Christopher Beam has it wrong in Slate when he suggests that I and others are mistaken in thinking Biden’s gaffes-a-minute are beginning finally to matter, raising questions to the Obama team whether their VP is up to the job–and blunting its criticism of Palin’s experience and seriousness.
Biden’s blunder couldn’t matter less. Not because gaffes never matter—they can, if they play into public perceptions of the candidate’s character—but because Joe Biden is gaffe-proof. Whatever traps he sets for himself, however many minorities he offends, he always seems to wriggle out. It’s almost as if, by committing so many gaffes, he has become immune to their effects. “Joe Biden Makes Gaffe” is the new “Dog Bites Man.”
Of course, as many of us have pointed out, the public is so inundated with Bidenisms that it no longer worries about the inevitable next one. But just as many don’t care when he goofs any more, so even more don’t care either when on occasion he doesn’t.
In short, the problem is not whether we think the affable Biden’s latest slip/goof/outrage is important, but whether we think anything he says any more is important. The next time he tries to offer something serious, from the AIG matter and coal power to campaign ads and Sarah Palin, I think we are at the point where most will smile, ignore him, and think “That’s just Biden being Biden.” He could give the Gettyburg Address tomorrow, and the public wouldn’t know whether he wrote it, whether he was going to retract it, whether it was true, or whether he was serious.
No news that a snarly Doberman bites; no news either that no one trusts him when he doesn’t.