On Sunday’s “Face The Nation” on CBS, Vice President Joe Biden went into full-gaffe mode, spitting out misstatement after half-truth after wild exaggeration after out-right fib.
The media’s response was illuminating.
“Face” moderator Bob Schieffer focused on President Obama’s plea to Russian President Medvedev for “space” on missile defense because, as Mr. Obama said, he’d “have more flexibility” after the election. Mr. Schieffer asked Mr. Biden what he made of Republican attacks on the president’s “now famous unguarded moment.”
Mr. Biden replied, “The president just stated the obvious.” In an election year, it is unrealistic to assume Mr. Obama would have “the flexibility to sit down and talk with people in this Congress…and be able to work with this problem, between now and Election Day.”
This was so clearly a misstatement of the US president’s whispered aside to the Russian president that even Mr. Schieffer raised a mild objection to Mr. Biden’s description, saying “I hear this from conservatives all the time. If you don’t like Barack Obama now, wait until he gets reelected because…he’s free to do whatever he wants to do.”
Contrary to Mr. Biden’s claim, Mr. Obama did not tell Mr. Medvedev that Congress would never take up a missile defense agreement before the election. Mr. Obama said, “On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.” Mr. Medvedev replied, “Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…” To which Mr. Obama said, “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”
Mr. Obama was telling the Russians he would do something they’d like but after the election because the American people won’t approve and might make their disapproval heard at the polls.
If this is wrong, then Mr. Obama or Mr. Biden should now lay out what they are offering the Russians so both American voters and Russian leaders know what the Obama administration’s position on a missile defense shield for Europe is.
Mr. Biden offered other wild assertions that didn’t even get a mild pushback on Sunday morning. For example, Mr. Biden said Mitt Romney wanted to “let Detroit go bankrupt,” apparently referring to General Motors and Chrysler and not the city. But GM and Chrysler did go bankrupt: their bankruptcies were decided by the president -- not by a court -- and rather than going forward with an infusion of private capital, the two businesses received $85 billion from the taxpayers, with at least $24 billion of that unlikely to ever be returned.
Admitting the bailout “wasn’t a very popular action,” Mr. Biden said it made Generals Motors was now “the largest corporation in the world” and “hiring…hundreds of thousands of new people.”
“Largest corporation in the world?” Really? By what measure? GM isn’t even #1 in America. It is #23 in the US measured by the number of employees. Its market cap is $41.9 billion; Apple’s is $575 billion. GM’s revenues last year were $135.6 billion; Wal-Mart’s were $421.9 billion. GM’s profits were $6.2 billion last year; AT&T’s $19.9 billion.
As for Mr. Biden’s claim that General Motors is hiring “hundreds of thousands of new people,” the car company has 208,000 workers today, compared to 263,000 at the time of Mr. Obama’s bailout.
The vice president also plunged into health care, asserting, “there’s millions of people out there” already benefiting from provisions in the new law. But far fewer people with preexisting conditions have signed up than anticipated (just 49,000), a much-ballyhooed subsidy for small businesses has gone virtually unused, and thousands of companies have been forced to seek waivers to keep millions of workers covered by existing policies.
But a bigger health care whopper was that Mitt Romney and Republicans had offered “nothing” to replace ObamaCare. Republicans, however, are offering market-centered, consumer-focused, competition-based solutions. They allowing people to buy health insurance across state lines (increasing competition), letting small business pool their risk to get the same discounts big employers receive, increasing the amount of money people can save tax-free for out-of-pocket medical expenses, making health insurance truly portable so people can take it with them from job to job, and reducing junk lawsuits that drive up the cost of health care for everyone.
The vice president went similarly overboard in suggesting America is drilling more wells, pumping more oil, and importing less oil because of this Administration’s policies. This is really happening in spite of Mr. Obama, not because of him.
Both oil and natural gas production on federal lands are declining, while increasing on state and private lands. The Obama administration has withdrawn hundreds of thousands of acres in valuable shale oil leases in the Rocky Mountains and reduced onshore leases on federal lands by 35%, compared to his predecessor.
Much of America’s increased domestic energy production is taking place on private and state lands in North Dakota and Texas. The administration refused to allow the construction of a pipeline to get oil from the former to Gulf Coast refineries and threatens the latter with new environmental restrictions that could shut down drilling over a little-seen lizard.
While some production offshore is coming on line, it is virtually all from leases granted during the previous administration. In 2010, the administration considered opening new offshore acreage for exploration, but backed off. Half the Gulf Coast and much of the waters around Alaska remain off limits.
The Obama administration even rejected the Commonwealth of Virginia’s efforts to open 2.9 million acres off its coast for oil and gas exploration, with the state planning to put its share of the royalties into education.
All of Mr. Biden’s energy misstatements Sunday went by without any challenge. Perhaps Mr. Schieffer thought their inaccuracy was clear for all to see. Maybe he shares Mr. Biden’s worldview. Or maybe it is just the role of a Sunday moderator to let a guest say what he wants and leave it up to others in the media to question and challenge.
But the media rarely makes much of Vice President Joe Biden’s misstatements. No articles on Monday morning reported on his errors. No breathless network news anchor tagged him for his misstatements. So far, no White House reporter is on record badgering the White House to defend Mr. Biden’s statements.
Maybe the press treats Mr. Biden so gently because he is such a serial gaffe generator that holding him to account would tax their energy and crowd out other stories. Or maybe they excuse him because he’s “just good old Joe” and not to be held to a high standard, even if he is he heartbeat away from the presidency. But to let such a stellar display of misstatements and fabrications go by without comment says something, both about the vice president and a compliant media.