Joe Biden 'goofs' again on Jay Leno's show
Remember him? Been a senator since the Great Depression? Big expert on foreign affairs? Wanted to divvy Iraq up into three parts?
Well, he's still the vice presidential candidate on Barack Obama's Democratic ticket, even though he doesn't draw the news media and obscene T-shirts like Gov. Sarah Palin, who's gonna be on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" this weekend caricaturing Tina Fey.
And since David What's-his-name was busy tonight with his personal promotional vendetta against Sen. John McCain, Biden dropped in on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" over in Burbank on NBC, which has more viewers anyway.
Biden easily lived up to his reputation as not being a laugh-riot. Even a walking gaffe-machine. But he was good-natured and went along at the show's start with poking fun at his gaffe-proneness.
Although America is theoretically falling asleep when these guys are on, we did learn a few things about Biden:
• He's a Phillies fan. Some of you Dodger fans may want to stop reading this right now.
• Biden was riding on Amtrak when he got the first call from Obama asking if he'd be interested in being considered as VP.
• His wife was getting a root canal when Obama called to offer the No. 2 spot to her waiting husband. But the couple had already had a couple of months to discuss the possibility and agreed that "Yes" would be the answer. (That means as early as June, Biden was under consideration.)
• Biden says Palin has "really captivated a large part of the American public" so he was only "a bit player" in their debate.
• He says given the ubiquity of cellphone cameras and recorders, he does nothing more than mumble anymore while shaking hands on rope lines.
• He mock-complained that Joe the Plumber and Joe Six-Pack are getting all the media attention. What about Joe Biden? "I hardly get any coverage. That's why I wanted to be on this show."
We're going to add a brief video of Biden's latest "gaffe" and the whole Leno-Biden interview transcript on the jump for those who want more. Just click on the Read more line below.
— Andrew Malcolm
Transcript of Sen. Joe Biden's visit to "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," Oct. 16, 2008.
JAY LENO: My first guest is Sen. Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate. From the great state of Delaware, please welcome Sen. Joe Biden.
Can I call you Joe? Is that OK?
SEN. JOE BIDEN: You can call me whatever the heck you want to call me.
JAY LENO: Well, the big debate was last night. You've been here before, and I know you. I know you're a Phillies fan. Did you watch the debate, or were you switching back and forth?
BIDEN: Well, I watched the debate when Barack was speaking, and I switched to the Phillies when John was speaking.
LENO: Oh, I see. Well, how did they do last night? Obviously, you're a little biased.
BIDEN: The Phillies did great. The Phillies won. Sorry, Los Angeles. I'm a Phillies fan.
LENO: So that's a good sign for you.
BIDEN: That's a real good sign.
LENO: So tell us about last night with Barack and McCain.
BIDEN: I thought what you saw last night was a clear distinction between how John thinks the economy should work and how Barack thinks. John thinks that you take care of the top, things will
trickle down, all will get well. We think the middle class is the way you build an economy.
LENO: Let me ask you, McCain has been here many times over the last 10 or 15 years, and you know him very well. I saw, last night, odd facial expressions I have never seen before. I'm not being a wise guy. I mean, it seemed different. Did he seem different to you? You've known him a long time.
BIDEN: I think John's -- look, the --I don't think John's comfortable with the negative stuff and the advertising that his campaign (unintelligible). I think John is really sort of -- he seems a little more angry than he usually is. I really do like John, and we do go back a long way, but I don't know. It just doesn't seem -- John doesn't seem comfortable right now.
LENO: OK. This Joe the plumber guy, I don't know --
BIDEN: I didn't have many of those plumbers in my neighborhood.
LENO: I think more people are afraid of plumbers than terrorists, actually. If you have a plumber come to your house, "Oh, my God, how much is this going to cost?" A terrorist, "No, you can't come in," because you don't have to let the terrorist in. You have to let the plumber in your house. But it seems awful convenient and all -- I'm a little suspicious, but that's me, you know, worried about taxes. Does it seem real? Does that seem like a real --
BIDEN: Let me put it this way: I don't know -- the neighborhood I grew up, even the neighborhood I live in now, which is a really nice neighborhood, I don't know many plumbers who are making $250,000 a year and worried about it. We're kind of worried about Joe the fireman, Joe the policeman, Joe the real plumber with a license.
