to provide their employees with health coverage, and that coverage will still have to include sterilization, contraception, and abortifacients. They will have to pay for these things, because the premiums that the organizations (and their employees) are required to pay will still be applied, along with other funds, to cover the cost of these drugs and surgeries.
“This is not a fact.” Considering the source, this is an incredibly damning judgment.
2. Biden said: “[The recession] came from this man [Ryan] voting to put two wars on a credit card, at the same time, put a prescription drug plan on the credit card, a trillion dollar tax cut for the very wealthy….I was there, I voted against them. I said, no, we can’t afford that.” Biden voted for the authorization for the use of force in Afghanistan and the Iraq authorization in October 2002. Neither the Bush tax cuts nor the Medicare prescription drug plan had anything to do with the recession. The Obama administration agreed to keep the Bush tax cuts in place for the same reason that Bush originally proposed them. This is pure blather.
3. Biden said: “[T]hat’s exactly what we were told…by the intelligence community. The intelligence community told us that [the Bengahazi assault arose from protests outside the consulate]. As they learned more facts about exactly what happened, they changed their assessment.” The falsity of this statement requires only a close reading of what administration officials have said heretofore and a look at the timeline of available information (compiled here by Steve Hayes). This particular whopper only contributes to an ongoing scandal, as does number 4.
4. “Well, we weren’t told they wanted more security [in Benghazi] again.” Coming a day after the sworn testimony of State Department security officers powerfully to the contrary, this whopper requires a saving construction: “We” means Obama and Biden. This statement, whopper or not, raises the question: Where does the buck stop?
These seem to me the most consequential of Biden’s whoppers, though it does not exhaust the list of Biden’s whoppers including the assertion that Ryan and House Republicans “cut” embassy security by $300 million, that Biden heard about “death panels” in his debate with Sarah Palin in 2008, or that Syria is five times as large as Libya.
I said at the top that these whoppers raise a profound question of Biden’s fitness for office. In my view, they also answer it.