The remarkable thing about Joe Biden’s botched announcement of his second presidential run is not that he said something outrageously inappropriate and, if we are to assume that Democratic caucus and primary participants retain even minimal standards with regard to the competence of contenders, electorally lethal.

The senator from Delaware has a very long history of lodging metatarsals in his oral orifice. And his reference to a more attractive and articulate senator and presidential contender, Illinoisan Barack Obama, as a “clean” African American was, while spectacular in its senselessness, oddly Bidenesque. This is not to suggest that the senior senator is a racist, nor even that he’s some kind of neatness freak. (Biden says that, by “clean” he meant “fresh,” which seems about right.) Rather, this is to suggest that Joe Biden is still Joe Biden, the linguistically lumbering, intellectually inelegant Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman whose “plan” for solving the Iraq mess is so convoluted that even he has trouble explaining it.

So, no, there was nothing all that astounding about the fact that the politician who got himself kicked out of the 1988 Democratic contest for plagiarism would, with another two decades of practice, come up with an even more sensationally disqualifying gesture this time around.

The remarkable thing about the Biden blow out is the notion that some pundits are actually discussing the extent to which the senator’s “clean” comment may have harmed his chances – as if the guy’s vanity candidacy ever had a chance.

Biden is, according to several recent polls from the first caucus state of Iowa and the first primary state of New Hampshire, having a hard time competing with Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich among the party faithful. In another early caucus state, Nevada, the Foreign Relations Committee chair is tied with 76-year-old former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. While it is true that Gravel – who says he would “raze (the) Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons to the ground” – is more frequently right on the issues than Biden, the Alaskan is not often identified as a frontrunner.

The truth is that, before the “clean” comment, Biden had about as much chance of winning the Democratic nomination for president as, well, Mike Gravel.

Now, Biden has a little less chance of securing the nod than Gravel.


John Nichols’ latest book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders’ Cure forRoyalism.