Al to Joe: “I take a bath every day . . .”

I truly was offended, as well as dismayed, at the use of Senator Joseph Biden’s use of the word “clean” to describe Senator Barack Obama, while simultaneously saying it hadn’t applied to any previous African-American presidential aspirants. This relates to an old method of whites, particularly in the South (Northern whites are more likely to smile in black folks’ faces and call them “that nigger” behind their backs) to insult blacks, by saying they smell bad, don’t use soap, etc. To be honest, it really stung to hear the Senator's remarks, which were as inappropriate as they were invalid. Jesse Jackson always looks immaculate, and Al Sharpton’s hair is better coiffed than mine!

As I listened to Biden’s bumbling attempt to explain what he meant, “Fresh” rather than “clean,” it suddenly came to me: He meant clean, as in politically clean. (I know that’s not what he said he meant, but the man was busy trying to Cover His Ass.)

Think about it. Jesse Jackson has been involved in scandals, from extramarital affairs to car dealerships. Al Sharpton’s career was built on a scandalous incident, or maybe I should say allegations of a scandalous incident, since I believed then and now that the whole Tawana Brawley incident was a hoax (and I haven’t cared for Al Sharpton since, in spite of wishing I could get my hair touched up before my roots get tough as an overdone steak.) Carol Moseley Braun was involved in a scandal.

I don’t recall any clouds over L. Douglas Wilder, former governor of Virginia. And I certainly don’t remember Shirley Chisholm’s name ever being mixed up in any improprieties. But I don’t believe Biden was referring to Wilder or Chisholm, neither of whom were considered serious candidates in terms of the numbers of votes they could potentially get. For that matter, neither was Al Sharpton, but Jesse Jackson proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with. How glorious it must have been for blacks who lived under the shadow of legally enforced segregation all their lives to be able to vote for a black man for the nation's highest office.

But of course Biden, who has an admitted plagiarism in his own past, could hardly criticize anyone else for having soiled hands. (Personally, I don’t believe that politics and honesty go together any more than catfish and ice cream, no matter who the subject is.) That would make him sound even less articulate than he is.

Speaking of articulate, in the debates among presidential contenders, I remember noting that Jesse Jackson was the only one I could listen to who didn’t make me doze off, and years later, the same thing with Al Sharpton. They are both gifted speakers.

I don’t see Biden’s aspirations to be President going anywhere. The man’s strategy is to play up his experience in foreign policy. But if he can’t handle his fellow Democrats, why would anyone consider putting him in the most powerful position in the world?