In an unusual moment in American politics, the White House put the word out this week that Vice President Joe Biden had apologized to his boss for comments he made in support of same-sex marriage on NBC's Meet the Press. The ensuing media fracas led President Barack Obama to follow suit a few days later, putting a hot-button social issue squarely on the national agenda in an election year that was supposed to be all about jobs and the economy.
To supporters of same-sex marriage, Biden's mea culpa was puzzling. If his remarks were made out of genuine conviction, why apologize for them? And to the vice president's critics, it was yet another instance of the man who once introduced his running mate as "Barack America" and called him "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" letting his mouth get him into trouble.
Nobody bats 1.000. In that respect, another common critique of the vice president -- that he's a "counter indicator," a sort of George Costanza for geopolitics -- is unfair. In a career as long as Biden's, there are bound to be a few howlers. (But as Richard Ben Cramer wrote in his 1988 campaign-trail opus, What It Takes, "Joe often didn't know what he thought until he had to say it.") Here are 10 blunders, gaffes, and just plain bad advice the veep might want to apologize for:
1. Voting for the wrong Iraq war.
Over the last few decades, a Biden vote has generally been a pretty good counter-indicator of whether it's a good idea to send U.S. troops to Iraq. In 1991, as a Delaware senator, he voted against granting President George H.W. Bush authority to go to war. At the time, Biden said he was opposed to going to war alongside an international coalition "that has allowed us to take on 95 percent of the sacrifice across the board." As it turned out, the war was a major military and strategic victory for the United States, liberating Kuwait and crippling Iraq as a military power with minimal American casualties.
In 2002, the Senate again debated authorizing the president to use military force in Iraq. This time, Biden voted with the 77-23 majority in favor of the motion, though he did worry that "supporting this resolution will get us into real trouble." Referring to his colleague Joseph Lieberman's support for the resolution, Biden said, "If we are two years down the road still fooling around with Iraq, then my friends from Connecticut and other places have been so dead wrong about what we are supposed to do that it would be amazing."
The United States would be fooling around with Iraq for another decade.
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