One of the struggles that Joe Biden has is his inability to finish his own sentences.
Even if something he's saying gets off to a strong start, halfway through all the words in his head decide to go for a walk, buy a kite, fly that kite up to the highest height, get caught in a jet engine, get ripped into confetti, and then come sprinkling down through the air. Sure, yes, they're all words, but they're not the right words or in the right order by the time he gets to the end of whatever soundbite he's just destroyed. Horrifyingly, for example, when asked about domestic violence last night, Biden started strong and then ended up saying it was a problem and we needed to "keep punching at it and punching it and punching at it."
But his biggest yikes moment came after Cory Booker called him out for his position on marijuana. Watch:
As Booker says:
I wanted to turn back to this issue of black voters. I have a lifetime of experience with black voters. I’ve been one since I was 18. [Laughter in the audience.] Nobody on this stage should need a focus group to hear from African-American voters. Black voters are pissed off, and they’re worried. They’re pissed off because the only time our issues seem to be paid attention to by politicians is when people are looking for a vote. We don’t want to see people miss this opportunity and lose because we are nominating someone that isn’t trusted, doesn’t have authentic connection. And so that’s what’s on the ballot. And issues do matter.
I have a lot of respect for the vice president. He has sworn me into my office and he’s a hero. This week I hear him literally say that “I don’t think we should legalize marijuana.” I thought you might have been high when you said it. [Laughter in the audience.] And let me tell you, because marijuana — marijuana in our country is already legal for privileged people. And it’s — the war on drugs has been a war on black and brown people. So let me just say this, with more African-Americans under criminal supervision in America than all the slaves since 1850, do not roll up into communities and not talk directly to issues that are going to relate to the liberation of children. Because there are people in Congress right now that admit to smoking marijuana, while there are people — our kids are in jail right now for those drug crimes.
Biden responds with an idea that must have sounded really hot, really left-wing, really radical... back in like 1992. He says let's decriminalize it, not outright legalize it. (He worries it's "a gateway drug.") And then Grandpa Joe goes on to list a whole bunch of black people who support his campaign. Oof. Not a great look. But not as bad as what happened next.
In listing off his black friends and endorsers, Biden includes "the only African American woman that's ever been elected to the United States Senate."
Booker shoots him a flummoxed look and Kamala Harris injects: "No... The other one is here."
After all, she is an African American woman in the United States Senate. And she has not endorsed him. She's... running for the same job herself. Biden, who instantly looks like he's shit his pants, tries to save himself, quickly saying, "I said 'first!' I said 'the first African American woman...'" But he did not say "first." He said "only."
This is not the first time Biden has stepped in it talking about race with Kamala Harris on the debate stage. But it was something to behold, watching him forget about Kamala Harris right in front of Kamala Harris.
To Harris's credit, she takes it well. She laughs a big, hearty, open laugh. And of course the audience just loses it.
* Okay, okay, Tulsi had a bad night too.