- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2010

This week, the Drudge Report gave emphasis to its lead headline that a CNN poll had found 52 percent of its respondents opposed to the re-election of President Obama by using the boldfaced screamer: “Shock.” Who is shocked? The American people are a sensible lot. Frankly, I am not shocked.

This administration is as inept as you would expect an administration to be when presided over by the most inexperienced and most far-left president in modern American history. Mr. Obama is out of his depth. Moreover, he and his aides are oblivious to political realities. A perfect example of this is their deployment this week of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to refute former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to the war on terror. Pithily put, Mr. Cheney accuses the administration of treating the war on terror as a legal matter rather than a war. He is worried about our national security, and, quite properly, he fears more attacks within the United States unless we are on the offensive.

So whom does the White House send out against this formidable foreign policy advocate? The administration sends the gaffable Joe Biden, the most gaffe-prone figure in public life. If you are like me, you tune him in simply for a hearty laugh. Moreover, the White House puts Mr. Biden in an absurd position. He is scheduled for two Sunday-morning refutations of Mr. Cheney’s Sunday-morning appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” one on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” the other on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” But his NBC refutation was taped Saturday night from the winter Olympics before Mr. Biden had anything to refute. It would be perhaps 12 hours before Mr. Biden even heard Mr. Cheney’s criticism. Amusingly, “a senior White House official” told The Washington Post that the administration had chosen Mr. Biden for his ability to “hold the former vice president accountable to the facts in real time.” Yes, this fantasist said the “facts.”

Mr. Biden’s unhappy experiences with the facts are legendary. I cherish his early-autumn string of blunders committed during the 2008 campaign. Do you recall? During an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, Mr. Biden claimed that Franklin D. Roosevelt was president during the 1929 crash of the stock market and that Roosevelt immediately “got on television” to reassure the American people. Incidentally, when Mr. Biden uttered this preposterosity, Miss Couric’s face betrayed no hint she recognized that Herbert Hoover was president in 1929 and that there was no national television audience in existence - journalistic mediocrity meets political mediocrity.

Mr. Biden’s gaffes continued. Despite having been ignominiously forced from the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries for plagiarizing British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock’s recollections of life in Welsh coal mines, Mr. Biden fibbed to an audience of Virginia coal miners that when he was young he had been “a hard-coal miner” - which was revealed to be a total fabrication. It was about this time that Mr. Biden was caught lying (repeatedly) that along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, his helicopter had been forced down recently by enemy fire. Ultimately, the press reported that inclement weather had been the cause.

More seriously, during a debate with Gov. Sarah Palin, Mr. Biden erroneously claimed that the United States “drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon.” Alas, nothing of the kind had happened. More amusingly, he declared, “The No. 1 job facing the middle class, and it happens to be as Barack says, a three-letter word, jobs, j-o-b-s, jobs.” The gaffable candidate made all these misstatements within a four-week period, beginning with some memorable advice to a journalist covering him. Tapping the reporter on the chest (presumably a male reporter), Mr. Biden advised, “You need to work on your pecs.”

White House officials have been telling reporters that they relish the run-ins with Mr. Cheney because he is, to quote The Washington Post, “one of the least popular political figures in America.” That would put him in the category of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Yet other historic figures have borne Mr. Cheney’s message of national peril and endured public scorn - Winston Churchill, for instance. When Churchill was summoning his countrymen to vigilance, he was so alone that historians have called the period his “Wilderness Years.” It was a tough time, and Churchill did not even have the delightful Vice President Biden to pin the donkey’s tail on.

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

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