Saturday, March 27, 2010

Did Anything Strike You as Odd About Biden’s Pottymouth Episode?

No, I don’t mean Gee, isn’t Biden odd?, I mean did anything seem odd even by the standards of oddness set by this oddest of Vice Presidents? (By the way, I don’t want to hear anything about Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle being dullards unqualified for the Presidency unless we also invite into the discussion Al Gore, John Edwards, and Biden, three of the all-time creepiest VPs or VP candidates, and Biden is both creepy and simple.) [This version is not bleeped.]

No, Biden’s inappropriate locution didn’t strike me as peculiar in the slightest. Even left-leaning web magazines like Slate feature a page collecting Biden's gaffe's bloopers, and malapropisms .  (I won’t dwell on his plagiarism.)

What puzzles me about Biden’s f-bomb is this: Why did he think that it was appropriate to use that language in addressing President Obama? Why did he think it was OK? Why did he think that Obama wouldn’t recoil when he said “[t]his is a big f_____g deal”? (Or is it “f_____n’ deal”?)   POTUS didn’t seem startled by this remark, although he undoubtedly had weightier matters on his mind than how to react to his VP’s careless vulgarity. But put aside Obama’s lack of reaction.  What does this remark tell us about the customary mode of communication at the Obama White House?

Maybe nothing. Maybe it isn’t fair to view Biden’s casual use of profanity at this historical moment as evidence that others in the Presidential circle find it appropriate (although Rahm Emanuel’s florid speech patterns are apparently pretty well known in and around local showers).  But this is my website, and I choose to believe that it means that this very smooth-talking President is himself a closet cusser, so that Joe Biden had no fear that POTUS would take offense. 

And this got me to thinking, always a risky undertaking.

All right, I know that one can’t assume that Obama uses profanity from his tolerance of Emanuel and Biden. (You can assume other things about his judgment, but not that.)  However, when combined with (1) his not-so-secret smoking, (2) his physician’s advice that he cut back on the alcohol, and (3) the increasingly shaky case for his authorship of Dreams of My Father  (although I concede this last matter is far from settled, depending on what you think about Ayers's own reported claims that he wrote it -- historians will eventually sort this one out one way or the other), I think the case for the President’s commonness is pretty compelling. 

So what?  Nixon was salty, as was Clinton; Kennedy(s) and Clinton and Johnson were relentless in their pursuit of DC tail. GW Bush was rumored to continue his tippling ways in the White House.  Every politician uses ghost writers to write books bearing his name (although only Obama, to my recall, repeatedly and expressly claimed that he did not).

The point isn’t that Obama is a bad guy. The point is that he’s probably a pretty regular guy.  I enjoy a stogie now and then; having a martini right now.  I said a bad word this morning when I was changing smoke detector batteries. 

But being a regular guy, he isn’t entitled to present himself, or to encourage his portrayal by others, or to be portrayed by others, as a paragon of transcendent humanity.  His beliefs and policies are either good or bad, based on the evidence. 

Let’s have a look.


  1. I was disappointed that most people seemed to not think a whole lot of it at all! Thank you for thinking about it! I, for one, found it offensive. The language itself - but also the casualty of its use in a VERY public and important setting.

  2. Thanks, Meredith. I will probably return often to the topic of casual vulgarity and sexual display in everyday life. It trivializes the human experience. There is something to be said for self-repression, and even something to be said for reasonable official repression.