Joe…Doh!

Of all of the potential 2008 presidential candidates on the Democratic side, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden has been in my top 5 (Gore, Warner, and Edwards being one through three). Biden always comes across as very articulate, often times blunt, and usually seems more knowledgeable about issues across the board than almost any other senator. The biggest dent in Biden’s armor (until today that is) has been the fact that he had Kavvya’ed someone during a previous presidential run:

Democratic presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr., a U.S. senator from Delaware, was driven from the nomination battle after delivering, without attribution, passages from a speech by British Labor party leader Neil Kinnock. A barrage of subsidiary revelations by the press also contributed to Biden’s withdrawal: a serious plagiarism incident involving Biden during his law school years; the senator’s boastful exaggerations of his academic record at a New Hampshire campaign event; and the discovery of other quotations in Biden’s speeches pilfered from past Democratic politicians. [Link]

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Today he may have topped that blemish, at least for a certain segment of the voters, by shoving his foot all the way up his mouth [via the News Tab]:

C-Span cameras caught him telling an Indian-American activist that Indian-Americans are the fastest-growing immigrant group in Delaware.

In fact, Biden said, “You cannot go into a Dunkin Donuts or a 7-Eleven unless you have a slight Indian accent…” [Link]

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You will remember that another presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, made a similarly stupid remark in 2004.

Update: Please don’t start an email or letter writing campaign :) . This may have just been a very poorly executed joke on Biden’s part.

94 thoughts on “Joe…Doh!

  1. btw, abhi, you thought highly of biden as a pres candidate? well then i’m glad this has happened… so you are rid of that illusion. (and don’t ask me who i think would be better. the state of the dem party is not my problem, thank god.)

  2. May be Biden was pointing to the fact that most Dunkin Donuts and Seven elevens are owned by Indians and Pakistanis. I think Hillary’s remark was worse than Biden’s.

    In anycase, arent these politicians supposed to be “for the small business owner”? Or it could be that they couldnt imagine that Indian-Americans can actually own these businesses and not just work in it.

    Maybe its just that I am biased against Hillary for being so hawkish on the war. I hope she doesnt make it to the Dem’s ticket. I am waiting for Gore to change his mind and jump in. Gore is the only guy who was right about the first Gulf war the second Gulf war and Global warming and he took interest in commercializing the internet.

  3. Or a motel, hospital, college campus. I am offended!

    Other places you cannot go without an accent according to Joe Biden:

    • You cannot go into a Dry Cleaners unless you have a slight east/south east asian accent

    • You cannot go into a strawberry farm unless you have a slight spanish, wait, mexican accent

    • You cannot go into a bagel shop unless you have a slight hebrew accent.

    • You cannot go into a pizza shop unless you have a slight italian/guido accent.

  4. my understanding is that biden has a reputation for being kind of stupid (that is, untingelligent) on capitol hill (that’s what staffers say apparently). not that unintelligent is a bar to the presidency, just sayin’….

  5. I bet all the Pakistani and other S.A.’s are gonna be mad for not saying that they work in 7-11 and Dunkin Donuts. How dare he leave them out…

  6. This accent mimicing may be considered a joke, but I believe it degrades desis. I am in a manegerial position, and manage a whole slew of white blue collar type workers. One of them made it a habit to talk back to me in a mimicked indian accent, even though I do not have an accent. This implicitly challenges your authority. The shit continued even though I told my boss about it. I wrote to the company’s attorney, and it finally stopped. Its very hard to prove damages in these cases, but this sort of behavior emasculates you and erodes your authorty. Its a very subtle type of racism. My desi brothers shouldn’t take this lying down

  7. My desi brothers shouldn’t take this lying down

    I was sitting up.

    Next time someone does that too you laugh, and tell him you can’t to see his white trash ass on the Jerry Springer show with his sister. Mimic a southern accent when you do it.