LENO: That's right, exactly. And you know who's really been overlooked? Joe Six-Pack. What happened to him?
BIDEN: Yeah, what happened to Joe Six-Pack?
LENO: That's the real American.
BIDEN: (pointing to himself) What about this Joe?
LENO: That's right. How about Joe the senator?
BIDEN: I hardly get any coverage. That's why I wanted to be on this show. Thank you so much.
LENO: That's right. That's right. Now, something interesting -- we've been following these campaigns for years and everything. This is the first time in my lifetime I've seen negative ads have a negative effect.
LENO: Let's admit, they do work. But for some reason this year, either they're particularly nasty -- and they're on both sides. I'm not picking sides. But this year it seems like both candidates are going,
"Whoa, maybe we stepped" -- have negative ads stepped over the line?
BIDEN: Jay, look, of all the campaigns I've been around -- and it's been pointed out I've been around about 200 years. Only guy older than me is John. But all kidding aside, I've never seen the public as focused -- it doesn't matter if I'm in Montana or Florida, California, Maine. Everybody is worried about those things they really are talking about round the kitchen table: "Can we keep our insurance? Can we keep the house? Can we figure out how to send the kids back to college?"
So I think in that environment, I've never seen as many people uncertain about their circumstance. And that circumstance, I don't think -- I think that's the reason why the negative stuff doesn't work. This is large-bore stuff. It's not the small stuff.
LENO: But did it used to work because people just like gossip?
BIDEN: I think it worked because it was much easier to distract people when things were doing well, when they were doing pretty will. They felt good about their circumstance, their future, and so they were able to focus on things that were actually quite frankly, extraneous. But right now it's really just serious. No matter where you are, people want to know about what's going to happen.
LENO: Now I want to show a negative ad with you in it, OK? Because what they do is they take a positive ad, they use the same footage, and they make it negative. Now, first show the positive Joe Biden ad. Take a look and show the positive.
Now, here's the exact same footage, exact same footage, and they manage to put a negative spin on it. Take a look.
We don't want a squeezer or an leaner in the White House. We'll take a break. More with Sen. Biden right after this.
Welcome back. Talking with Sen. Joe Biden. You know, we've joked about the verbal gaffes, and you've made a few. I do it, will all the time because I'm a little dyslexic. And I wonder -- see, sometimes if you're dyslexic, it's because you're so incredibly intelligent that your mind is working faster and you get ahead. Is that your problem? Because you had one yesterday, which was a good one. Can I show this one?
LENO: Take a look.
Now, are you aware of that as you say it or --
BIDEN: I knew I shouldn't have had lunch with Dan Quayle. That was what happened. I don't know what happened there. "The No. 1 problem, jobs," and then -- I was worried about my job. I was only looking at one.
LENO: Well, it must be more difficult -- when you started back in the '70s, they didn't cover it like they do. It's, like, every --
BIDEN: Had they covered it, I would have never gotten elected.
LENO: You know what I mean.
BIDEN: No, I do, I do.
LENO: It's 24 hours a day. It's every second. Every word you utter is on -- how do you --
BIDEN: Well, hopefully, you don't make a gaffe that actually affects people's lives. Hopefully, you don't make a gaffe in policy. But, look, I've made many a gaffe in my life, and I suspect I'll make a whole lot more. But you do worry. You know, I was on a rope -- you go down what they call a rope line. You make a speech; there's 4, 5, 6,000 people, and they line up and you shake hands.
And everybody has -- not everybody. A lot of people have cameras, and they have these little video phones and -- you know, and you just got -- so I learned to just go, "Mm mm mmmm," walk down the line. I don't say anything anymore.
LENO: Well, you were also the star of the highest-rated TV show of the year, with you and your costar, Sarah Palin. Any more specials planned?
BIDEN: No, I was the costar. They all showed up for Sarah, not for me.
LENO: How nervous were you? Because obviously, you're very knowledgeable. You've been in the senate for years. "Oh, he's got to be careful. He doesn't want to look like a bully. Doesn't want to look like you're beating up a woman." How do you prepare for that?
BIDEN: Well, the truth of the matter is I wasn't worried about it at all. And -- because, you know, there's so many talented women that I've debated over the last 20 years. Just go to the senate right here in your state. You have Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein. Try debating them. So this is -- but I did -- I did have great help from the governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm. And she used all the things that I'd expected Sarah Palin to use --
LENO: Did she wink at you?
