When Joe Biden tells voters he understands the threat posed by Afghan extremists, he dramatically illustrates one reason why: His helicopter was “forced down” on “the superhighway of terror.” Actually, snow, not the enemy, persuaded the helicopter pilot to land and wait out a storm.
The Democratic vice presidential candidate has repeatedly left that part out, in an episode that Republicans hope will become an echo of Hillary Clinton's errant tale during the primaries of landing in Bosnia under sniper fire.
Biden has made a number of questionable statements recently that, viewed in isolation, might not amount to much. But this is a man whose first presidential campaign collapsed 20 years ago after he told a story about coal miners in his family that he lifted without credit from a British politician.
In a recent speech in Virginia coal country, Biden seemed to embellish his background once again. He declared, “I am a hard coal miner,” which he's not and never has been. His spokesman, David Wade, said Biden was joking.
Biden was born in Scranton, moved to Delaware at age 10 and has never had experience in the mines.
Biden's comment was reported at face value in press accounts from the event. Wade said it wasn't meant to be taken literally.
“Judging by the laughter and applause, I think it was clear to everyone under the sun that they got the joke from this son of Scranton's coal country,” Wade said. An AP reporter who covered the speech said Biden's claim came across as a genial if awkwardly self-deprecating effort to establish a bond with the miners – not a joke.
And looking back on his 1972 Senate campaign, he told Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic convention that people from his hometown piled in up to 10 buses and drove to Wilmington, Del., to show him support. “Literally,” he said, “there were hundreds of thousands of people.”