Video: Former Vice President Joe Biden has entered the 2020 presidential campaign. Columnist Karen Tumulty argues that he must prove that he isn’t a politician of a different era. (Danielle Kunitz, Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)
Washington • There is no surer way to convince people you are going nuts than to stand in front of a crowd and announce that you are not going nuts.
"I want to be clear: I'm not going nuts," Joe Biden declared at a campaign stop Friday as he struggled to identify the location of a speech he had just given.
Nothing is more likely to raise doubts about your mental acuity than to misidentify the state you are in. “What’s not to like about Vermont?” Biden asked on Saturday — in New Hampshire. He previously confused Burlington, Iowa, with Burlington, Vt.
And nothing will get your relatives to demand power of attorney more rapidly than misplacing a decade. "Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King had been assassinated in the '70s, the late '70s, when I got engaged," Biden said last week.
Oh, God love me! What is this malarkey?
The former vice president has admitted to being a "gaffe machine." That's false modesty. He is the Lamborghini of gaffes.
He announced that “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” He located the El Paso and Dayton mass-shootings in “Houston” and “Michigan.” He recalled a visit with survivors of the 2018 Parkland shooting — before the shooting happened.
He confused "Margaret Thatcher" with Theresa May and Angela Merkel, referred to the Second Amendment as the First, tripled the number of casualties of the 1970 Kent State shooting and mixed up his campaign website with a text-message code. At the Iowa State Fair, he thundered: "We choose truth over facts!"
Less felicitously, he also joked about gay waiters, entitled millennials and his too-tactile ways — and praised a segregationist's "civility." Things got so bad that Biden's neurologist offered a virtual doctor's note, telling Politico that he's "as sharp as he was 31 years ago."
True. Biden has been churning out malapropisms since 1987, when he was still delivering Neil Kinnock's speeches.
This is the man who claimed "I've known eight presidents, three of them intimately." Even with such intimate knowledge, he later confided: "I'd rather be at home making love to my wife while my children are asleep."
He proclaimed Barack Obama "the first African American in the history of the United States." During a rally, he called attention to "a three-letter word: jobs." He once introduced his running mate as "Barack America."
Some say it's unfair to draw attention to Biden when President Trump is the most mendacious politician ever. I disagree: Biden's gaffes are to be celebrated, for they make him exciting. When he opens his mouth, nobody knows what is going to come out — least of all Biden.
Biden once said to a paralyzed man in a wheelchair: "Stand up, Chuck." He mourned one woman ("God rest her soul") who hadn't died. He described Obama as "the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean."
He disclosed that Franklin D. Roosevelt went on television in 1929, before TV existed. He predicted that if Obama were elected, "we're going to have an international crisis." He declared that Hillary Clinton "might have been a better pick than me" for vice president. He reported that "you cannot go to a 7-Eleven ... unless you have a slight Indian accent." He frankly told one audience: "You all look dull as hell."
I am so certain that Biden's gaffes will propel him to victory that I have written him a draft acceptance speech, based on actual Bidenisms, for the Democratic convention in Milwaukee:
Hello, Memphis! Ladies, gentlemen and other genders — there are at least three! — I say: This is a big f — ing deal! I see poor kids in the arena and I see white kids. I see Grandpa Finnegan, God rest his soul!
I would not be here in Manchester accepting your nomination without the support of articulate, clean black people. And you disabled veterans — stand up! I have known you intimately. And so I say: I would rather be making love to my wife! You are a dull audience.
Fellow Democrats, there is a 30% chance everything I do will be wrong. Bernie, Elizabeth, Kamala and the others would have been better picks than me. But I am here because of a three-letter word: TRUTH. We choose truth over facts! If elected, I promise: We will have an international crisis. Let me be clear: I am not going nuts! So go to my website number and help me. Vote for Joe America! Good night, Montgomery!
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.