August 23, 2008


And Then There Were Six (GEORGE J. CHURCH, 10/05/87, TIME)

Biden's troubles began with stories in the New York Times and Des Moines Register three weeks ago pointing out that the Senator's emotional closing statement during an Iowa Democratic debate duplicated a televised speech by Labor Party Leader Neil Kinnock during last spring's British election campaign. The Register implied its source was an "attack video" that contained snippets of both speeches spliced together by the campaign camp of one of Biden's Democratic rivals. The Times did not mention it, but two sources say it had a duplicate video in its possession. The tapes of the two speakers, which were eventually aired on U.S. television, show Biden not only echoing Kinnock's words but aping his gestures. [...]

Students of Robert Kennedy's rhetoric began pointing out that some of Kennedy's words -- and Hubert Humphrey's too -- had been coming out of Biden's mouth, without attribution. [...]

Two legal publications began chasing reports that Biden, while a law student at Syracuse University in 1965, had plagiarized large portions of a law-review article for a course assignment. The story somehow got to CBS, which aired it, and it was true. [...]

To a number of people in the press and party, Biden came across as a glib wise guy, a candidate of style rather than substance. Says a Democratic strategist of his fellow pros: "This is a fairly liberal bunch, and we saw Biden trying to appropriate the liberal mantle with rhetorical tricks." Accusations of plagiarism thus hurt as almost nothing else could. They turned Biden's strong point, the passionate oratory that could bring a crowd to its feet, into a subject for ridicule and fed deep suspicions about his ability to be President.

Nonetheless, as late as last Sunday afternoon the Biden camp still thought it might be able to rescue the campaign. Then a Biden aide got a phone call from a friend at Newsweek, who read him a story from the coming week's issue that contained more damaging details. The story described how C-SPAN, a cable- TV network, had filmed Biden lying about his academic credentials at a campaign stop in Claremont, N.H., earlier this year. What was truly devastating was the tape itself, aired on TV last week. There was Biden, finger jabbing the air, haranguing a man who had asked about his law-school record. After boasting that he had a "much higher I.Q. than you do," Biden passionately recited a highly exaggerated list of his academic accomplishments. He said, for example, he had graduated in the "top half" of his law-school class; in fact, he was 76th in a class of 85.

...but this is a guy of whom, when he later needed brain surgery, folks said:" "Well, that explains a lot."

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2008 9:49 AM
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