"How they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that's been buried in the last four years," a growling Vice President Biden, asked supporters in Asheville, North Carolina, yesterday.
The stumble-prone veep's comment immediately caught on with Republicans, as presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted, "Agree with @JoeBiden, the middle class has been buried the last 4 years, which is why we need a change in November."
"Unemployment has been above eight percent for 43 months," Biden's challenger for vice president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) told a rally in Iowa. "Our economy is limping along right now. Vice President Biden, just today, said that the middle class, over the last four years, has been 'buried.' We agree."
"Thank you Vice President Biden," said former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who is described in news stories as a Romney "surrogate."
Biden tried to walk back the comment with a tweet explaining that actually Mitt Romney has been president for the last four years: "'The middle class was buried by the policies that Romney and Ryan have supported." I think you'd need the proverbial heart of stone not to laugh at the way Biden tries to work himself into a righteous froth at the phrase "deadly earnest."
But the Washington Post's Felicia Sonmez says Biden's gaffes may really be signs of Biden's "authenticity." It makes perfect sense: When you're looking for authenticity who else do you turn to but a vice president who sat in the Senate for 36 years and before that was a lawyer and a county councilman?
As with most things that are bad in newspapers, this is mostly to blame on the copy desk, whose reflexive need to balance every "challenge" with an "opportunity" resulted in this headline: "'Buried' comment underscores risk – and reward – of deploying Biden on the trail." The actual story is more aware of how little value Biden brings. His most prominent quoted defender turns out to be his own son:
The vice president's defenders see things differently. They contend that the occasional slip of the tongue is to be expected from a candidate as candid and unscripted as Biden. They point to the vice president's busy schedule on the trail – he has held more than 100 campaign events this year alone, in a host of battleground states – as proof that he is an asset to the Democratic ticket.
And they argue that Biden is spending his time doing what matters most – speaking directly to voters, particularly those in the middle class, in cities and small towns across the country.
"They usually don't go after you unless you're landing punches and this is about attempting to go after him in a way because he's such an effective communicator for the middle class," said Biden's son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (D).
Still Sonmez beats on, borne back ceaselessly into the past, with an argument that Biden has been "playing an effective role on the trail" so tortured it must violate the Eighth Amendment. Somnez notes that Biden has not been assigned to host any fundraisers. (To his credit, the vice president apparently does volunteer to babysit his grandchild, but there's no indication that Beau has taken him up on the offer.) An analysis of campaign events Biden has been allowed to run is supposed to prove something, but I'm not sure what:
Of the 25 events Biden has held since Sept. 6, 17 have been in counties that Obama won in 2008, while eight have been in counties won by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), according to a Washington Post analysis. Going back to results from eight years ago, the field tilts even more toward the GOP: 13 of the 25 counties were won by George W. Bush in 2004 while 12 went for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.).
Was this trip really necessary? As either Sigmund Freud or Neil Kinnock said, sometimes a plagiarizing, gaffe-prone, hair-plug-wearing vice president is just a plagiarizing, gaffe-prone, hair-plug-wearing vice president: