When Barack Obama and Joe Biden first began campaigning in 2008, their complimentary advantages as candidates were fairly clear – that is, Obama was the candidate who spoke to the young and minority voters (who had, up until that point, been his base) most capably, while Biden was the one who spoke to restive blue collar workers. As a matter of fact, Biden’s constant references to “taking the train” back from Washington were probably intended to demonstrate this supposedly more homespun character.
Yet as Vice President, Biden has shown himself to be prone to gaffes, even in his supposed home turf, a fact that has complicated this otherwise simple division of labor between him and the President. And Biden’s lack of comfort in the public eye, has, at least recently, become increasingly difficult not to notice. For evidence, simply look at his speech today to the International Association of Firefighters in Philadelphia.
Why? Because that speech reportedly had all the hallmarks of a vintage Biden gaffe-fest. To begin with, according to Business Insider, Biden mouthed odd lines such as “I wish my kids would become wealthy,” apparently intended as a means of reassuring the audience that Democrats aren’t anti-wealth. Needless to say, the line fell flat.
And then there was the fact that despite Biden’s attempts at pandering, he seemed to almost purposefully avoid hitting the right notes. One Philadelphia Firefighters’ Union President was apparently visibly upset at Biden for failing to include even one sentence regarding a local dispute in Philadelphia over an award to firefighters. From Business Insider’s report:
Bill Gault, president of Philadelphia Fire Fighter’s Union Local 22, said after Biden’s speech that he wanted Biden to endorse the implementation of an award to city firefighters that provided raises and protections against furloughs. An arbitration panel granted the award in early July, and last week the union filed a lawsuit against the city to ensure that it is enacted.
“I just wanted him to say one sentence to my mayor to honor the firefighters’ award,” Gault told Business Insider. “But I guess I can’t expect him to do that.”[…]
Gault was hoping for an endorsement from the vice president, which led to his disappointment.
“We feel unappreciated in this city. And if you ask these men in here, they’ll feel the same way,” Gault said. “I’m disappointed that the vice president didn’t say, ‘Mr. Mayor, honor their agreement.’ It’s a very simple sentence.”
Simple, indeed, yet Biden skipped saying it. He did, however, throw in an obligatory dig at GOP nominee Mitt Romney – a dig that, when paired with the reaction to Biden’s speech, may sound more than a little ironic:
I don’t think he gets you. I don’t think he understands what you’re all about, what makes you tick, what makes you decide to go in this profession, which you couldn’t pay 90 percent of the population to do.
One wonders if the Vice President might have been projecting. Or, perhaps, he simply is a surrogate for the wrong candidate. After all, while running for President in the 2008 Democratic primary, Biden was very well-received by the same group: