This has been moved up out of order due to the second update.
Senator Joe Biden has announced that he’s running for President and wasted no time entering the battle for the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination — by taking a swipe at the perceived front-runner:
New presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden says rival Sen. Hillary Clinton’s plan for Iraq would be a “disaster,” as he filed papers to form an exploratory committee today for a run for the White House in 2008.
“I think it would be a disaster if it is her plan” to cut off funding for local Iraqi forces, Biden told “Good Morning America” anchor Diane Sawyer. “I think it’s counterproductive.”
Biden has sponsored a nonbinding resolution to oppose the president’s call to send more troops to Iraq. When it comes to Iraq, Biden believes the only solution is a political one.
“We should insist on a political settlement between the Sunnis and the Shias,” he said. “We ought to be bringing all the parties together. â€¦ There is no military solution to Iraq.”
Biden also said he believed that Iran, which President Bush believes has been aiding insurgents in Iraq, had an advantage because of the way the United States had handled the war.
Biden also made it clear that he had a lot of good things to say about Hillary Clinton being qualified to be President.
And lest you think there is ANY seriousness in him pondering whether to run or not when he creates an exploratory committee, Biden basically told the AP exploratory-exploraschmory I’m in:
Democratic Sen. Joe Biden has been saying for months he’s running for president. He made it official on Wednesday. The Delaware senator will file the paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and release a videotaped campaign message to voters on his Web site, www.joebiden.com. He also is planning another trip to New Hampshire early next week.
“After nine months of doing this, there is no exploratory committee – I’m running,” Biden told The Associated Press.
Biden has staked-out an interesting corner in American politics.
He has proven to be one of the most blunt-spoken Senators on talking-head TV shows. He also has shot himself in the foot several times for long-winded comments, but seemed to rebound in later appearances. He has been blasted by the Democratic left for not totally favoring the stance some on the left advocate in Iraq. In terms of relations with news media (something that matters since it’s how a candidate can get free exposure), Biden seems to be a newsmaker who’s considered a good quote-machine (a compliment, if you’re in the news biz) and someone who can add a vital “on the other hand” perspective to otherwise polarized (rage on the left, rage on the right) news stories.
But he may now be on the verge of coming under attack himself because in an interview he referred to Barack Obama as being someone who’s “clean” — a clear reference to Obama someone who is not enmeshed in scandals or tainted by bad publicity. To most people.
You can see already about how this is already surfacing as something where some may suggest that he used the word in racial terms. This mini-flap (if it grows into one — and talk radio loves this kind of thing, as does the blogosphere) would probably end with Obama noting that he has worked with Biden and that those suggesting Biden was suggesting what they’re suggesting he was perhaps suggesting are mistaken (but at least some of those pushing that line will know that already).
SECOND UPDATE 1:09 PST: It has unfolded exactly as we predicted above. Biden says he didn’t mean what people (on the right and left) are suggesting he said. And Obama says he believes Biden — which we predict won’t be enough for at least some of those who don’t like Biden (on the right and left). After all, why would Obama’s opinion matter? (U.S. foreign policy under George Bush is often done via policy by positive affirmation; partisan stances are often taken by partisan or ideological affirmation.)
Hotline On Call:
Joe Biden called Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to clarify his “clean” comment to the New York Observer, Biden told reporters in a conference call this afternoon. Biden said Obama told him: “You don’t have to explain anything to me. I know exactly what you meant.” Asked to clarify his comments, where he said Obama was “articulate and bright and clean,” Biden said he “really” regretted the word “clean” was taken out of context. Biden: “My mother has an expression clean as a whistle sharp as a tack, that was the context.” As to the effect it might have on the African-American vote, Biden: “I have no doubt that Jesse Jackson and other black leaders … knew exactly what I meant. We have a very, very long relationship. … There will be no misunderstanding.”
Biden said of the Observer piece: “I believe I was quoted accurately but they weren’t meant to take shots.” As for his Democratic competition, Biden: “I think they’re all great. I think I’m better.”
FOOTNOTE: Biden’s likelihood of becoming the nominee is bleak and not because of the plagiarism flap that took him out during his last major run, since he has rebounded from that by becoming a solid Congressional voice. He’ll likely to add a balance to the 2008 Democratic presidential race debate. It would not be surprising to see him wind up in some future Democratic White House administration in a cabinet post.
UPDATE: Or is Biden’s use of the word “clean” innocent and not indicative of a bigger problem? Americablog’s John Aravosis writes:
Okay, what Biden was trying to say, I think, was that Obama is quite possibly the first serious black presidential candidate who doesn’t scare white people (or at least a good segment of white people). And I think that’s true. Jesse Jackson? Scary (yeah, a lot of you like him, a lot of us don’t). Alan Keyes? Insane. Al Sharpton? I find him funny, but he’s still fighting the Tawana Brawley image. What other serious black candidates have we had? So, yes, in that context, Obama is the first candidate that doesn’t routinely scare white people – and that’s part of the reason Republicans are trying to smear him as a scary madrassa-attending radical Muslim.
But that’s not what Biden said. He said we haven’t had any black candidates who have been articulate, bright and clean. Jackson, Keyes, and Sharpton are all articulate, bright and clean. So what exactly was Biden’s point?
And he says there have been problems before and links to one other questionable choice of words.
Daily Kos: “It’s clear his career has dragged on one election cycle too many.”
Hugh Hewitt (who will influence the “take” on this by many bloggers on the right): “Imagine if Rush [Limbaugh] had called Obama the “first…clean African American.” Really, do you want Joe Biden overseeing the Iraq war? Especially when you realize that Biden is ten times smarter than Leahy and a hundred times brighter than Boxer?”
Josh Marshall offers one reader’s explanation of how punctuation may have made people misunderstand, then Marshall writes:
Even with the comma it’s really condescending bordering on racist. And it would still probably mean that Biden’s mouth presents a clear and present danger to Democratic electoral prospects no matter what he meant. Ending his candidacy wouldn’t be preemption, just legitimate self-defense.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.