This isn’t the first time Democratic nominee Joe Biden kicked off a presidential campaign trail.
After nearly thirty years and two failed attempts at running for the commander-in-chief spot, Biden has finally grappled the party’s nomination. But, it’s important to note the disastrous and memorable events surrounding his candidacy during his first run, as political tactics and behavior could trickle into his candidacy in 2020.
Elected to the Senate in 1972—becoming one of the youngest senators in history—he was already rumored to have a presidential career ahead of him. It wasn’t until about fifteen years later that Biden announced his campaign for presidency in June 1987.
At the time, the country had just experienced two terms of President Ronald Reagan and needed a transformation in the political climate. Seen as a youthful and intelligent candidate, Biden gained a strong backbone of support who praised his speeches and energy during his trail. As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Biden strived for national attention for his participation in the controversial hearings for conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. The then 44-year-old senator headed the hearings, but before he could gain widespread national recognition, he took a massive blow to his campaign that ultimately led to the end of his candidacy.
After just three months, Biden dropped out of the race and didn’t run again for nearly two decades.
So, what happened?
Although Biden was seen as a strong presidential contender, he never established a formal campaign platform. He was never clear in terms of why he was running or what he hopes to achieve out of his presidency.
“We need a new kind of presidential leadership, a presidential leadership that is prepared to tell the hard truths and lead this country,” Biden said.
During the early weeks of his campaign, Biden fundraised and brought in waves of supporters to his campaign events. Then, just before the Bork Supreme Court hearings, a video was uncovered that showed Biden plagiarising certain ideas and phrases from UK Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. After this surfaced, Biden’s campaign drowned in misattribution cases, with the press knocking him for his dishonesty and laziness.
“And I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? Why is that my wife, who’s sitting out there in the audience, is the first in her family to ever go to college,” Biden said at the Iowa State Fair.
“Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I’m the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree, that I was smarter than the rest?”
The videos that were publicized panned to Kinnock’s paralleled speech—a speech that was made before Biden took the stage in Iowa.
“Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? What is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick,” Kinnock said, but Biden never attributed his references to the British speechwriter.
“Is it because they didn’t work hard? My ancestors, who worked in the coal mines in Northeast Pennsylvania and then would come up after twelve hours and play football for four hours?”
“Was it because they were weak? Those people who had worked eight hours underground and then come up and play football?”
More cases of Biden plagiarising another man’s work emerged during his three-month campaign trail, ultimately destroying any serious chance he had at winning the nomination.
Law School Lies
The current Democratic nominee took another hit after footage was released of him bragging about his academic achievements in law school. The tape revealed that he claimed he ranked in the top 50 percent of his school, but he actually ranked 76 out of 85.
He also told a voter in New Hampshire about his academic history in law school, saying he was the only person in his class to obtain a full scholarship.
“I went to law school on a full academic scholarship, the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship,” Biden said.
But, this turned out to be false.
His tendency to exaggerate and blatantly lie about his academic accomplishments made voters stray away from his campaign for presidency, as he was unfit to tell the truth or run a country.
After his campaign took an intense smack for Biden’s mistakes and slip-ups, he withdrew from the race in September 1987, and later poked jokes at the entire scandal.
In his memoir titled, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, released about two decades later, Biden addressed the issue writing, “When I stopped trying to explain to everybody and thought it through, the blame fell totally on me. Maybe the reporters traveling with me had seen me credit Kinnock over and over, but it was Joe Biden who forgot to credit Kinnock at the State Fair debate.” That same year, Biden ran again for the Democratic nomination, but couldn’t rally enough support to sustain a long campaign.
He did, however, serve as the Vice President under former President Barack Obama’s administration for eight years, perhaps unknowingly preparing himself for his 2020 presidential run with a more established, strong political skeleton for the purpose for his candidacy—to drive President Donald Trump out of office and help the country out of the blistering coronavirus pandemic.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.