The Delaware Democrat and presidential candidate said this to New York Observer reporter Jason Horowitz: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man."
"Articulate?" "Bright?" "Clean?" Ouch. Cable news, a number of blogs, and the Drudge Report have all jumped on the comments, and Biden is already explaining himself. It'll be interesting to see where this goes from here: Will Biden see his presidential hopes derailed by a press corps unwilling to look past the perceived racism of the comments? Or will he be able to explain them away as an inarticulate moment and leave the taint of racism behind him?
Former Senator George Allen, of course, couldn't get past the implication that he was a racist, thanks in large part to his ill-advised "macaca" comment – he referred to a 20-year-old of Indian descent by the slur at a campaign event. Allen, you might remember, had a "race problem" even before the gaffe, something that certainly didn't make it any easier for him to play the macaca comment down as an isolated incident. Unfortunately for Biden, he has race problem of his own – he said "You CANNOT go into a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts without an Indian accent," a comment that some complained was offensive.
Is Biden a racist? I have no idea. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that he is prone to comments that get him in trouble – and in a media environment in which every gaffe can be endlessly replayed, discussed and analyzed right up to Election Day, that's not going to make his path to the White House any easier.
UPDATE, 6:10 PM: The following statement from Biden just landed in my inbox: "I deeply regret any offense my remark in the New York Observer might have caused anyone. That was not my intent and I expressed that to Senator Obama."
UPDATE, 10:20 AM: How could I have forgotten this?