Biden to Jews: Stay Packed Tuesday, Mar 24 2015 

“Folks, there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply you are involved in the United States . . . there is no guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.”

–Vice President Joe Biden to a Jewish American group, as reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic.

I had always thought of Joe Biden, whether as a U.S. senator or Vice President, as a feckless, if influential crackpot. But on reading this statement made to Jewish American leaders last fall, I now see him as a mindless demagogue.

As a Jewish American who came of age in the 1940s, I am well aware of the argument that what happened to Jews in Nazi Germany and other countries over the centuries could happen in the United States. It is usually made by ardent Zionists, however, not by American Vice Presidents who, if nothing else, should have a deeper appreciation of what makes this country different from others – the fact that the United States is the only country in the world based on an idea, not ethnic bloodlines.

Or is it that this Vice President doesn’t, in his bones, believe in America’s singularity as a national haven for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free?

On this point, as a Jewish American, I have also visited Israel and found it, the enduring spirit of the Exodus aside, a foreign country. Other than sharing a Bronze Age faith, I have as little in common with its inhabitants (many of whom, based on my American dietary habits alone, would consider me an infidel) as I do with those of Romania, the country my father left over a century ago to become an American.

Not that I’m blind to the existence of anti-Semitism and discrimination against other minority groups in this country – or in the case of African Americans, of persecution. But as Frederick Douglass pointedly reminded Abraham Lincoln when Lincoln suggested that once the slaves were freed they might return to Africa, there is no turning back. However they arrive here, those who come to America become Americans, here to stay.

And so it is with me. Unless, of course, by some odd quirk of history, a patronizing dumbass like Joe Biden were to become president.

 Sound bite to remember

 “May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in the land continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants. While everyone shall sit safely under his own vine and fig-tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

       –President George Washington in a letter to the Sephardic Jewish congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, August 1790

Biden in 2016? It’s All in the Game Wednesday, Oct 26 2011 

I can’t pinpoint precisely when Presidential politics turned into a game, but I can tell you who owns the casino.

Flashback: Halfway through the Nixon v. McGovern campaign of 1972 — ancient history, but bear with me — Vice President Spiro Agnew arrived in Los Angeles prepared to answer reporters’ questions about the Vietnam war, Nixon’s new economic policy, and a host of other major issues (including the Watergate break-in five months earlier). Instead, the first question asked by a local TV reporter was whether the Vice President was planning to run for president in 1976.

As Agnew’s press secretary at the time I’d long since learned to expect the unexpected when the man was provoked by what he regarded as nattering nabobs. What followed was true to form: A glare, a clearing of the throat, then: “In ten years of holding press conferences on a local, state and national level,” said the Vice President, “that is absolutely the stupidest question I’ve ever been asked.”

All of which came to mind last week when I tuned in to hear CNN’s Candy Crowley ask Vice President Joe Biden the same stupid question: Was Biden, in his campaign travel this year, laying the groundwork for a presidential bid in 2016?

For Crowley, of course, the question was anything but stupid. It was smart television, what she’s paid to do. That whatever answer Biden gave – it was predictably vapid – would shed no light on the issues and substance of the current campaign made no difference. As a political correspondent for a cable news network, her job is to give the dull grind of a presidential campaign the casino touch.

It’s all about the game – the ratings game – and second only to controversy, there’s nothing like speculation to entertain an audience, raise the numbers that keep sponsors happy. What value would those vacuous candidate “debates” be without a covey of instant analysts and partisan touts coming on to tell us who won, who lost, who held the hot hand, who crapped out.

In their book The Permanent Campaign and Its Future, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein deplore the impact that pollsters and spin doctors have had on our political system, blurring the line between running for and holding office. All to the good, as far as the boys (and girls) on the Permanent Campaign Bus are concerned.

Joe Biden running in 2016? Why should this question come up now? The answer is that having exhausted the list of prospects for the 2012 race, there was nowhere else to go. Remember Trump, Daniels, Barbour, Palin, Christie?

The last named, you’ll recall, became so tired of telling reporters he wasn’t going to run that he famously asked, “What do I have to do to convince you? Commit suicide?”

And if a non-candidate did in fact kill himself to end speculation about his running, what then? No problem. I can hear Chris Matthews now: “Good campaign move.”

Sound Bite to Remember (1972)

“He’s a Democrat. What would you expect him to say, ‘Kiss my elephant’?”

— Campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz explaining why his candidate George McGovern told an obnoxious heckler to ‘kiss my ass’