Life-is-unfair Dep’t

If Joe Biden is feeling a little bit down today, who could blame him? He came to the highest-pressure performance of his lifetime trailing a reputation for being wordy and gaffe-prone. In that clutch situation, he delivered something close to a perfect performance, and at the same time a completely unselfish one (except where he couldn’t resist defending his vote for the bankruptcy bill). Along with his acceptance, speech, last night represented on of the two oratorical high points of a long career.

And yet the chatter afterwards (with the notable exception of David Gergen) has almost all been about Sarah Palin. The prospect of having 50 million Americans watch a major-party VP candidate self-destruct riveted everyone’s attention, and when she remained coherent through more than 90% of her performance by reciting memorized soundbites and reading from notecards, everyone thought that the newsworthy part of the event was her having overperformed the low expectations she’d set for herself as the moose in Katie Couric’s headlights.

So the performance of Biden’s lifetime was reduced to a footnote. For someone driven, as Biden seems to be, by the need for “respect,” that has to be tough to take. But Biden is such a mensch that he can be relied on to suck it up without any complaint.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: