By Dana Milbank
The Washington Post
October 29, 2008; Page A03
OCALA, Fla., Oct. 28 Joe Biden spoke to supporters here for 14 minutes and 25 seconds Tuesday morning — and that’s big news.
Until he became Barack Obama’s running mate in August, Biden could take that long just to say “good morning”; now the Democratic senator from Delaware has to give his entire stump speech in that span. On Capitol Hill he used to speak endlessly on any subject to anybody who asked for his view (and many who did not); now he has to read his words carefully from a teleprompter, squinting into the bright sunlight to avoid missing a syllable of the text that had been written for him by his Obama handlers.
The muzzling of Biden seems unnatural and inhumane, like taking a proud lion into captivity. Biden, who once scolded Sarah Palin for ducking reporters, hasn’t given a news conference since Sept. 7. The king of the rhetorical jungle hasn’t taken questions from voters in a town hall forum since Sept. 10, when he famously said that Hillary Clinton is “more qualified than I am to be vice president” and “might have been a better pick than me.” He doesn’t even do much chitchat with supporters at events since he was caught on tape on one such occasion contradicting Obama’s energy policy.
Now even Palin takes questions from reporters on her campaign plane. But the wordiest man in Washington has to make his remarks short, sweet and canned.
Here he was at an Ocala horse farm reading a seasonal joke written for him: “Look, folks, I know Halloween is coming, I know Halloween. But John McCain dressed up as an agent of change? That costume just doesn’t fit, folks.”