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Biden's supreme challenge: no gaffes

By Jimmy Orr / October 2, 2008

Jake Turcotte


Just like a football game (we confess, we overuse sporting analogies), the tailgating has begun in St. Louis in preparation for tonight's historic vice presidential debate.

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Historic for a number of reasons. But when you think of past debates, it's mostly the one-liners or gaffes that you remember. Policy is important. But history remembers the sound bites.

Like in 1976. President Ford announced that there was "no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe." This led Ford staffer Stuart Spencer to recollect:

"[I] was sitting next to [National Security Adviser] Brent Scowcroft in the holding room watching this. I heard [Ford] say it, and I didn't think anything about it. Brent, in his style, punched me and said, 'You've got a problem.' I said, 'What's the problem?' He said, 'What Jerry just said about Poland. He means "emotionally." . . . There are x-number of divisions in Poland.' . . . I said, 'How many is that?' He said, 'Some 240,000.' I go, 'Oh God, these are Russians, 240,000 Russians, and they don't have control of Poland?' I go out. By this time, [White House Chief of Staff Dick] Cheney and I were spastic."

Who says Dick Cheney doesn't show emotion?


Fast forward to the legendary "You're no Jack Kennedy" of 1988. Or Al Gore's "lockbox" or 2000. Or Ronald Reagan's response to a question about whether he was too old to serve.

"I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience," he said.

These are what people remember.

And with Joe Biden and Sarah Palin entering the ring this evening, we may have just hit the jackpot. Who is apt to flub the most? As Tim Russert would say, "It's too close to call."

Palin's media exposure

Every time Sarah Palin's done an interview in the past month, there's been a story. Rarely has it been flattering. This has been a major distraction for the McCain campaign. After all, Biden routinely shoots himself and everyone around him.

Stand up Chuck!

Some are innocent gaffes. Like when he asked Missouri State Sen. Chuck Graham to stand up at a campaign rally. A second later he realized that Graham uses a wheelchair.

"Oh, God love ya'," he said punching himself in the head. "What am I talking about. I'll tell you what, you're making everybody else stand up though, pal. I'll tell you what..... stand up for Chuck!"

Others are more odd, like his harrowing helicopter ride when he was forced down in Afghanistan. He always leaves out the fact that it was snow that forced him down, not a military attack.

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