Biden Watch: 2010 could be "end of road"

The latest from our voluble vice president

Published September 22, 2009 12:23PM (EDT)

Vice President Joe Biden may hail from one of the smallest states but the former U.S. Senator from Delaware has long been notorious for having one of the biggest mouths in the nation's capitol. Sometimes that works in Biden's favor, as when he famously declared during the 2008 presidential campaign that there are "only three things" Rudy Giuliani "mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11."

Sometimes it doesn't. President Obama knew that Biden had no problem speaking his mind when he picked him to be his running mate: Biden once famously made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he called Obama an "articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" in 2007. Former President George W. Bush reportedly once said of Biden that, "If bull was currency, Joe Biden would be a billionaire."

Monday, Biden may have let slip an admission that the White House would have preferred he kept to himself. Speaking at a fundraiser for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., Biden warned that if Republicans take control of Congress in the 2010 elections, it could mean the end of the Obama administration's goals to remake Washington. "They're going to put their chips on movement in the 35 seats in the House that have been traditionally Republican districts and trying to take them back," Biden said. "If they take [those seats] back, this is the end of the road for what Barack and I are trying to do ... This is their one shot. If they don't break the back of our effort in this upcoming election, you're going to see the things we said we're for, happen."

While Biden hardly said something that Democrats and liberals didn't already realize, his comments come at a time when the White House is engaged in a tough fight on healthcare reform and needs to appear as strong as possible. But Biden has made a number of high-profile flubs since Obama first tapped him to be his running mate back last  Here's a look at some of his most notable gaffes:

  • On Russia, July 2009: After the White House reached out to Russia in an attempt to better relations between the two former Cold War rivals, Biden seemed to directly contradict the administration. After a trip to Russia in July, Biden lashed out at the Krelim, stating, "Russia has to make some very difficult, calculated decisions ... They have a shrinking population base, they have a withering economy, they have a banking sector and structure that is not likely to be able to withstand the next 15 years, they're in a situation where the world is changing before them and they're clinging to something in the past that is not sustainable." The comment led to outrage in Russia and a demand for clarification from the White House.
  • Misreading the economy, July 2009: Former President George W. Bush was good at not admitting mistakes. The Obama administration may wish Biden had learned something from him. During an interview on ABC, Biden said, "The truth is, we and everyone else misread the economy." This led to a public rebuke from Obama.
  • On Israel attacking Iran, July 2009: During an interview on ABC, Biden made comments that many took as giving tacit approval to the prospect of Israel attacking Iran. He said, "Look, Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else ... If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice."
  • A teleprompter joke at Obama's expense, May 2009: Throughout the presidential campaign, Republicans and the media have criticized Obama for his over-reliance on teleprompters while giving speeches. Thus, Biden's comments that reinforced this line of attack in May could hardly have been met with smiles in the White House. After wind knocked over a teleprompter while Biden was giving a speech he quipped, "What I am going to tell the president when I tell him his teleprompter is broken? What will he do then?"
  • Raising fears of swine flu, April 2009: With fears of a pandemic outbreak of swine flu spreading across the globe, Biden did his best to make sure everyone remained worried. Biden said he told his own family to stay away from "confined places" and to avoid airplanes and subways due to the swine flu.
  • Chastising Chief Justice John Roberts, January 2009: Biden chided Chief Justice John Roberts after the judge mangled the presidential oath of office during Obama's inauguration. The botched oath led to a tempest in a teapot that resulted in Obama retaking the pledge to certify that he was president. Soon afterwards, while Biden was swearing in new White House staffers, the Vice President joked, "My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts'."
  • World will test Obama, October 2008: Obama campaign staffers had to be slamming their foreheads after Biden predicted foreign nations would manufacture an international crisis to test Obama soon after he after he assumed office. Biden said, ""Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking ... Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy." John McCain ate up the statement, replying, "The next President won't have time to get used to the office ... We face many challenges here at home, and many enemies abroad in this dangerous world. If Senator Obama is elected, Senator Biden said, we will have an international crisis to test America's new president. We don't want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars."
  • Clinton might have been the better running mate, September 2008: While speaking at an event on the campaign trail, Biden voiced his support of Hillary Clinton a bit too vociferously. Biden said, "Make no mistake about this, Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Let's get that straight ... She's a truly close personal friend and she is qualified to be president of the United States of America; she's easily qualified to be vice president of the United States of America and quite frankly [she] might have been a better pick than me."

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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