Back on September 10 in a visit to Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden seemed to hint that al Qaeda forced down a helicopter he was traveling in when he was visiting Afghanistan in February of 2008. He made the claim again on September 22 in a campaign stop at the National Guard Association. The truth, however, is not exactly what Biden may be trying to allege. Thus far, only ABC's Jake Tapper is exposing the ruse for what it is, a misleading tale pumped up to make his Afghanistan visit seem more menacing than it really was.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that on September 10 Biden told a Chicago audience a harrowing tale about his helicopter ride.
"The superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down...John McCain wants to know where Bin Ladin and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where. That's where Al Quaida is. That's where Bin Ladin is. It's not in the country of Iraq."
Wow. Forced down was it? Biden says this as if it were some attack that forced his helicopter down, doesn't he? However, immediately after that September 10 campaign stop, it came out pretty quickly that Biden's helicopter was not forced down by enemy weapons fire. No, it was a snow storm in the mountains that "forced" the aircraft down and then only because the pilot thought the better decision would be to err on the side of safety. He had generals and Senators in his craft, after all. You can imagine how nervous the pilot was in that case.
Now, let's face the truth here. Biden would not be using the words "forced down" without explaining that it was weather that forced him down unless he meant to convey that he was forced down in some extraordinary circumstances, as if he'd been fired upon. If he didn't mean to mislead the audience into imagining that weapons fire "forced" his craft down he would say that "when the weather forced down my helicopter." If he didn't mean to give his helicopter ride more gravity, the "forced down" part was meaningless to the greater point.
After all, Biden linked the war, the hunt for bin Laden, al Qaeda and his helicopter going down in one story as if they were all directly linked. But, in truth, the helicopter going down had absolutely nothing to do with al Qaeda, bin Laden, or the war. It was all because of a little snow and THAT could have happened right in Delaware.
Tapper was too nice to say it outright, but Biden was basically trying to mislead his audience into imagining that his helicopter was forced down by the enemy and that while in Afghanistan he was in mortal danger because of al Qaeda. All that is marginally true in a lawyer's fashion. But linked together as they were, these details present a misleading picture of a danger that Biden did not face.
Now, we have seen the media blast McCain several times for using his being shot down from the skies over Vietnam. We even heard Wesley Clark claim that getting shot down was no qualification for being president. The media have echoed Clark's jab in several ways subtle and direct. But, there is no denying that McCain really was forced down by enemies that wished to kill him and in a time of war.
Biden, on the other hand, was not in danger. He did not face the enemy in Afghanistan. Yet, he seems to be trying to make it look like he was in mortal danger.
So, the big question here is, if the media is ready to scoff at McCain's very real incident of facing enemy fire, is that same media ready to bash Biden for pretending to face such a harrowing experience when he didn't?
What if a Republican was going about pretending his aircraft was "forced down" as if by the enemy in enemy territory? Would the media simply turn the other way at such a misleading claim on the campaign trail?
And lastly, we get a hint in this tale of the disdain... and if not disdain, then at least the discounting of the man... that others in the Senate feel for Joe Biden. Look at how John Kerry told the tale of the helicopter going down:
"The weather closed in on us," the Associated Press quoted Kerry as saying. "It went pretty blind, pretty fast and we were around some pretty dangerous ridges. So the pilot exercised his judgment that we were better off putting down there, and we all agreed."
"We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn't have to do it." he said. "Other than getting a little cold, it was fine."
Now, on that helicopter was Senator Chuck Hagel (R- NE), Kerry (D- MA), Biden (D-CT), and a three star general. Yet, Kerry made a joke about Biden snowball fighting with the Taliban. Biden is the subject of ridicule. Does this just not show how little Kerry thinks of Biden? It has been reported that Biden is generally thought of as a fool and blowhard in the Senate, and this offhanded treatment by someone like Kerry really says a lot about Biden's standing among other Senators. If Biden was well respected, Kerry would never have made Biden the butt of jokes.
Great choice, there, Barack.
(Photo credit: reason magazine)