Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Are Biden's Gaffes a Serious Issue or Just Petty Mistakes?

The University of Delaware should immediately be petitioned to invalidate any and all credits Senator Biden may have earned in courses dealing with United States history or economics.  They can offer a series of night courses as a way for the senator to hold on to his degrees.

Biden's latest gaffe comes during an interview with Couric, conducted aboard the campaign bus.  In an attempt to challenge the economic experience of the McCain/Palin ticket and capitalize on American's fears about economic recession/depression he had the following comments (full video clip below):

"Part of what a leader does is to instill confidence and to demonstrate that he or she knows what they're talking about and communicate to the people, 'If you listen to me and follow what I'm suggesting we can fix this.' 

When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed.  He said, "Look, here's what happened."'

Factless Gaffe #1 - The stock market crash occurred in 1929.  Americans did not have televisions in 1929.  Perhaps Biden has knowledge that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was secretly experimenting in his own basement with the invention of television broadcasting.  Even if the absurd were true, no one would have been watching.

Factless Gaffe #2 - FDR was the governor of New York in 1929 - not president - and was not in a position to address the nation as its leader.  It's true that FDR was described by those close to him as being arrogant, but assuming the role of national cheerleader was beyond the reach of even his ego.

After Biden had fallen from his horse to land in a pile of steaming historical inaccuracy, Couric appeared unaware that anything he had said was worthy of further questioning.  I don't remember Couric being that polite when interviewing Republicans.

The big question is whether Biden's gaffe (and the dozens of others in the past and to follow) matters or is it just opportunistic nitpicking to jump on Biden's mistake?  I don't want to be accused of making commentary that only rises to the level of splitting hairs.

Aside from the sublime irony of a stocking a sanctimonious lecture on being knowledgeable with factual errors, I guess it's just a question of how much arrogance and thick-headedness voters are willing to tolerate in their leaders.  I suggest that it matters a great deal.

Understanding history can give us a powerful tool by showing us the outcomes of human decisions taken within a specific environment and framed by specific events.  In our personal lives, we apply some version of historical hindsight every day.  It gives us a template from which to make good choices, but only if we are making choices based on all of the facts.

If facts aren't important to how Biden takes his lessons from history then we can assume that he will fail to be educated by the past.  How can we put faith in politicians who are comfortable making choices for the country based on half of the facts?

We can't expect our leaders to be perfect, but we must expect them to avail themselves of some basic facts to inform their decisions.  Or, let's not even leave it up to them.  The voters can just get our facts straight and not elect those who do not.

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