Jewish World Review August 26, 2008 / 25 Menachem-Av 5768
When Joe Biden really showed what he is made of
By Roger Simon
It was at a Democratic debate one of approximately 700 or 800, as I recall that was sponsored by CNN, Google and YouTube.
Via a video clip, a man identifying himself as Jered Townsend from Clio, Mich., said: "To all the candidates, tell me your position on gun control, as myself and other Americans really want to know if our babies are safe."
Then Townsend picked up what appeared to be a semiautomatic assault rifle.
"This is my baby, purchased under the 1994 gun ban," he said. "Please tell me your views. Thank you."
It was an invitation for the Democrats to fall all over themselves telling gun owners how much they really loved guns.
The Democrats have been quaking in their boots over the gun issue ever since Al Gore lost the presidency in 2000. Had Gore won Tennessee, Arkansas or West Virginia all winnable states he would not have had to win Florida and he would have become president.
But he lost all those states, and guns had a lot to do with it. Bill Clinton had succeeded in making gun control a mainstream, pro-police issue, by convincing voters, including hunters, that banning assault rifles and cop-killer bullets would in no way harm sport shooting.
Gore could not pull this off and was unable to counter attacks by the National Rifle Association. According to exit polls, some 48 percent of voters owned guns in 2000, up from 37 percent in 1996. (This did not necessarily mean more people owned guns, but rather that more gun owners went to the polls.) Among those owning guns, 61 percent voted for George W. Bush.
After Gore's defeat, Terry McAuliffe, then chairman of the Democratic Party, advised Democrats to abandon gun control as an issue in future elections. "I believe we ought to move it out, let the individual communities decide their gun laws and how guns ought to be treated," McAuliffe said. "It has had a devastating impact on elections because the NRA has targeted and spent millions of dollars distorting individual members' views and Al Gore's views."
So now it was 2007, and Jered Townsend wanted the Democrats on the stage to tell him how much they loved their guns, loved their "babies."
Anderson Cooper, the CNN moderator, turned to Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico. "Gov. Richardson," Cooper said, "you have one of the highest NRA ratings."
Richardson did not disappoint the NRA. He talked about "instant background checks" and then said: "The key is going to be also attacking poverty, bringing people together, dealing with those kids in the ghettos that are heavy users of gun violence and they are victims of gun violence, to make sure that this country attacks the core problems of poverty, having child care, bringing parents together."
Yeah, right. The shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech really had a lot to do with poverty and kids in the ghettos.
Then Cooper turned to Joe Biden. "Sen. Biden," he asked, "are you going to be able to keep his baby safe?"
And Biden gave an answer that was 100 percent Joe Biden.
"I'll tell you what, if that is his baby, he needs help," Biden said. "I don't know that he is mentally qualified to own that gun."
Biden went on to say that he was "the guy who originally wrote the assault weapons ban" and "we should be working with law enforcement, right now, to make sure that we protect people against people who are not capable of knowing what to do with a gun because they're either mentally imbalanced and/or because they have a criminal record."
Then Biden added sardonically: "I hope he doesn't come looking for me."
It was a tough, honest answer that did not play to the crowd. And let me be the first to say that at the time, I criticized Biden for it, saying, in effect, he should have pandered more. I was wrong, and he was right.
Biden wanted to run a presidential race by talking about what he actually believed, even if not everybody wanted to hear it. It was a novel concept in presidential campaigning.
So I was a little surprised when Barack Obama selected Joe Biden the other day as his running mate. Obama has his own gun "problem," having said at a San Francisco fundraiser in April that when small town people "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion … as a way to explain their frustrations."
That did not play well with a lot of people, including gun owners. Which might have eliminated Biden as a vice presidential choice. But Obama picked him anyway. Perhaps it is an attempt to do what Bill Clinton did and say that Obama is for sensible gun control laws that won't harm the hunting of animals but will harm the hunting of people. And Joe Biden believes in that, too.
We will soon see how Biden deals with his past statements and positions.
Personally, I hopes he sticks to his guns. Or against them, that is.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
© 2008, Creators Syndicate