Blogs > HNN > Did he mean Obama is clean-cut?

Feb 1, 2007 8:53 am

Did he mean Obama is clean-cut?

I am not sure what the fuss is about if, as some suggest, it's about the word" clean." NBC led the news tonight with the story about Joe Biden's saying Obama is clean.

But what did he mean? Until we know it's a stretch to consider the line an insult.

Clean with Gene--remember that slogan?--was a compliment.

Clean cut--if that's what he meant--is also a compliment. And no he wouldn't describe too many of his colleagues that way because old men generally aren't called clean cut. Young men are. Obama is young.

Or maybe Biden was alluding to Obama's reputation as a clean pol (distinguishing him from so many other Illinois pols).

Who the heck knows?

If the controversy is about Biden's description of Obama as the first mainstream African-American candidate for president, well, Biden was precisely right. All of the others were regarded when they ran as politically marginal figures.

Biden's statement that Obama is the first articulate African-American to run for president is the one that is the damaging. Clearly Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Shirley Chisolm were articulate. It was indeed their ability with words that made them memorable and influential. But it's not clear that Biden meant to say that. Surely he doesn't believe it. What he did was string together a series of adjectives with an improper antecedant. This is a blunder, but it's not frontpage news and certainly didn't belong at the top of NBC's broadcast.

If this is how the 2008 campaign is going to go I'm already sick of it.

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Oscar Chamberlain - 2/6/2007

"Obama as the first mainstream African-American candidate for president, well, Biden was precisely right."

And this is the crux of problem. What made the others marginal; what makes Obama mainstream? Whether he meant to or not, Biden raised an issue that touches upon a significant questions, which is the extent to which racism (or at least the perception of race) still matters in presidential politics.

After finding himself emersed in this question (whther willingly or not), Biden had a responsibility to address it. To my knowledge he hasn't.

By the way, there is something of a similarity between this and Obama's response over being labelled a Muslim. Obama did not ask for the problem, but he had a responsibility to make clear that being labelled a Muslim is no insult. To my knowledge he failed to do that.

HNN - 2/5/2007

I am sure if Biden's candidacy takes off--which I doubt--the media will replay that old tape over and over.

The voter will never be deprived of the pleasure of an easy issue like plagiarism.

It is the hard stuff the media ignore that huts democracy. By this I mean everything that's complicated in politics.

Want to hear about the deficit? The budget? The complicated story about social security? As far as both the media and the public are concerned .... ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz.

John Richard Clark - 2/3/2007

Why won't the media remind Americans that Biden ran for president twenty years ago and abandoned his candidacy amidst charges he plagiarized passages from other politicians' speeches?