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Joe Biden

The NY Post reports:

Friends say Caroline ­Biden is a “hot mess” with a history of booze and pill addiction — and she blames it all on the tremendous pressure she faces being the vice president’s niece…

Cops were called to Caroline’s luxury rental apartment in Tribeca Tuesday morning when the 26-year-old allegedly went on a ­violent rampage, screaming and pounding on the doors in a fight with her roommate over unpaid rent. Caroline was arrested for taking a swing at a ­female cop.

The Georgetown University grad resisted going into a holding cell at a precinct station house and was transported to Beth Israel Hospital in a rolling chair — bizarrely with a towel covering her head…

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Vice President Joe Biden regularly puts his foot in his mouth, and now a member of his staff has blown it, too.

The Washington Post reports that “the office of Vice President Biden has apologized to a University of Maryland student after a member of Biden’s staff confronted the college reporter and forced him to delete photos of an event.”

(The student reporter) accidentally sat in a section of the audience not meant for the media. He had identified himself as a member of the press upon entry and been directed to that area. Barr took a few pictures of Biden at the podium. After the event, a staffer for Biden confronted him and demanded to watch as he deleted the pictures from his camera.

“I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was following proper procedures,” Barr told Patch. But Lucy Dalglish, dean of the University of Maryland’s journalism school, filed a formal complaint with the vice president’s office.

“It is our policy that all of our open press events are open press even if a reporter is not in the designated press area,” Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff told The Washington Post. “This was an unfortunate mistake by a staffer who does not regularly interact with the press. Once we learned about it, I immediately apologized to the Dean of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, the reporter involved and to the newspaper. It will never happen again.”

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If another Ambrose Bierce comes along to update The Devil’s Dictionary, “national conversation” ought to have an entry.

We are constantly receiving invitations to the “national conversation”—about abortion, the death penalty, same-sex marriage, trans fats. It sounds nice: Every red, white, and blue-blooded American tucks in at the table for a calm, measured discussion in which everyone’s views are heard, and at the end we come to a conclusive plan of action that makes everyone happy. Or at least dissatisfies everyone equally.

It is an agreeably democratic canard, giving the hoi polloi the impression that it has some input in what happens, and giving those who say it the all-important sheen of open-mindedness.

Neither is true, of course, but the phrase coats predetermined positions in a sparkling patina of reasonableness. It’s no surprise, then, that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s recently called for a “national conversation” on gun control in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown.

But of course, America can’t have “national conversations.” We’re too many, too scattered. That is why the Founders created a republic. Our representatives have the conversation for us, in a venue where every voice can, in fact, be heard.

And tragedies make especially bad occasions for a “national conversation.” An entire country’s blood is up, clamoring for justice and answers, suddenly willing to go to every extreme to prevent future bloodshed. It’s a pity—but not a surprise—that days after the events in Newtown acclaimed novelist Joyce Carol Oates tweeted, “If sizable numbers of NRA members become gun-victims themselves, maybe hope for legislation of firearms?” She was only one of many whose responses ranged from foolish to downright vicious. But we expect some emotional instability in the aftermath of such an event. Which is precisely why it’s a bad time to make policy.

Moreover, a month after the tragedy in Newtown, the news cycle has moved on—to the fiscal cliff, the debt crisis, the president’s Cabinet nominations—and whatever conversation remains is happening among Joe Biden and a small committee of Congressmen behind closed doors somewhere on Capitol Hill. If it is happening at all. With political careers, massive amounts of money, and influence at stake, Capitol Hill is all too often where genuine debate goes to die.

Is there any alternative? The attempt to mask political objectives—in Pelosi’s case, strong national gun control legislation—in openness to bipartisan conversation ought to serve as a reminder that our most difficult, impassioned conversations can only happen with any true intellectual seriousness in a place that takes intellectual seriousness seriously. For a great deal of Western history, that was the university.

Unfortunately, that is rarely the case anymore. Four days after the shooting in Newtown, 160 college and university presidents signed an “open letter to our nation’s policy leaders” calling for “rational gun safety measures” and opposing any legislation that would permit gun possession on college campuses.

Too often the denizens of the modern academy forget the advice of French essayist Joseph Joubert, that “it is better to raise a question without deciding it than to decide a question without raising it.”

And the tragedy at Newtown—and our reactions—raises large and important questions. But intellectual flippancy leads to conclusions like Vice President Biden’s, who recently declared, “If your actions result in only saving one life, they’re worth taking.” That sort of tortured logic makes for sentimental appeal but for absurd policy. Gun control legislation is not just a matter of saving lives (if it will do even that is a point of contention); it requires a careful evaluation of the meaning of the Second Amendment and of the relationship of the federal government to the individual. Questions about mental health require the same cautious thought: At what point does a person’s individual freedom need to become subject to the state’s regulation?

Grappling honestly and seriously with such questions has, historically, been the province of the university, where a dedication to truth and clarity has been more important than political advocacy. That is much more difficult on campuses where political agenda and classroom curriculum have become indistinguishable.

