Voters Chose Boring Over Bombast. They Got Biden’s Penchant for Pontificating.


“It just didn’t work. I mean, I know, what can I tell you?” Mr. Clinton, then the governor of Arkansas, said after Mr. Carson put an hourglass on the edge of his desk when the young politician started speaking. “My sole goal was achieved,” Mr. Clinton joked. “I wanted so badly to make sure Michael Dukakis was great, and I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.”

But even compared with previous presidents, Mr. Biden has a long history of being long-winded.

He developed that skill in the Senate, where the idea of a political filibuster is not only a literal legislative tool but a political advantage for those — like Mr. Biden — who were good at talking, and talking, and talking.

In 2006, a New York Times reporter described Mr. Biden’s interrogation of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to be a Supreme Court justice.

“The highest ratio of words per panelist to words per nominee was that of Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, who managed to ask five questions in his 30-minute time allotment,” the reporter wrote.

Mr. Biden, the reporter added, “dived into a soliloquy on Judge Alito’s failure to recuse himself from cases involving the Vanguard mutual fund company, which managed the judge’s investments. After 2 minutes 50 seconds — short for the senator — Mr. Biden did appear to veer toward a question, but abandoned it to cite Judge Alito’s membership in a conservative Princeton alumni group. Mr. Biden discoursed on that for a moment, then interrupted himself with an aside about his son who ‘ended up going to that other university, the University of Pennsylvania.’”

In Washington, criticism most often comes from across the political aisle. But on the subject of Mr. Biden’s penchant for pontificating, even his closest allies have been known to notice.

During one hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2005, Mr. Obama, then a young senator, grew exasperated during a lengthy monologue by Mr. Biden, then the panel’s top Democrat.

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