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Gaffe-prone Joe Biden promises 'the details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making'


Former vice president talks about conflating the stories of three different soldiers into an anecdote

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

In an interview with NPR, former Vice President Joe Biden assured NPR that messing up details in campaign anecdotes was "irrelevant in terms of decision-making."

What gaffes?

Biden is infamous for sometimes making gaffes during speeches. A few examples include:

  • In 2013, he slipped and said that he was "proud to be president of the United States";
  • in 2012, he confused Afghanistan and Iran; and
  • in 2006, he informed an Indian-American supporter that in his home state of Delaware "you cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."

These gaffes can sometimes lead to questions over what Biden means by policy proposals, like on Monday when he called for an end to gun magazines that "hold multiple bullets in them."

Presumably he was referring to high-capacity magazines, a frequent target of gun control advocates, but the phrasing led to questions about whether he was suggesting more sweeping gun control measures than his Democratic primary opponents.

What did he say now?

During an interview that covered everything from tariffs to his actions during the days leading up to the Iraq War, NPR host Asma Khalid asked Biden about his gaffes and if he felt "that the details, and not just the intentions, matter when you're making decisions as president."

"Well, they're two fundamentally different questions you're asking me," Biden said. He then referred to a recent instance in which he had been called out for conflating the stories of three different soldiers into an anecdote on the campaign trail. He said that the "whole purpose" of what he had been saying "did not in any way affect my point."

Biden argued that he had been making a larger point about the bravery and decency of the "men and women in the military."

"I was making a point about a generation," Biden said. "That has nothing to do with the judgment of whether or not you send troops to war, the judgment of whether you bring someone home, the judgment of whether or not you decide on a health care policy."

Khalid pressed him again on whether he thought that the details mattered.

"No, but the details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making," he repeated. "If in fact I forget that it was [General] Rodriguez — out of all the times I've been in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq and Bosnia and Kosovo, as much as anybody except maybe my deceased friend John McCain and maybe Lindsey Graham.

"And so, the fact that I would forget that it was Rodriguez who was pinning — I believe this was the case — pinning a Bronze Star on a young man, was — it's irrelevant to the point," he continued. "It's like saying, 'I had this very bright reporter and I think her eyes were blue.' What difference does it make about whether you're a bright reporter? Your eyes are brown. It's irrelevant, and you know it."

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