BIDEN: Yeah, she winked at me. No, I don't recall if she winked at me, but no, it really is a -- you just go out, and you try to make your case and not go after the other person.
LENO: So what's your opinion of Sarah Palin?
BIDEN: Well, look, I --
LENO: See how you get her on this one. Go ahead. Qualified?
BIDEN: Well, look, that's for you all to make that decision.
LENO: That's a great answer.
BIDEN: I -- but you've got to admit, she has really captivated a large part of the American public. So, you know, I just was the bit player in that debate.
LENO: Let me ask you -- this is kind of a serious question. You've been in the senate for 35 years. You're a chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Is vice president a step down powerwise? I mean, do you -- no, seriously, do you --
BIDEN: Well, look, I never auditioned for this job. One of the reasons I decided to do this is that when Barack asked me to do it, you know, I asked him, "What do you expect me to do?" He said he hoped I'd be there for all the important decisions and give him my best judgment. Look, I think Barack Obama is not only, obviously, going to make history as the first African American ever elected, but this guy has such incredible capacity to change the attitude of the country and, I think, change our station in the world.
And to be a part of that, just to be a part -- just to help in any way I can do that is much more important.
LENO: So where do you get the call? Is it like that prizewinning thing where the van pulls up with the big check and --
BIDEN: You know, it was actually on Amtrak.
LENO: You were on a train?
BIDEN: I was on Amtrak, and then I said, "Would you willing to be considered, Joe?" And we had a little kind of discussion. And then a month or two later, I took my wife to the doctor -- to the dentist. She was getting a root canal. The phone rang. I said, "I gotta walk outside here." And it was Barack saying, "How about being vice president?"
LENO: Now, did you accept before or after you asked your wife?
BIDEN: I accepted after I asked my wife.
LENO: Almost caught you there. You're good. Oooh, you're good.
BIDEN: That's true, though. That's true. There's nothing close on that one. Actually, to be honest with you, we had decided that if he asked -- because that's what -- we spent a lot of time talking about it -- that I'd say yes. And I didn't know whether he would, obviously. So we'd already made that decision.
LENO: Now, do you watch the polls daily? Are you one of those guys --
BIDEN: No, I don't. I guess I've been hanging around too long. I, honest to God, don't watch the polls because, look, this is -- three weeks is -- less than three weeks now is a lifetime in American politics here. And we're going to have to work awful hard to be able to win this election. You've all got to show up and vote. You've got to --
LENO: Now, do you think -- the economy is the big issue. If all of a sudden some trick -- suddenly gas goes to a buck-fifty a gallon and the stock market goes to 20 grand or whatever it is, the whole thing turns around. People have short memories.
BIDEN: If this can turn around in the next three weeks, that's what we Catholics would call an epiphany. This is going to be something special.
I'd be happy for the country if it turned around in three weeks, and I think we'd still have a clear shot of winning because, look, the economy is the thing that dominates everybody's life when they sit down and when they go home and they're sitting there trying to figure out how to get through the next day.
But I also still think, Jay, they understand that there's a lot at stake internationally. We've still got a war going on. We're still spending 10 billion bucks a month on a war that we shouldn't be involved in right now.
LENO: Speaking of that, your son Beau was here about a month ago.
BIDEN: Yeah. You were nice to him. Thank you.
LENO: Very nice. And he's on his way to Iraq.
BIDEN: Yeah, he's on his way to Iraq.
LENO: That's got to be scary for you.
BIDEN: Well, you know, I'm going to miss him a lot. He's like tens of thousands of other folks out there. He's doing his job. He's showing up. He'll do it well. I'm proud of him.
LENO: Don't you have any pull? Can't you get him out of that?
BIDEN: I don't have any pull.
LENO: You don't know anybody? Come on.
BIDEN: I don't know anybody, I tell you. I don't know nobody.
LENO: Come on, Bush got out of it. How come you can't get him out of it? Can't get him out of that? Man. Nice little (unintelligible).
BIDEN: No. I think he had a shot -- he was an attorney general of the state of Delaware. I'm afraid to do anything. He may indict me.
LENO: There you go. Well, senator, it's a pleasure to see you. And the next time I see you, you might just be vice president of the United States. Thank you very much. Sen. Joe Biden. I know you've got to go.
BIDEN: Thank you.