The AP shows surprising honesty when it comes to Joe Biden

Something very peculiar is happening at the AP, so much so that I think someone might be sneaking something into the AP water supply. Why do I say this? Because of the almost bizarrely objective series of articles the AP published on the occasion of Obama’s announcement that Joe Biden was going to be the next President — er, Vice-President — of the United States. I expected to see the same slavish enthusiasm that the rest of the MSM is already displaying. Instead, I discovered this:

Analysis : Biden pick shows lack of confidence

In picking Sen. Joe Biden to be his running mate, Barack Obama sought to shore up his weakness — inexperience in office and on foreign policy — rather than underscore his strength as a new-generation candidate defying political conventions.


The picks say something profound about Obama: For all his self-confidence, the 47-year-old Illinois senator worried that he couldn’t beat Republican John McCain without help from a seasoned politician willing to attack.

Wow! According to this AP analysis, Biden isn’t some sort of magical golden boy. Instead, he’s a much-needed life preserver for a foundering candidate.

I might have thought the above analysis was simply an anomaly, with Ron Fournier breaking from the AP lockstep, if it weren’t for the fact that I immediately came across two more AP articles, both by Calvin Woodward and both of which damn Biden with faint praise. (Or maybe they praise him with faint damns; it’s not always clear.)

The first is entitled “Biden speaks — and speaks — his own mind,” which is a polite way of saying the man bloviates. Although the article praises his foreign policy experience (which is of value only if one agrees with his foreign policy goals), it’s also chock full of direct and indirect insults regarding his judgment and his logorrhea.

For example, how about this very un-AP-ish slap at Biden for voting for the Iraq War when it was popular, changing his mind when it was unpopular, and now clinging to that last position despite the change in facts on the ground (emphasis mine)?

Biden voted in 2002 to authorize the Iraq invasion, which Obama opposed from the start. Since then, he’s become a firm critic of the conflict and pushed through a resolution last year declaring that Bush’s troop increase — now considered a military success — was “not in the national interest.”

The article also doesn’t hesitate to cover his little plagiarism problem (although it doesn’t refer to his law school plagiarism, just to his 1988 decision to steal a speech from a Leftist British politician), as well as some of his more famous gaffes. Thus, readers get reminded both that he once bizarrely referred to his current running mate as an “articulate” and “clean” man, and that he suggested that 7-Eleven and Dunkin’ Donuts customers cultivate East Indian accents. In other words, the article is surprisingly honest.

Calvin Woodward strikes again with an article bearing the not-so-flattering title “Biden brings agile mind, loose lips to ticket.” After a flattering first two paragraphs about Biden’s bonhomous charm, Woodward throws this punch about Biden’s presence on the ticket:

He adds suspense, too, over the question of when — not if — he’ll put his foot in his mouth. Biden’s agile mind comes with a loose tongue that cannot always be properly restrained.

There follows some complimentary talk about Biden’s long career having eventually created depth where there was, formerly, only steak-free sizzle. Abandoning that line of talk, though, Woodward again harks back to that little plagiarism problem, and then throws in Biden’s now famous insult to a potential voter: “I have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect.” The article then zig-zags back to Biden’s personal history (including the tragic car accident that claimed his first wife, and his daughter, as well as severely injuring his sons), but closes on a sour note by reminding readers about Biden’s “clean” and “articulate” reference to Obama, and his nasty remark about East Indian entrepreneurs.

Perhaps I’m reading undue significance into Woodward’s narrative choice for the article’s conclusion, but the fact is that, as every lawyer knows, you put your strongest point at the front, and either reiterate it at the end, or you close with your second strongest point. That an AP writer chose to close his column by reminding his readers about Biden’s problems with race is either really stupid or really significant.

The last AP article that crossed my radar in the hours since Biden’s nomination is one that announces that “Biden’s career provides for McCain’s mill.” This article is worth reading in its entirety, because it’s just a beautiful laundry list of the myriad problems that have plagued Biden.

The AP’s writers do make the point that any career politician is going to have a huge list of problems, so that this article may be an attempt at damage control: Better to defuse the issue of his failings by putting them out up front, as opposed to playing Obama’s “hide and go seek the corruption” game. Even though this full frontal honesty may have some virtue, I can’t help but think that constantly repeating Biden’s moral failings (because plagiarism is theft) and his idiotic statements is not going to comfort readers — especially given that these same failings jettisoned his two previous runs for the Presidency.

The AP’s bizarre lapse into honesty shows what happens when the media creates a candidate, and then is stuck with the candidate’s conduct. Unless a liberal media outlet wishes to turn into a perfect 1984 outlet that creates an alternative reality unbounded by actual facts, it’s going to have to confront unpleasant truths and then spin them as best it can. And I can tell you that the spinning on the Biden watch is going to be dizzying.

(Cross-posted at Bookworm Room.)

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