Joe Biden gaffe week: What did he say now?

Biden capped off a week full of unfortunate word choices Friday by reminiscing fondly about disgraced Sen. Bob Packwood ... at a Democratic Women's Leadership Forum.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Vice President Joe Biden spoke Friday at a Democratic Women's Leadership Forum, where he reminisced fondly about working with disgraced former Sen. Bob Packwood, who resigned after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault surfaced.

Geez, Joe Biden, it’s been kind of a rough week for him, hasn’t it? At least in terms of slips of the tongue.

First there was the controversy when Vice President Biden used the pejorative “shylocks” during a Tuesday speech. He ended up apologizing to the Anti-Defamation League for using a word derived from Shakespeare’s stereotypically offensive Jewish money-lender character in “The Merchant of Venice.”

Then on Wednesday in another public appearance Biden talked about “the Orient” when referring to former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew. Some Asians see that as demeaning – an old-time, mystery-of-the-Far-East phrase that belittles their continent.

And on Friday came gaffe number three. As a means of illustrating how the Republican Party has in his eyes moved to the right and become more intransigent, he discussed former GOP senators who in their day worked across the aisle to get important legislative work done. One he mentioned was former Maryland Sen. Charles “Mac” Mathias. Then Biden threw in “Packwood” – former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood.

Senator Packwood resigned under pressure in 1995 due to the emergence of multiple, highly detailed allegations of sexual harassment and assault against women. He might well have been expelled if he had not quit first – the Senate Ethics Committee had already recommended that he be kicked out.

Did we say that the conference at which Biden referred positively to Packwood was a Democratic Women’s Leadership forum?

Joe Biden has in fact been an outspoken advocate of measures designed to protect women against violence for his whole political career. Twenty years ago, he was a primary sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act, a ground-breaking law that made it easier to prosecute such crimes and allocated more federal money for that purpose.

Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” actually pointed this out Thursday night, saying that Biden had spoken “passionately about the issue” since the day he arrived in Washington.

But “as Joe Biden giveth, Joe Biden taketh away,” intoned Stewart.

In other words, the supercharged speaking ability that makes Biden passionate can also be his downfall. The words come out too fast and hang there, in the air before him, and he can’t grab them back. It’s too late.

That’s why Biden has risen as far as he is going to, according to Stewart, talking about the “shylock” and “Orient” mistakes.

“Of the United States, he will not be President,” said Stewart.

We agree with that. (Yes, we’ve been wrong before – feel free to remind us of this prediction when President Biden and VP Elizabeth Warren take the oath in 2017.)

That got us thinking. Dick Cheney did not run for president. It does not appear as if Joe Biden will win the nomination. How long has it been since two VPs in a row did not get a chance at the brass ring of American power?

Specifically, who were the last two Veeps in a row who subsequently did not win a party presidential nomination, or accede to the presidency through the president’s death or resignation?  

It’s been a while. Charles Curtis, VP under Herbert Hoover, lost his post when Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the 1932 election. He retired to practice law in Washington and never ran for office again. Then FDR’s first VP, John Nance Garner, served two terms and then ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1940. He lost when the canny Roosevelt maneuvered his way into an unprecedented third term. That was it for Garner’s political career.

FDR’s second VP, Henry Wallace, was a liberal who ran for president as the Progressive Party candidate in 1948. So we’ll go with VPs Curtis and Garner as the winners of this dubious prize.

[Editor's note: John Nance Garner's name was misspelled in the original version.]

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