What’s great about Vice President Joe Biden is he practically writes SNL sketches himself, leaving very little material for the writers to leave to interpretation. In his most recent gaffe, he addressed a group in Maryland to speak out against domestic violence, and specifically the forms of abuse that leads to homicide. A simple statement of his intolerance for any form of violence would have sufficed. But not for Joe.
Ever the linguist, he had to go into the different levels of assault. There’s strangulation (until death), there’s blowing someone’s brains out (also presumably, to death) and then there’s just your garden variety slap across the face (NBD.) However, each of these categories bears its own distinction. Apparently, those who show signs of severe abuse (like strangulation and gun violence) early on are more likely to end up killing their partners. However, those that simply slap them around to show them who’s boss may not be as susceptible to homicide.
At least this was the conclusive evidence that Joe’s very detailed deductive reasoning came up with: "certain behaviors on the part of the abuser portend to other behaviors ... these are tell tale signs that this isn’t your garden variety slap across the face." He went on to say that this in itself was "totally unacceptable," but given his pause and the powers of Final Cut Pro, conservative publications like the National Review and Washington Free Beacon jumped on his phrasing, editing it to look as if VP Biden was saying that slaps were no big deal. They later retracted their edited pieces and showed the complete footage, but the damage had been done.
While Biden is no stranger to his fair amount of media ridicule and self-imposed humiliation, this editorializing and fabrication of his original language and intent went a little too far. Yes, he was oversimplifying matters of domestic abuse. Yes, as someone who has never been, as far as we know, the victim of abuse, it was insensitive of him to use language like "garden variety" to describe a rather violent physical act.
However, his intention was to chastise all levels of abuse while also highlighting warning signs for more severe cases. Given the recent review of the Violence Against Women Act in Congress along with stories like Oscar Pistorius’s alleged homicide of his girlfriend, accompanied by unacceptable levels of gun violence, this is an issue that does command the attention of the highest office. By editorializing speeches like Biden’s, which are meant to shed light and draw administrative attention and support behind such serious issues as domestic violence, we undermine the cause itself.
If we’re going to scrutinize the Vice President we should do so on a level playing field for things he’s actually said, like advising his wife Jill to fire two shotgun rounds off the porch of their home in Delaware should she hear an intruder. This not only is against the law in Delaware, it also makes her seem like a helpless wife made to fend for herself with her hubby’s shotgun while he’s off being a big shot in Congress. Needless to say, this also undermined his administration’s stance on gun control and self defense. For now, it feels like the Vice President has taken on the persona of Broadway Joe, rather than good old Scranton Joe.