Published June 06, 2010
For all his verbal gaffes, bean-spilling and outrageous comments, there's only one phrase Vice President Biden needs -- and loves to use -- to express a wide range of emotions:
"God love 'em."
Like when Donnie Brasco explaining to his FBI friends all the different meanings of "Fugghedaboutit," time after time, Biden has fallen back on this phrase to express embarrassment, disdain, wisecracks, affection, chastisement or mockery.
Just this week, Biden used his signature phrase twice: to give a shout out to a Gold Star mother during his Memorial Day speech and to dismiss Sarah Palin's famous claim that President Obama's health care overhaul would lead to the creation of death panels.
"People are finding out -- God love 'er -- that Sarah Palin's death panels don't exist," Biden told Charlie Rose on Wednesday.
Last week, Biden used the expression to make light of the controversy surrounding Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's military record. During a meeting with veterans visiting his official residence, Biden joked about Blumenthal's misstatements about serving in Vietnam -- a misstep that landed the Democratic Senate candidate in hot water.
"I didn't serve in Vietnam," Biden said. "I don't want to make a Blumenthal mistake here. Our attorney general from Connecticut, God love 'im."
Later, Biden -- God love 'im -- added: "I have a bad habit of saying exactly what I think."
Biden has said the phrase originated with his mother, Catherine "Jean" Biden, who died in January at the age of 92. He often recalls the advice she gave him as a child, and sometimes he telegraphs his signature phrase with, "As my mother would say..."
The phrase has proven to be a useful crutch for Biden during embarrassing moments too. During a presidential campaign stop in 2008, Biden told a wheelchair-bound lawmaker to stand up.
"Stand up, Chuck," Biden said to Missouri state Sen. Chuck Graham before realizing his blunder. "Oh, God love ya, what am I talking about?" Red in the face, Biden had the crowd stand up for Graham instead. "I tell ya what, you're making everyone else stand up though, pal."
That wasn't the only time Biden used the phrase on the campaign trail. He unleashed it on his good friend John McCain in a show of disdain as anti-Barack Obama protesters heckled him at a Florida rally.
"Look, if John actually had had an epiphany, he would have seen the light," he said. "But if he saw the light, he'd have to acknowledge that in fact the economic policies of the last eight years are the cause of the economic crisis we find ourselves in now. But John, as my mother would say, 'God love 'im,' continues to cling to those economic policies."
Biden also hit Hillary Clinton with the phrase in January 2008 when they were competing for the presidential nomination. At a downtown bar in Iowa, Biden criticized Clinton's knowledge of Pakistani politics.
"We have a number of candidates who are well-intended, but don't even understand Pakistan," Biden said without naming names.
"One of the leading candidates said -- God love 'er," he said, drawing laughter from a crowd that realized Clinton was the only woman in the race.
"Good people are running," he said in an effort to soften the blow. "But to say Musharraf is up for election! Musharraf was elected -- fairly or unfairly -- president six months ago. It's about a parliamentary election!"