In modern America, the moments that call for long, careful attention to large questions are those in which the intellectual poverty of a great portion of the cloistered policymaking class becomes most acutely apparent. But wise policymaking demands such studied reflection.

The university, in its classic, pre-politicized incarnation, can serve as the place for that task—for the deep and thoughtful consideration of complex and challenging questions. And if the resulting judicious university culture can maintain its integrity, it can become a check on overhasty action and an alternative to our empty rhetorical niceties. It can be—again—the place of real conversation.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

IMAGE: Valley Indy/Flickr

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During the debate last night, while Paul Ryan talked about the ailing economy, persistent unemployment, and the nuclear threat in Iran, Biden could not keep himself composed.

What do you think? Did Biden have a crack up at the debate last night? You be the judge!

 

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President Obama addressed members of the National Governors Association earlier this week and called for states to increase funding to higher education. Reforming college tuition has become a major theme for the president’s re-election campaign.

Inside Higher Ed reported that Obama indirectly responded to Rick Santorum’s criticism of the president’s push to increase college enrollment:

(Side note: While he did so subtly, the president appeared to directly rebut criticism that a potential opponent in November, Rick Santorum, aimed at Obamaover the weekend. Santorum called the president a “snob” for, he said, suggesting that all Americans should go to college, saying that there are “good, decent men and women” proud that their skills were “not taught by some liberal college professor.” Without identifying the former Republican senator, Obama told the governors that “[w]hen I speak about higher education, we’re not just talking about a four-year degree. We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a million-dollar piece of equipment. And they can’t go in there unless they’ve got some basic training beyond what they received in high school.”)

Vice President Biden has also spoken frequently on the issues of college funding and affordability. Read TCF’s coverage of his often controversial higher ed statements here.

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Good ‘ole Joe Biden. You can always count on him to say what he shouldn’t. Remember when the revolution was underway in Egypt? In stepped Joe to praise Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator.

“Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things. And he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interest in the region, the Middle East peace efforts; the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing relationship with — with Israel. … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

And who could forget his compliment of then-candidate Barack Obama’s precedent-setting personal hygiene in 2007? “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.”

How about when Biden warned his running mate during a stump speech on gun control in September 2008? “Barack Obama ain’t taking my shotguns, so don’t buy that malarkey. … I’ve got two, if he tries to fool with my Beretta, he’s got a problem.”

If he hadn’t been running for VP, that comment might have been enough to get him arrested.

There is also his comment about the convenience store industry back in 2006. “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

Our vice president shoots from the hip. And he shoots badly. But his rhetorical Beretta does occasionally manage to hit the mark. Lately, for example, he’s been taking aim at out of control college tuition costs. And he has actually said a couple of things that make sense.

He told a Pennsylvania crowd that bloated faculty salaries are to blame for making college unaffordable. Responding to a question about why costs were rising so fast, he said: “Salaries for college professors have escalated significantly. They should be good, but they have escalated significantly.” He went on to explain that there is “a lot of competition for the finest professors. They all want the Nobel laureates.”

There are two fundamental rules for Democratic politicians. No. 1: Never criticize a public employee. No. 2: There is no such thing as an educator who makes too much. Biden seems to forget both rules.

I’m curious: What does professor Jill Biden think about her husband’s remarks? It’s true that many tenured professors earn six-figure salaries for teaching only a couple times a week. Plus, they take the summers off and get paid sabbaticals. I can’t think of many other professions with that kind of work-to-compensation ratio.

What Biden may not know is that big-salaried university administrators are an even bigger problem. Research directors, student life coordinators, vice presidents of diversity — universities have been multiplying these kinds of high-paid positions for decades. They don’t increase what students learn; they just increase the tuition bill.

Recently, a student at Florida State asked Biden whether he believed student loan subsidies had led to higher tuition prices. “In a pure free-market, the college tuition would have to be lower because there would be fewer people going to school, they wouldn’t have as much coming in,” the vice president said. “But the end result is we would probably have — we go for the better part, half a generation, of going 16th in the world maybe down to 20th in the world.”

Maybe there should be a third cardinal rule for democratic politicians. No. 3: Never admit a government spending program has had a negative outcome.

Nevertheless, in this case, I’m grateful for the vice president’s candor. Much like the housing bubble before it, the current bubble in tuition prices is an unintended consequence of a government subsidy designed to help, but doomed to hurt, the American people.

Average graduating college debt is now at an unprecedented $28,000 per student and rising. It is clear that loose lending standards behind government-guaranteed loans have made students increasingly willing and able to pay whatever universities charge. Universities, of course, are happy to charge as much as students are willing to borrow.

No wonder tuition costs have been increasing at a rate far higher than inflation for more than three decades. Under Obama’s newly nationalized student lending program, which does nothing to tighten up those loose lending standards, things are on course to get even worse.

Reminds me of something else Biden said in the summer of 2009: “The truth is: We and everyone else misread the economy.”

This article originally appeared in the International Business Times, and is reprinted here with permission. Follow Nathan on Twitter @nathanharden.

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