Joe Biden, Plagiarism, and Why He Shouldn’t Run For President

Today the President announced that Joe Biden has his “blessing” if he decides to run.  I’m a steady (but not exclusive) Democratic voter, but I could never support Joe Biden for president.  Joe has many good qualities, and I suspect if I knew him I’d think he was a hell of a nice guy, but his past makes it clear that (1) he has a big mouth that he can’t control, (2) he says things he regrets almost immediately, and (3) he’s a compulsive liar.  Those are not good characteristics for a President of the United States.

Biden has often embarrassed President Obama by blurting out things without clearance that put the President in awkward situations, but he’s been forgiven over and over (“That’s just Joe!”).  One of these (that much benefited the gay community) was Biden’s support for gay marriage months before Obama was ready to give such an endorsement, forcing the President’s hand and making him act earlier than planned, embarrassing the president by making the White House play catch-up to Biden’s lead.  But Biden follows his heart and not his brain.  That can be charming, but in matters of diplomacy it’s a door to disaster.

What amazes me about his possible run for the Presidency is that he’s considering it at all given his history of lying, which is part of the public record for all to see (Google up “Joe Biden plagiarism” and stand back).  These lies caught up with him in the 1988 Presidential race when they came to light and then he made things worse by making more untrue statements, forcing him to drop out early.  Even more troubling: these lies concerned things that were easily checked and shown to be wrong.  For example he claimed to have graduated in the top half of his class at Syracuse University Law School.  In fact in a class of 85 he was 76th.  When responding to a heckling voter on the campaign trail, Biden bragged, "I think I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect—I went to law school on a full academic scholarship."  He did not.  Nor, as he told the same voter, did he earn three degrees as an undergraduate; he earned one (with mediocre grades).

Then there was this statement from 1983 when speaking to New Jersey democrats:

When I was 17, I participated in sit-ins to desegregate restaurants and movie houses. And my stomach turned upon hearing the voices of Faubus and Wallace. My soul raged on seeing Bull Connor and his dogs. 

When pressed about his civil rights record in 1988 he confessed that this was simply wrong:

I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Del. I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. But I was not out marching . . . I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans. 

But it’s Joe Biden’s repeated plagiarisms that demonstrate his moral deficiencies and disqualify him from the office of the President of the United States. 

Syracuse University Law School
The first, and most serious, occurred in law school.  The Legal Methods course at Syracuse required him to write a paper and the one Biden submitted was fifteen pages long.  Five of those pages were lifted, word for word, from a law review article that had been published previously (to which he cited once without indicating he was quoting anything from it).  When this blatant theft was revealed Biden was given an “F” in the course.  On Nov. 30, 1965 he wrote a letter to the faculty begging not to be thrown out of school, stating that he had misunderstood the rules when he wrote the paper and this was “stupid” but not “malevolent.”  Joe is good at talking, and is charming as all get out, and eventually he was allowed to repeat the course and graduate.

You’d think that this ugly incident would make him very wary of avoiding plagiarism thereafter, but, sadly, no.  He did it again and again during his 1988 campaign when he lifted key sentences and/or whole paragraphs, without attribution, from the speeches of others, including those of both John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, as well as a terrific quote from a speech by Hubert Humphrey.  These high sounding words made him seem eloquent, but were immediately identified as plagiarized, at which point he said that the failure to explain he was quoting was a mistake.  [For a YouTube video on point see]  

The most blatant lifting was from a campaign commercial British politician Neal Kinnock had used, and it must have impressed Joe mightily because he took whole segments of it and used them as his own words.  Kinnock said:

Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? [Points to his wife.] Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick? Of course not. It was because there was no platform upon which they could stand.

Neal Kinnock

Joe’s version:

I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?  It's because they didn't have a platform on which to stand.


Alas, the facts don’t match up.  Joe’s wife’s family had a number of college graduates.  Kinnock also spoke lovingly of his hardworking coal miner grandfather, so Joe invented a mythical coal miner grandfather of his own who “would come up [from the mines] after 12 hours and play football.”  [For a YouTube video about this see]

When all these lies were revealed, Joe Biden sadly withdrew from the race on September 23, 1987, more than a year before the election was held, saying that the press had cast an “exaggerated shadow” over his mistakes.

Now we are almost at the same point in the 2016 race and once again Joe Biden is considering jumping in.  But does he think his history will go away, or that no one will care, or that he can come up with some new explanation why all of this is unimportant when considering his qualifications for the office?

Given all the above I was astounded and worried when Obama first chose Joe Biden for his Vice President, putting this man one heartbeat away from the big office.  Joe’s still in that position and will be there for 17 more months.  That’s scary enough, but at least it’s not 17 months and four years of running the most influential country in the world.  


Related Posts:

“How To Make Ethical Decisions,” December 12, 2010;

“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;


Popular posts from this blog

How To Write an Effective Legal Threat Letter

The Payment-In-Full Check: A Powerful Legal Maneuver

Mortgage Foreclosures, Missing Promissory Notes, and the Uniform Commercial Code: A New Article