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TYRRELL: Palin vs. Biden

- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2008

COMMENTARY:

How is it that an attractive woman who has been involved in state and local government since the early 1990s without much controversy is now passed off in the media as an airhead?

Yet her opponent, long known as an airhead, a braggart, and even a plagiarist, is now passed off as a statesman? I have in mind Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware or Scranton, Pa., or wherever he now claims to hail from.

In September, Mrs. Palin sat before ABC's Charlie Gibson and CBS' Katie Couric and was asked any question that popped into their minds or the minds of their researchers. The comely governor responded adequately. She might not win first prize on "Jeopardy," but then no "Jeopardy" winner has governed Alaska. Nonetheless, in the mainstream moron media, she is as an airhead and Mr. Biden is a statesman.

Well take a glance at Mr. Biden's performance just last month. On Sept. 22, he bragged to a Baltimore audience: "If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me. Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."

Two days later he continued his bull that al Qaeda's headquarters had been moved to "the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where my helicopter was recently forced down." Both statements were rehashes of his Sept. 9 garbagespiel that "the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan [is] where my helicopter was forced down." Left unsaid by the senator — who rarely leaves anything unsaid — was that the helicopter was "brought down" not by enemy fire but by inclement weather.

OK, maybe those outbursts do not reveal Mr. Biden as an airhead, but they do reveal him as a phony. So consider a couple more of the senator's September follies. On Sept. 17 at an appearance in Ohio, Mr. Biden tapped the chest of a reporter (presumably male) and said, "You need to work on your pecs." Then there was the senator's interview with Miss Couric, who, of course, supposedly had revealed Mrs. Palin's intellectual weightlessness. But late in September Miss Couric revealed both herself and Mr. Biden to be ignoramuses.

While interviewing him on what appeared to be a bus, Miss Couric evoked this response from the Democrats' vice presidential candidate: "When the stock market crashed [in 1929] Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn't just talk about, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look here's what happened.'" Actually Roosevelt was not president until 1933, and in 1929 there was no "television audience" because there was no television available to consumers. By now all Biden-watchers have had a good laugh at his expense on this one, but the laugh is on Miss Couric too. Her round, girlish, expressionless face revealed no hint she was aware of the senator's botched history.

So Mr. Biden in one month reminds us he is a phony and an airhead, but in September he also reminded us he is a plagiarist. In his 1988 presidential bid he was caught lifting from British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock the Welshman's biographical treacle, adapting it for an American audience thus: "My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines of Northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours and play football for four hours." In Mr. Kinnock's version his Welsh ancestors "could work eight hours underground and then come up and play football." This was a dreadful humiliation for Mr. Biden, made all the worse when it was revealed that he had faked his academic record and was accused of plagiarism in law school.

After being forced out of the 1988 race, the senator, one would have thought, would never again mention his "coal mining" heritage. Yet on Sept. 21, while addressing an audience filled with coal miners in Virginia, he fibbed: "I am a hard coal miner — anthracite coal, Scranton, Pa. That's where I was born and raised." He was never a coal miner and most of his early life was spent in Delaware.

Amazing as it sounds, all the recent pratfalls were committed by the Democrats' vice presidential nominee in but one month. Nonetheless, in early October, it is Mrs. Palin the media deem controversial.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.