  8. I agree, i’m not surprised Joe Biden made comments like that, from my friends on capital hill, i hear he sticks his foot in his mouth quite often. I am surprised that he made your top 5 Abhi. Here is someone to replace him in your top 5.

    Evan Bayh, senator from Indiana. he is a bit too centrist/moderate it seems, but for the Dems to end this 8 year nightmare, they need someone who can carry GOP strongholds like Indiana and Ohio. Plus, he has a pretty likeable personality, something i think Gore and Kerry only found months after they had blown the game.

  9. One time a senior co-worker cracked a joke at my expense when he saw me coming to my desk w/ my lunch; “Whattya got here Manju, some goat curry.” I replyied, yeah, why don’t you graba bottle of Manischewitz, and we’ll have a party.” (He was Jewish). The whole trading floor bowled Over with laughter–in part b/c few people ever challenged him.

  10. the state of the dem party is not my problem, thank god.

    siddhartha, is that because you are enthralled by the uber-principled john mccain, or because you are imminently moving to some corner of the earth — say, antarctica — that isn’t affected by what the united states does? (oh, wait….) hmmm…. i know! maybe you’ve have found another party with a fabulous winning candidate capable of… being a spoiler gaining… 2.74% .00689% of the vote…. ;)

    **

    as for stupid comments like biden’s, i think that as a community we tend to overreact to them way too much — and worse, frequently let others use them as smokescreens to avoid talking about substantive issues that really matter. the important indicator to me is not the comment itself, for as research by mazharin banaji and others is increasingly making clear, implicit/unconscious bias is quite pervasive. (put differently, perhaps “everyone’s a little bit racist.”) the more important indicator to me is how the individual reacts after community concerns are raised — and here’s a good example of a bad response — but even more than that, what their positions/actions are on issues that matter.

  11. the important indicator to me is not the comment itself… implicit/unconscious bias is quite pervasive.

    Serious loss of style points though.

  12. if you watch the video- he was clearly joking. it’s the kind of joke if one of your buddies made (brown or non-brown), it would be funny, because they know you. and basically, i think he was just trying to be all buddy-buddy with that brown dude he’s talking to, but did a bad job of it, probably cuz he’s a stuffy politician and doesn’t necissarily know how to joke around with normal people. certainly a deuch-bag type move, the white boy trying to be down sort of thing, but not racist.

    i agree with AK- we tend to get sidetracked by these things and lose track of the important issues. i like the argument a friend used- it’s all fine to protest what that company printed on its t-shirt, but how come you’re not also pissed about the fact that the folks who made the tshirt probably did it in crappy conditions for very little pay?

    another side to it is that a lot of us are caught up in living our lives and doing whatever it is we have to do, so we don’t have time to be outspoken on issues and get involved. so going all apeshit over someone saying something a little offensive lets us off that guilt because it’s a quick, easy, non-controversial way to take a stand. taking a stand on other issues would involve a lot more effort, time, and perhaps risk to reputation, so we just do the easy stuff.

  13. Yeah, I tend to agree (especially with the latter part of brown fury’s comment). It seems like Biden may have tried to be cute and came off sounding ignorant. For the record I still consider him a top 5 Dem. 1-3 are just a lot better. Byah is VP material at best. Also if we (or I in this case) post something like this on SM it doesn’t mean we want people to start a letter writing campaign or start screaming bloody murder. Sometimes it is more of a “hey, check it out. We made the news” :)

  14. Here’s a YouTube version of the video.

    Here’s the full quote:

    “Manish, how you doin’? Well, good to see ya! As you know, I’ve got a lot of support from this Indian side. No, I’ve got a great relationship… In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. To fully… I’m not joking! Oh, gigantic.”
  15. Gore, Warner, and Edwards

    Btw I can’t believe that mealy-mouthed content-free slickster litigator is still in your top 3.

  16. It was a poor attempt at humor, that’s certain. But the joke doesn’t even make sense. I mean, if you’re referring to the fact that many small businesses are run by Indian Americans, wouldn’t you say something like you have to have an Indian accent to work there, rather than to go in there? Just sayin’.

