From Josh Benson, co-editor of Capital
Joe Biden needs context. All politicians do, but as the ongoing "chains" controversy indicates, the need in Biden's case is particularly acute.
He talks a lot, and with a supreme confidence in his ability to do so extemporaneously. And contrary to the crazy-uncle caricature of him as vice president, that confidence is usually justified. He's an ambitious speaker, and good on his feet, and he can give a speech, in plain English.
Out of context, it's Biden's moments of rhetorical excess—the ones so outrageously at odds with approved campaign language that they go viral the moment the words are out of his mouth;that define him as a public figure. He becomes the sum of his gaffes.
The Biden portions of What It Takes say much about him, and about how presidential campaigns work, that is perfectly relevant today, as the Obama campaign once again finds itself answering viewership-boosting questions about whether they might not swap him out for Hillary Clinton. Biden will never be a boring speaker, or a disciplined one; the first draft of history will always be less kind to him than the ones that are written later, when the author has had time to determine what's important and what isn't.
It's the end of the line for Joe Biden, chased out of the race -- "blackmailed" in the press, some would feel -- by accusations of plagiarism in a mysterious "attack tape" and similar misconduct in law school. They were doing what Biden abhorred, labeling him "a cheat." Initially, Joe decides to make a stand, hold a press conference to talk this problem down. And he holds forth, as we see a page-and-a-half of Biden verbatim, totally in his element, explaining who and what he was and is.
And . . . it all gets digested into a three-word headline: "BIDEN ADMITS PLAGIARISM." In hindsight, these were things that could have been manageable were Biden not chairing the hearings to defeat President Reagan's Supreme Court nominee, Robert Bork. That was more important than anything to him -- "twenty years." So Joe had to do the right thing and quell the spectacle around him. Perhaps they were just not that "ruthless," as Jill Biden would put it. Joe seemed to agree: they were not as ruthless as Michael and Kitty Dukakis.
But Joe is surprisingly calm and collected about the whole thing. And because he had gone down so nobly, the press feels bad. All of a sudden, they were full of indignation: who could have done this to Joe Biden? (Never mind that they were sniffing around Jimmy Biden's bankruptcy, and Joe couldn't tell his anxious congressional backers how many other shoes would drop -- it all depended on what the press considered a 'shoe.')
|Gephardt finds out what losing feels like|
"This just shows . . . you can do nothin' wrong . . . and they'll STILL . . . FUCK . . . YOU . . . TO DEATH!" he told a stunned senior staff meeting. Dick's becoming one of the killers, and he likes it. Too bad he has to throw over guys who'd been with him for eighteen years for killer-approved hacks.
Speaking of replacing people, Dukakis is dismayed at having to -- simply having to -- fire John Sasso for making the "attack tape." Everything was going so well for Michael. He was raising money, building stature, talking to world leaders, coming off like a real president. And he was doing it the right way, meeting his lifelong need to be more righteous than humanly possible, to be, as Cramer repeats over and over, "correct."
|Sasso, always slightly offstage, where Michael needed him|
|"... this was hate."|
"She stared straight ahead at a wall of cameras, the pack . . . but she met no one's eyes. She hated them. First time in her life . . . but it was true: this was hate. They were destroying what Joe worked for, twenty years. It was just another story for them."
What It Bakes: Turkey tetrazzini for twenty-five
|Chef Michael Du-cook-is|
- 3 (16 ounce) packages uncooked spaghetti
- 1-1/2 cups and 1 tablespoon butter
- 1-1/2 cups and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 9-1/3 cups chicken broth
- 6-1/4 cups milk
- 5-1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 12-1/2 cups chopped cooked turkey
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a very, very big baking dish.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. Drain, and place in the prepared baking dish.
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour. Mix in chicken broth and milk. Cook and stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir in about 5 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese, and remove from heat.
- Mix chicken broth mixture and turkey with spaghetti. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until surface is lightly browned.