By Joe Kaiser -
Last week, I raised speculation that Judy Baar Topinka’s big government, big spending tour could be a result of having a long career in Springfield, joining others like Mike Madigan and John Cullerton for having tenure that makes Ron Paul look like a house freshman.
Now, recent comments by a much larger figure demand the same analysis. Joe Biden, once dubbed ‘Joe the six term senator’ by John McCain, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. The contentious issues at the time were U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and the Nixon Shock, things that following generations only have Wikipedia to remember by. But another major difference from the 1970’s, and there are many, is the absence of the 24-hour news cycle and the rise of social media, which can now track every last word falling awkwardly out of Biden’s all too large mouth.
The Washington Post mentioned this briefly Thursday, saying Biden ‘will never totally succeed in this media environment.’ Of course, this point is raised because of the vice president’s ‘chain’ gaffe in Virginia on Tuesday, with the left quickly once again trying to defend him in any way possible, and the right accusing him of reaching an all time low. However, what is missing in all the discussion of the vice gaffe machine is exactly what The Washington Post suggested, that Biden’s four decade long career in Washington prevents him from adapting to a changing media culture that will capture every last moment of drivel spouting from his 40 year political brain, even if it is not given much attention in the mainstream.
In 2012, unlike 1972, a gaffe makes for a YouTube sensation, can be trending worldwide on Twitter and shared thousands of times on Facebook. In fact, the clip of the gaffe itself was on RealClearPolitcs.com before any major news outlets reported it on television. New media and social media are so powerful in politics today and it appears that Biden’s mouth, though it can run pretty fast, cannot keep up with the times.
Chris Cillizza said in his Washinton Post piece that “it’s virtually impossible to imagine Biden being elected to the Senate in this day and age; his willingness to engage reporters coupled with his tendency to speak off the cuff would make him a messaging nightmare for a campaign.” This is possibly a nightmare for the Obama campaign right now, though dumping him from the ticket would appear desperate and does not look like an option moving forward for the Democrats. Therefore, Biden’s presence on the bottom of the ticket and top of the headlines allows for anyone and everyone to comment and formulate opinions on the vice president’s blabber, with notable commentators jumping into the fray.
Rudy Giuliani’s assertion in particular, that Biden lacks the mental capacity for his office is legitimate questioning (it becomes legitimate after this many gaffes), but part of Giuliani’s attack is probably revenge for 2007 Biden comments and even if valid are not the whole story. Biden is a career politician who cannot keep up with a media that unlike him, has not stayed stagnant in the same place for 40 years.
The media has evolved to be dominated by the Internet and to include social networking and citizen contributions that ensure that no gaffe will go unnoticed. Maybe the vice president does not think things through very well before he speaks. Maybe he does lack something upstairs. Maybe he is a massive liability to the Obama campaign. But one thing is for certain: It is not 1972 anymore. People are going to hear what he says, one way or another.