    All that aside, Biden’s office has apparently decided it’s a comment not worth apologizing for. Here’s the statement released by his spokesperson:

    Biden spokesperson Margaret Aitken:

    The point Senator Biden was making is that there has been a vibrant Indian American community in Delaware for decades. It has primarily been made up of engineers, scientists and physicians, but more recently, middle class families are moving into Delaware and purchasing family-run small businesses. These families have greatly contributed to the vibrancy of the Indian American community in Delaware and are making a significant contribution to the national economy as well. Senator Biden has tremendous admiration for the Indian American community. They have enjoyed a long-standing relationship of mutual support and respect.
  17. mealy-mouthed content-free slickster litigator

    Genuine, great intellect, good campaigner, very articulate. I voted for him in th ’04 primary.

  18. Faker than Cristiano Ronaldo diving in the World Cup. Singlehandedly responsible for the 6″ scar your sister or cousin now has from her unnecessary C-section. Predictably, popular with grannies.

  19. Btw I can’t believe that mealy-mouthed content-free slickster litigator is still in your top 3.

    well, you could argue that he’s been talking about poverty a lot, and cares about it. at the same time, he was in the Senate for six years, but didn’t really do shit on that topic, so his genuiness is a question. the bigger question is what he intends to do about poverty- is he gonna use new and innovative ideas, or the same old strategy of advocating to throw money at the problem with no smart initiatives. i think the dems have to begin to admit that other than social security, the great society has not really worked in the way we’ve approached it so far. and even social security is gonna fall apart at some point.

    i think all these candidates are jokers except gore. he’s the only one who can beat mccain. i know people doubt him, but i think it’s important to remember that america loves a comeback. (hillary might also have that going for her). but gore still comes across as plasticky and stiff- kind of like he was in parts of his daily show appearance last week, which makes it hard to really feel what he is saying.

  20. Here is what i thought in January and here is what I’d like to see still:

    Some conservative Republican who caters to the lunatic right (see Allen from Virginia) will win the Republican nomination beating McCain. Maybe Hillary will win the Democratic nomination or maybe it will be Mark Warner, or someone else. What happens next (or should happen next) is that McCain wil leave the Republican party citing a culture of partisanship and corruption in Washington. He will become and independent and will maybe take a few members of the gang of 14 with him. He will then announce his Independent candidacy for the White House and start lining up people like Liberman or Feingold for VP, or Sec of Def., and other heavy hitters like Powell. There will be panic in Washington and both the Republicans and Dems will have to distance themselves from the fringe left and fringe right in order to hold on to their centers, which will defect in overwhelming numbers to McCain. I still won’t vote for him but I’d LOVE to see this plan unfold. I’d like to see both parties largely destroyed so they can be rebuilt properly. What would be even better is if someone like Ralph Reed also starts a religious right party. That will box out that whole voting block.
  21. In fact, Biden said, “You cannot go into a Dunkin Donuts or a 7-Eleven unless you have a slight Indian accent…

    Sounds like he was channeling Mario Procaccino from the 1965 New York Mayoral race:

    Mr. Procaccino had raced about the city, shaking the after-hours security gates in front of stores, loudly telling neighbors that there would be no need for such gates in the new, safe Procaccino New York, which he assured them he would be “inept” in administering. In a tardy effort to drum up support among some black voters, he said to them, “My heart is as black as yours.” Link
  22. uhhh, it might be pretty fun to watch, but there’s no way mccain would go down in history as a spoiler. that’s not what he wants to be remembered for. he’s a military guy, i’m sure that a major part of his credo is loyalty. one of his favorite books is “for whom the bell tolls”. as a soldier, he’s gonna do whatever the voters in his party want in the end. and him getting all kissy kissy to make up with bush and campaign for him, and the whole bob jones crap shows you that he won’t let a candidate from the right beat him in a republican primary anyways.

    no one else has the gravitas/charisma on the republican side that he does. only guiliani, but that’s a big step for the republican party to vote for a guy like that. seriouosly- name a republican you think can beat him? maybe allen, but why? all the others are pretty second rate.

