Biden's Zingers: Weighing the Ones that Matter and Those That Don't

Joe Biden, knowing everything he knows today, probably would not vote yes on that resolution make the same comments about his friend, colleague, and presidential primary competitor Barack Obama that he made the other day.

Language is important. Words are -- and Senator Biden knows he has some work to do if he wants to make it to the White House.

But this hyperventilation about what Biden said as opposed to what Biden meant is reaching a level of absurdity that is making Biden's critics look small and more concerned with veneer than substance.

Eugene Robinson's piece today, "An Inarticulate Kickoff," cynically piles on, when the article could have done much more.

Joe Biden's fumble here was that he was trying to compliment a competitor -- and should have said perhaps "He's Hot" or "He's Da Bomb."

There are lots of ways that Biden might have said that Barack Obama is a breakthrough kind of personality -- and yes, he's a breakthrough personality in the African-American community that surpasses other African-American political superstars (perhaps) Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.

But as a friendly counter to Eugene Robinson, it's George Bush's "inarticulateness" that worries me, along with George Bush's lack of curiosity and intellectual laziness about important policy matters. Don't you think that when inarticulateness is measured that the real benchmark is the composite of intellectual engagement with the country's real problems.

Biden can talk a lot. He knows it. I like the unpackaged honesty of Biden's barrages -- but this guy is no racist and doesn't harbor the views that others have been alleging he does. Joe Biden wanted to say "Barack is hot."

But who knows what kind of press that would have generated. . . It might have gotten Biden a good cover story on the Washington Blade.

Biden has told us what he meant to say -- and he's apologized. Obama has reported back that he knows what Biden meant to say and appreciates Biden's sentiments.

I think we ought to now begin asking who has the intellectual capacity to wrestle down tomorrow's problems. On that scale -- just think of what lies ahead.

The uncurious George Bush could be replaced by Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Christopher Dodd, Wesley Clark, Chuck Hagel (I hope), Tom Vilsack, Mitt Romney, John Edwards, or Bill Richardson. I know there are others, but this is enough choices for today.

Nearly any one of these alternatives wrestle with ideas -- and believe me, they'll flop now and then. But America is also about screwing up, realizing the mistake and adjusting, and getting right back at things.

I still admire Biden's willingness to get out first on a real plan for dealing with Iraq. A lot of folks talked about the need for a new plan -- but no one was proposing one. You might not like what Biden-Gelb proposes, but it got folks into details, and that moved the debate forward.

Wesley Clark gets credit for the same sort of thing for being the first major political personality to bluntly say that America needed to engage in direct US-Iran negotiations. What Wes Clark did both in September 2005 and then January 2006 at New America Foundation conferences and then on Meet the Press was brave then and has become conventional wisdom today.

So, hat tip to Biden who survived The Daily Show in good spirits. To me, Biden seemed clean, articulate, . . .

-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note