Tuesday, August 26, 2008

#58 VP-DNA Again--Joe Biden and Me

OK, here's the very indirect connection, though not a trivial one: in my English classes Sen. Biden was for many years the "poster child" and ultimate example of the terrible consequences of PLAGIARISM. It killed his 1988 Presidential run. "Listen," I'd say to my students in the obligatory annual briefing on the subject, "you gotta take this thing seriously [or some such]--it toppled a President"...a wannabe, anyway. The point is, I told them, not only is plagiarism wrong in principle, but it's in your self-interest to avoid it because of possible repercussions in future. Look, it followed Joe Biden even onto the national political stage. It's gonna be "on your record"--those terrible and despised words.

So it was for Biden in '88, unfortunately, and so it will be today. Interestingly, the alarm sounded for him early on, but he didn't seem to hear. He had to take an "F" in a law-school course for plagiarizing. and yet later in his run for President he went right ahead and stole a speech from a British MP...and a couple more from the then-late RFK!--only attributed several days later. (Did no one on his team suspect that just about anyone in the audience was bound to remember this democratic icon's speeches?) And I don't mean just ideas re-worded (which, believe me, far too many of my old students thought was OK)--we're talking near verbatim thievery. I've read the stuff in question.

Furthermore, as my favorite political website, CrooksAndLiars.com, would have it (by implication), a true POL must be possessed of BOTH kinds of dishonesty, brewing a perfect storm of larceny AND mendacity. Biden passes the test. Plagiarism makes him a crook. And another incident or two from the '88 campaign makes him a liar. This time call it "resume-padding." Baffling...that a hyper-public figure like Biden could think he could get away with fact-fudging, even 20 years ago. But lie he did about his class rank, scholarship status, and degrees. All of this may seem "academic" (ha), but it forced him to withdraw. (Or could it have been those laughable hair-plugs that were barely growing in at the time?)

Now, 20 years later, mark my words, it'll all come back to dog him once again. He dodged the bullet in the primaries because they were just...primaries, and he was so far out of the running anyway. Now, he could be "a heart-beat from the Presidency." Do we want a person in that position who is capable of glibly engaging in petty theft and of blithely distorting the facts? I'm being much too hard on him, I know. Well, I shouldn't have to be, per last post. Yes, all this was two decades ago, and some sort of unofficial statute of limitations should be in effect. Or "time served," if you will. But would-be VP Joe Biden will again be fielding these old questions, and he can't simply withdraw from THIS horse race--he'll have to come up with some persuasive answers. Alas, if he'd only paid closer attention to his college English professor.

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