  23. uhhh, it might be pretty fun to watch, but there’s no way mccain would go down in history as a spoiler.

    He wouldn’t be a spoiler if he wins right? In the scenario above, if he would do it, I think he might win. People are sick of Republicans and Democrats. Has there been a better time in the last 100 years for an Independent to run?

  24. OK granted the whole “indian accent” bit was fairly stupid and unnecessary….if he’d said “You can’t go into a emergency room without seeing an Indian doctor or go into the faculty room of (lets assume) UD and not see an Indian professor ” no one would be offended.

    Personally I think there is a large % of Americans that have a similar “exoticized” line of thinking and I don’t think they are always being negatively sterotypical. I work with a plant in Little Rock AK. There is one desi guy in the plant and the rest are all cowboys. Whenever I go down there I get according to most standards “ignorant” questions about Indians as much as NYC. And I sincerely believe there is no malice or negativity involved with it. They seriously are ignorant. Joe Biden unfortunately falls into that category.

    A friend of mine won a bid to do the weather on Fox and Friends at a Tsunami charity auction. When he went on the show the anchor was so completely stupid and ignorant about his approach to my friend being Indian and the desi charity it was pathetic and this is a TV anchor. You’d think they’d know better. I seriously think a vast majority of people simply don’t know better.

  25. Some conservative Republican who caters to the lunatic right (see Allen from Virginia) will win the Republican nomination beating McCain. Maybe Hillary will win the Democratic nomination or maybe it will be Mark Warner, or someone else. What happens next (or should happen next) is that McCain wil leave the Republican party citing a culture of partisanship and corruption in Washington. He will become and independent and will maybe take a few members of the gang of 14 with him. He will then announce his Independent candidacy for the White House and start lining up people like Liberman or Feingold for VP, or Sec of Def., and other heavy hitters like Powell. There will be panic in Washington and both the Republicans and Dems will have to distance themselves from the fringe left and fringe right in order to hold on to their centers, which will defect in overwhelming numbers to McCain. I still won’t vote for him but I’d LOVE to see this plan unfold. I’d like to see both parties largely destroyed so they can be rebuilt properly. What would be even better is if someone like Ralph Reed also starts a religious right party. That will box out that whole voting block.

    This isn’t really plausible in how you describe things happening, but in terms of the substance, it’s sort of a version of what’s actually happening–which is that the pro-business, not-as-crazy consensus among American politicians (what you call “moderates” here I think) are more respected and admired. As a result, anyone who believes in what the Democratic party used to advocate for (labor rights, the environment, women’s rights, economic benefits for the poor as well as the rich, etc.) is labeled “fringe” for now even if they support decidedly tepid approaches and meanwhile Republicans like McCain can masquerade as “progressives” when they’re decidedly conservative.

    And there will be some progressive force that emerges (or you could argue has already emerged) and it will challenge conventional politics and it will push it to some new inoffensive centrist-lefist consensus and some things from the insane past 25 years will live on and other things will be reversed and a few things will actually change (e.g. i would guess there would be universal or near-universal health care coverage in the next few years–maybe the next decade, and some action on the environment). But ultimately not all that much will change unless people take a real serious hard look at what’s going on in terms of American economics, growth of other powers, overpopulation, the environment, women’s lives, etc. I don’t really know what the solution is to the serious issues (e.g. alleviating global poverty vs. not completing the destruction of the environment) or how Americans and others in the United States could contribute to it.

    The one place I disagree with you is that I don’t think the Republican party will “die”–I just think its coalition will fracture because it’s kind of reached an endpoint of what it can politically accomplish for its partisans. Its politics will hold on for a long, long time in some ways.

