With the bit of hot water U.S. Sen. Rand Paul now finds himself in because of allegations of plagiarism, I am reminded of another plagiarism scandal way back in the summer of 1987 that forced U.S. Sen. Joe Biden. D-Delaware, to drop out of the race for the 1988 Democratic nomination for president months before the first primary. At the time, Biden was considered one of the favorites for the Democratic nomination eventually won by Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis mainly because the original frontrunner, U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, had earlier been forced to drop out because of his affair with Donna Rice. (Remember her?)
Biden was charged with using many of the same words in his campaign stump speech that British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock had used in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Margaret Thatcher as prime minister.
Biden’s resignation on Sept. 23, 1987, inspired me to write a column that more than 26 years later remains one of my own personal favorites.
As further proof that Solomon’s words that there is nothing new under the sun are as true today at they were when “The Preacher” penned Ecclesiastes almost 3,000 yeas ago, I am rerunning that column from Sept. 29, 1987, that concerned an imagined interview I had with Joe Biden, who is the current vice president. As a test of how timely that old column remains today, replace “Joe Biden” with “Rand Paul” each time it appears in the old column.
Here it is:
I dreamed the other night that I interviewed U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware senator who won’t be president.
“Senator Biden, is it true that you are withdrawing from the presidential race?” I asked.
“I choose not to run,” he replied.
“Is there anything that can change your mind?”
“No, my mind is made up. If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I won’t serve. You won’t have Joe BIden to kick around anymore.”
“Why did you want to be president?” I asked.
“Because this country has given me so much, I believe I had an obligation to give something in return,” the senator said. “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
“Surely you must have known that your personal life would be exposed by the media. Weren’t you afraid of what might come out?”
“I thought about it, but I believe we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” Biden replied. “When I thought about being president, I had to ask myself: ‘To be or not to be, that is the question.’”
“Do you think that all the criticism in the press has been fair?”
“Well, I don’t like everything that has been said about me, but that is not the issue,” he replied. “I may not agree with a word you say, but I will defend until death your right to say it.”
“What do you think you had to offer the people?”
“I believe my administration could have launched this country into a new frontier of opportunity. I would have offered the people a fair deal, a square deal, a new deal.”
“Do you think it was bad for the country that you were forced to withdraw?”
“I’ll say it was,” he said. “Listen, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 1987, is a day that will live in infamy.”
“Isn’t that a bit of an overstatement?”
“Well, maybe, but I like the way it sounds, I think I heard something like that somewhere. I never forget a good quote.
“In fact, just the other day a fellow senator said something witty, and I remarked that I wish I had said that. Do you know what he said? ‘You will, Joe, you will.’”
“Do you think that your withdrawal will have any impact on the future of the republic?” I asked.
“Well, I hope not. Listen, 10 score and 11 years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon that continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. I remain convinced that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish.”
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” he continued. “It is the worst of times and the best of times. I would like to be president, but when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one man to put aside his own quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I shall do so.”
“Have you learned anything from your misguided campaign?” I asked.
“I’ve learned that you can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”
“Say, that’s what Abe Lincoln said.”
“Lincoln said that? I didn’t know that. It just goes to prove that great minds think alike.”
“Right,” I said. “Some people say that you haven’t handled criticism well.”
“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
“What are your hopes for this country?”
“We do not intend to live in the midst of abundance, isolated from neighbors and nature, confined by blighted cities and bleak suburbs, stunted by a poverty of learning and an emptiness of leisure. The Great Society asks not only how much, but how good; not only how to create wealth, but how to use it; not how fast we are going, but where we are headed.”
“What is your biggest regret about the campaign?”
“Well, I think my shortcomings were blown out of proportion. Hey, I’m not a crook.”
“Do you regret not being president?”
“Not really. I’d rather be right than president.”
That’s where that 1987 column ended. Can you believe that 27 years later, Joe Biden is again thinking about running for president.
Like Soloman said, there is nothing new under the sun.
JOHN CANNON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2649.