Back in 1953, a satirical singer name Tom Lehrer released a song that reminds me of a controversy that ended Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign. While most people may not recall the scandal, it was a very BIG deal at the time.
The song was titled “Plagiarize” – and here is the most memorable portion of the lyrics.
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes
So don’t shade your eyes
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize.
During the 1988 campaign, it came out that Biden was a serial plagiarizer. He has plagiarized portions of his term papers in college. Specifically, he used five pages of another person’s work without attribution. It got him an “F” grade.
In his later speeches, he took the words out of the mouths of such prominent figures as British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock and Senator Robert Kennedy. Biden specifically represented their words as his own thoughts. In one case he claimed to have been “thinking about it” on his way to a speech.
At the time, Biden was criticized from the right and left. Eleanor Clift said he “looks like a Joe Biden wind-up doll with someone else’s words coming out.” Pundit David Gergen said of Biden that “the voters are going to have to decide if he is dishonest or dumb.” John McLaughlin, host of “The McLaughlin Group” said that instead of the “great communicator,” Biden will now be known as the “great imitator.”
And what about the liar part?
In a single campaign speech in New Hampshire, Biden said he went to law school on a “full academic scholarship.” In fact, he claimed to be the only one in his class to have a full academic scholarship.
He went on to say that he was in the top half of his class and was “the outstanding student in (his) political science class.” He said that he graduated with three degrees.
Under pressure from the media, Biden conceded that he did not have a full academic scholarship. He was far from the upper half of his class. He was never named as the outstanding student in his political science class. And he never earned three degrees.
The legendary ABC newsman, Sam Donaldson, reported that Biden had gone to college on a half scholarship, wound up near the bottom of his class (75th out 85) and earned only one degree. As one television commentator noted at the time, Biden is more of an academic lightweight.
When Biden was confronted with the Kinnock plagiarism, he said it was the only time he failed to reference the Labour Leader when using those words. It was not.
Biden’s claims are not embellishments or fibs. They are what my grandfather called “whoppers” in the pre-Burger King days. These are willful lies with malice of forethought to deceive.
Virtually every news analyst and pundit at the time said that Biden’s plagiarizing and lies disqualified him as a potential President. One said he was either too immoral or too dumb to hold the office.
We see a bit of Biden’s propensity to embellish himself in the current campaign. Have you noticed how he seems to take credit for just about everything accomplished by the Obama administration? I guess he was lucky to have President Obama as a sidekick.
There is little doubt that Biden’s campaign scandal of 1988 will become part of the political discussion and calculus for his 2020 bid. Just as the accusations of sexual assault leveled by Tara Reade, Biden’s past lapses in personal integrity will open a file into which a lot more might be added.
So, there ‘tis.