  26. I agree w/ AK that comments like this tend to end up as tempests in teapots. As for the democratic woes, I think it all stems from the fact that no one out there seems to have any good policy ideas out for public discussion. At some point the party needs to stop being against everything and someone needs to introduce actual ideas that people can support. I also don’t see a 3rd party type scenario unfolding. There is just too much money and power concentrated in the major parties for anyone to make an actual run for it. I think that 3rd party candidates are doomed to be spoilers for some time to come.

  27. Biden is totally Cabinet material. I don’t think he ever had the charisma to be competitive as a presidential candidate…even prior to this.

  28. Unless there is a turnaroud in Iraq (end of insurgency, stable democracy emerging, maybe even the capture/death of OBL)the democratic base will demand an anti-Iraqi war candidate this time around, which will exclude Clinton. Gore will be sitting pretty b/c he’s been consistent on this issue and has the gravitas and experience that Dean lacked, and he’s already won the popular vote once.

    In presidential politics, stature matters, and this is where guys like Biden and Dean fall short.

    On the republican side, I think the telegenic romney is the man to watch depending how the evangelicals react to his mormonism. Mccain, rice, powell, guiliani, all have stature and would lead the party in an interesting direction.

  29. Also, I always thought that that whole plagiarism incident back in ’88 — not to mention the other one during his first year of law school — were the Dark Mark of his presidential aspirations.

    Bad news for Biden, of course, but a ray of hope for Kaavya.

  30. Serious loss of style points though.

    Definitely no argument from me on that. I only wish that style predominated less over substance.

    McCain will leave the Republican party citing a culture of partisanship and corruption in Washington. He will become and independent and will maybe take a few members of the gang of 14 with him.

    Abhi, that’s so spring 2000. :) The problem is that McCain basically agrees with most of what the hard right Republicans do, or at least doesn’t care enough to really show any real backbone in resistance all that often. He’s capitulated so much since 2000 — including with the vaunted “gang of 14,” which has basically greenlighted all of Bush’s nominees through, including the most extreme among them, and accomplished nothing else except preserve the filibuster for use when Republicans are once again eventually in the minority. His “Detainee Treatment Act” turned out to be more or less a joke — it almost cost the Supreme Court jurisdiction in the Hamdan case, and on the substantive provisions concerning torture Bush basically said “screw you” in his signing statement with absolutely no consequence. Now, we should all anxiously await McCain’s other shoe dropping on the immigration compromise — while he’s with Kennedy on legalization, he’s already gone along with virtually all of Sensenbrenner’s enforcement provisions, and with Bush himself now possibly flip-flopping on immigration, McCain might not be far behind.

    As for Sriram’s point about Democrats standing for something, we could do a lot worse in starting to think through that very real problem than to start with Michael Tomasky’s article a few months back in the American Prospect — which, as I now look back at it to get the link, amazingly includes the following gem which illustrates my point about Biden’s comment:

    Sometime last fall, after John RobertsÂ’ Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearings but before the full vote, I was on a conference call set up by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid with a few reporters and bloggers. The NationÂ’s Eric Alterman wanted to know whether Reid would make the Roberts nomination a party-line vote. No, he said; but he himself would be opposing Roberts. His stated reason: RobertsÂ’ refusal to apologize to Chuck Schumer during the hearings for his use of the phrase “illegal amigos” in a 1983 White House memo. LetÂ’s agree that Roberts should have apologized, said it was a poor attempt at humor. LetÂ’s even say that it does demonstrate a certain attitude that is inappropriate to this day and age. But honestly — of all the many reasons to oppose RobertsÂ’ elevation to the Chief JusticeÂ’s chair, this is the main one cited by the top-ranking Democrat in the country? Like a bungling politician in a Milan Kundera novel, here is brave Reid, ready to defend the polity, not against reactionary interpretations of the establishment clause or executive power, but against a 20-year-old politically incorrect joke!

