Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gaffe Roundup: Hasting Apologizes; Biden Shot at in Iraq?

In what is becoming a familiar scene on the campaign trail, politicians started to backtrack on statements they made that seem either ludicrous or were down-right insulting.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) made a hasty retreat from his statement last week in which he told a group of Jewish and African-American Democrats in Florida that they should be wary of Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin because "anybody toting guns and stripping moose don't care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks." He also said, "If Sarah Palin isn't enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama, then you damn well had better pay attention."

Hastings released a statement yesterday apologizing for the remark. "I regret the comments I made last Tuesday that were not smart and certainly not relevant to hunters or sportsmen," Hastings said. "The point I made, and will continue to make, is that the policies and priorities of a McCain-Palin administration would be anathema to most African-Americans and Jews. I regret that I was not clearer and apologize to Governor Palin, my host where I was speaking, and those who my comments may have offended."

Over in Sen. Joe Biden's corner, there has been some chatter on the internet today concerning his claim that he was shot at once in Iraq, and the circumstances concerning his helicopter being forced down in Afghanistan.

The Hill had this account last month:
“Let’s start telling the truth,” he said. “Number one, you take all the troops out — you better have helicopters ready to take those 3,000 civilians inside the Green Zone, where I have been seven times and shot at. You better make sure you have protection for them, or let them die, number one.”

When asked for a detailed account of the experience, Biden described three incidents on two separate Iraq trips in which he felt that he was shot at or might have been shot at. Only one of them took place inside the Green Zone, he said, and involved a “shot” landing outside the building where he and other senators were staying. He added that the vehicle he was traveling in the day before might also have been hit.

Biden said the incident happened in the morning while he and at least one other senator were shaving. Although he said it shook the building, he wasn’t rattled enough to duck and cover.

“No one got up and ran from the room — it wasn’t that kind of thing,” he said. “It’s not like I had someone holding a gun to my head.”

Thinking about it now, he said, a more accurate comment would have been: “I was near where a shot landed.”

FOX News says it has been pressing campaign officials for specifics on the Iraqi incident, but had not heard back from Biden spokesman David Wade.

At the same time, Biden has caused another stir about an incident that supposedly happen on a fact-finding mission in Afghanistan. Biden has said he will grill Palin during Thursday's debate about "the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down."

"If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden told the National Guard Association. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."

The problem is that apparently it was bad weather, not terrorists, that forced the chopper to land in an open field last February. Fighter jets kept watch overhead while a convoy of security vehicles was dispatched to retrieve Biden and Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Kerry.

"We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn't have to," joked Kerry to The Associated Press. "Other than getting a little cold, it was fine."

For the record, Biden never explicitly claimed his chopper had been forced down by terrorists.

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