Lawrence, a very well-read cafe rat I sometimes bump into, was pouring scorn on the way Republicans pretend that Joe Biden’s run-off-at-the-mouth tendencies are proof that Sarah Palin isn’t stupid. Lawrence said Biden could talk for an hour on any given political/policy topic and make sense, whereas Palin would fall apart 10 seconds after her sound bites ran out. Good point!
The problem with Biden isn’t that he’s ignorant or muddleheaded, it’s that his mouth goes way too fast. Occasionally he’ll get some matters of fact garbled, like someone committing a spoonerism even though he knows where the syllables are supposed to go. More often he says something that’s simply impolitic. Michael Kinsley likes to say most “gaffes” are statements that are true but politically inconvenient. If someone asks you what magazines you read and you reply, in effect, “Uh, all of them?” that is not a gaffe. But if someone asks you what you, as vice president of the United States, think of the situation with Russia and you say:
The reality is the Russians are where they are. 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.
… that would be a gaffe. But as a lucid, straight-from-the-shoulder overview of an economic-political situation it’s not bad. At least he knows about population bases and banking structures and stuff. I like that in a political leader.