    Now, I actually have enormous respect for Harry Reid — he’s courageously shown a lot of backbone and scored some clever and important victories at a time when Democrats have been forced to fight with political “weapons of the weak,” given that the Republicans control every institution of government and run things pretty ruthlessly. But we’re losing the forest for the trees when we obsess over comments like these. The fact is that many ignorant but decent people who are not racist, but rather are ultimately very tolerant people in many of the ways that actually matter — and who are essential parts of any progressive majority — do continue, even in 2006, to say these kinds of things, in many cases without even thinking about it or realizing any broader significance in what they are saying. And let’s face it — they may continue to do so for years. I’m not saying whether Biden does or does not fall into that category, but at a certain level it doesn’t matter — our goal should ultimately be to bring these people, whoever they might be, to our side, and not to alienate them by reacting to these dumb comments like schoolmarms and hall monitors, rather than like educators, community organizers, and bridge-builders.

    /end rant/ ;)

  31. gawd AK…if there were any doubts left about your disgustingly nice Kansan origins…

  32. this is a TV anchor. You’d think they’d know better.

    Actually, JOAT, it was “Fox & Friends,” so I wouldn’t think anything of the sort. ;) But I do understand and agree with your larger point.

  33. Abhi- Gore. With Barack Obama as VP.

    That is my favorite combo too. I don’t think Gore will run though so my best alternative is Warner/Obama.

  34. Abhi- Gore. With Barack Obama as VP.

    That name might require some extra effort for some people in pronouncing… given Ted Kennedy’s “Osama-Obama” gaffe . Though Ted is known to be a bit slurred in his speech after happy hour…

  35. Gore is about the least inspiring candidate possible. The Democrats need someone that at least appears to be human, especially since they are likely to be up against McCain. The best alternative is clearly Obama; he may not win but just being nominated would change the image of Democrats as out of touch, elitist, white liberals from the Coasts. The minority vote, which they have always taken for granted, is gradually shifting to the center, and if they aren’t careful, they will be caught without working class support.

  36. why the focus on heterosexual white males? we need to overturn heteronormative patriarchy brothers & sisters!

  37. I actually hope Obama stays in the Senate — we need more Democrats who care about building a broad-based movement that doesn’t merely involve their own elitist, triangulating ambitions for the White House, and so far he’s been one of the few with the talent to contribute to that. (No wonder that he’s a former community organizer.) And while taking the White House in 2008 is important, that’s not the long-term progressive salvation — we need more of a movement mentality that focuses on building leadership at many different political levels. I’d like to see us focus on building the state parties and taking some state legislatures in time for redistricting in 2010-12.

  38. “I actually hope Obama stays in the Senate — we need more Democrats who care about building a broad-based movement that doesn’t merely involve their own elitist, triangulating ambitions for the White House, and so far he’s been one of the few with the talent to contribute to that”

    I couldn’t agree more. A senator has more room to create progressive change than the president. The president will be someone boring and stodgily centrist (Republican or Democrat…does it really matter?) but the senate I have much hope for.

    And Gore for president, I wonder if he’ll agree to run. That wouldn’t be boring. No Hillary though, please no Hillary :)

  39. Manju:

    On the republican side, I think the telegenic romney is the man to watch depending how the evangelicals react to his mormonism. Mccain, rice, powell, guiliani, all have stature and would lead the party in an interesting direction.

    You’re joking right? About Powell? Right? Your party wingnuts publicly BBQd him so dishonorably, I mean, you have got to be kidding, right?

  40. JaneofAllTrades hits the mark. If he had said that you can’t throw a brick in San Jose without hitting a software developer named Sriram, no one would have minded. Why? Is there something inherently worse about being the owner of a Dunkin Donuts franchise than being a doctor or software developer?

    There’s also the matter of how sensitive we all are. I think a lot of brown folk need to get over themselves. Let everyone who thinks that Biden is going to propose a bunch of laws discriminating against Indians raise their hands. Anyone? Perhaps we should focus on substance more than form. On substance alone, Biden is a git. But not because of this.