VIDEO: Joe Biden meets the man he accidentally plagiarized.

"What About Your Gaffes?" Classic Edition

"What About Your Gaffes?" Classic Edition

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 9 2012 1:51 PM

"What About Your Gaffes?" Classic Edition

Screen shot 2012-10-09 at 1.31.51 PM

I've been combing through C-Span's archives to get ready for the Biden-Ryan vice presidential debate. In 1990, I find a classic: A trip to Washington by Neil Kinnock, then leader of the Labour Party, widely expected to be the next prime minister of the U.K. He was best known in Washington as the man who gave a stirring 1987 speech -- and really, it was fantastic rhetoric -- about how he became "the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to go to University." Sen. Joe Biden, who had been quoting Kinnock, accidentally failed to credit the man in a televised Democratic candidate forum. That was the beginning of the end of his campaign.

Then, as the Biden mythos tell us (we are forced to memorize them in Delaware public schools), the senator dusted himself off and became a wise man of Washington. He helped defeat the Bork nomination. He worked up the Foreign Relations Committee ladder. Three years after the gaffe, Kinnock comes to Washington and... obviously, the first question to Biden is about whether Kinnock gave him "any new lines."

"Did I get any new lines?" says Biden. I'll let Mr. Kinnock answer that."

Kinnock responded in a fairly cheerful manner. "I don't need to give Joe Biden any new lines," said Kinnock. "This is a good opportunity for me to say: There was an episode. It's provided us all with a rich vein of humor from which to dig. But the great byproduct of it was, I met Joe Biden. I began a friendship with a very distinguished senator. And I think it's a friendship we both enjoy. So, out of the darkness, out cometh forth light."

Two years later, Kinnock's Labour Party lost the general election, and he quit his post.

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.