On Wednesday, August 15, MSNBC’s noon show, “NOW With Alex Wagner,” featured a brief but revealing segment on Vice President Joseph Biden’s recent gaffe. This was the one where Biden addressed a crowd, mostly of African-Americans, and, using what sounded like a Southern accent, said of the Romney/Ryan team: “They’re going to put ya’ll back in chains,” supposedly with deregulation of Wall Street.
The “NOW” panel was urged to address this by host Alex Wagner, but from a specific standpoint – “How do we get past this and get to the big issues?”
One of her guests, Eric Bates, executive editor of Rolling Stone, had this to say in response to Wagner’s question:
ERIC BATES: I think it’s going to blow over pretty quickly, so I don’t think we will have to do much to get past it. I think Romney’s response, even the rhetoric of his response, is interesting. He called the Obama administration angry and desperate. Well, you can call Obama a lot of things. Angry isn’t one that comes to mind very often, and I think a lot of his own supporters would like to see President Obama more angry than he is. Desperate? If you want a sign of desperation, latching on to something Joe Biden says, as evidence of anything, that’s an act of desperation.
When others on the panel pointed out that Biden is, after all, vice president, and thus the gaffe is fair game, Bates went on to say:
ERIC BATES: I’m not saying it it’s not fair game. He’s almost gaffe-proof in that we’ve come to expect that from him so much, and it’s a reflection of who he is and how he talks, and everybody kind of gets that.
Here’s the clip:
What’s striking about this exchange is how cavalier a major editor—even of a publication such as the Rolling Stone—is about a gaffe-prone vice president, making excuses for him the way one would for, say, a goofy uncle. As others on the panel rightly pointed out: Joseph Biden is not just anybody; he’s the vice president, a heartbeat away from the presidency.
When Bates says “everybody gets that” about Biden, what does he really mean—that we all know Biden is not as dumb as he repeatedly sounds? Or is he saying Biden is as dumb as his gaffes make him appear, but it doesn’t really matter? If the former, where’s the evidence? If the latter, should an editor be shrugging off this story?