RAVE Act (new!)
In late 2002 and early 2003, Joe Biden used his Senate perch to ram through one of the great excesses of the drug war: the RAVE Act, later called the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act, which allows law enforcement to shut down any musical event if they find even the tiniest evidence of illegal drug use. The American Civil Liberties Union summed up the damage in a 9/11/03 report:
RAVE Act unfairly punishes businesses for the crimes of their customers. Businesses can be prosecuted even if they were not involved in drugs in any way - and even if they took steps to stop drug use on their property. . . . Property owners, promoters, and event coordinators can be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars or face up to twenty years in federal prison if they hold raves or other events on their property. The RAVE Act chills free speech because promoters and venue-owners may cancel events for fear of prosecution. This has already happened in Billings, Montana, and reports of similar incidents have come from Alabama, California, Florida and New Mexico. Because of the RAVE Act, promoters and venue-owners may hesitate to hold hemp festivals, all-night dance parties, rock or Hip-Hop concerts, or any other event perceived as attracting drug users.
Made Demeaning Joke about Indians
In June 2006, Biden was caught out in a major gaffe on C-SPAN's Road to the White House series. He said: "In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."
The statement was caught on video and posted on YouTube. You can see it on the National Journal's website here: Link. Biden's press secretary tried valiantly to defend the remarks, as the Associated Press reported on 7/7/2006:
"The point Senator Biden was making is that there has been a vibrant Indian-American community in Delaware for decades. It has primarily been made up of engineers, scientists and physicians, but more recently, middle-class families are moving into Delaware and purchasing family-run small businesses," said Margaret Aitken, a Biden spokeswoman.
Called Obama "Clean"
In a remark captured by The New York Observer on 2/5/2007 , Biden quipped that Sen. Barack Obama is "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Former African American presidential candidates Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton told The New York Times that despite Biden's opinion, they are, in fact, quite clean and articulate. Biden claimed that black leaders would know what he meant by the comment. When asked by The New York Times, Jackson, who ran against Biden in the 1988 democratic primary, said, "I am not sure what he means. . . . I don't know whether it was an attempt to diminish what I had done in '88, or to say Barack is all style and no substance."
Plagiarized Campaign Speeches
Biden's 1988 presidential run ended at the Iowa State Fair when he was caught on video plagiarizing his campaign speech. The Wilmington News Journal summed up the history on 10/27/2002:
In the fall of 1987, a political operative for Democratic contender Michael Dukakis leaked videotaped footage of Biden giving a speech in which he used the words of British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock without attribution. Biden's campaign began to unravel amid charges of plagiarism.
Biden blamed the incident on fatigue and cited the fact that he had often used Kinnock's words with attribution.
After his unattributed remarks were exposed, other incidents came to light in the press, including exaggerations of his academic record at a campaign event and other unattributed quotations in speeches.
Touted His "Slave State" Roots
In August 2006, Biden told "Fox News Sunday" that he had a good chance of winning in the South because "Delaware was once a slave state." ABC News had the full quote on 8/27/2006:
"You don't know my state. My state was a slave state. My state is a border state. My state has the eighth-largest black population in the country. My state is anything from a Northeast liberal state."
Incredibly, Biden even boasted to a Republican crowd at the Rotary Club in Columbia, South Carolina, that his state fought beside the North "only because we couldn't figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way." His remarks were apparently a big hit with the crowd. According to the local paper, The State, "This Yankee senator quickly disarmed his conservative audience."
Called U.S. "High-Tech Bully"
Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in October 2001, Biden argued that the United States would be perceived as a "high-tech bully" if it used only air tactics in Afghanistan and refused to send troops in on the ground. The then-House speaker Dennis Hastert rebuked Biden, saying in a written statement, "The last thing our country needs right now is Senator Joe Biden calling our armed forces 'a high-tech bully. . . . The American people want us to bring these terrorists to justice. They do not want comments that may bring comfort to our enemies." (CNN, 10/24/2001)
Threatened Airline Workers
According to The New Republic, in October 2001, a group of airline workers approached Biden to ask for his support of an emergency benefits package for laid-off airline workers. Biden, who is a huge proponent of Amtrak, responded by saying, "I hope you will support my work on Amtrak as much as I have supported you. If not, I will screw you badly." ( The New Republic, 10/22/2001)