Joe Biden was about to publicly state where he stands on the question of Scottish independence before the loose-tongued vice president caught himself and gave a diplomatic response while appearing in Iowa Wednesday. His noncommittal comments came the same day President Barack Obama strongly indicated he preferred that Scotland stay in the United Kingdom.
“I think the United Kingdom, uh, well look, I learned from Scottish friends, the last thing to do is to suggest to a Scot what he should do,” Biden said when asked by the Guardian about his views on Thursday’s referendum. “So I’m going to stay out of that.”
“We have a great alliance now,” he said of the United States and the U.K.
There wasn’t any risk for Biden to say he believed Scotland should remain in the U.K. Obama already indicated he prefers Scotland to keep its ties to Britain. But if the vice president said he supported independence, the administration would’ve been off message.
The UK is an extraordinary partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it remains strong, robust and united. -bo
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 17, 2014
The vice president was in Iowa Wednesday to support Nuns on the Bus, a liberal group of Catholic nuns who tour the country preaching social justice. Biden said his appearance in the key caucus state wasn’t about the 2016 presidential election, adding he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll run.
Biden said he had been reading the English press the last few days, and agreed with a Guardian reporter that it was a big moment, but not just because of the Scottish independence vote. He joked that he feared Prince Harry would steal his wife, who was with the royal at the Invictus Games for wounded warriors in London.
“I read in the Guardian or one of [the British tabloids] that says, ‘everywhere Prince Harry’s went he’s had this blonde woman on his arm -- the vice president’s wife.' I’m a little worried here. You know what I mean?” he said.
Biden’s remarks were made the same day the outspoken vice president had to apologize to Anti-Defamation League President Abe Foxman for saying “Shylocks” were taking advantage of American troops with bad loans and mortgages. The term has an anti-Semitic connotation.
“When someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden, uses the term ‘Shylocked’ to describe unscrupulous moneylenders dealing with service men and women, we see once again how deeply embedded this stereotype about Jews is in society,” ADL National Director Abe Foxman said in a statement.
Biden said he used a “poor choice of words.”
“Abe Foxman has been a friend and adviser of mine for a long time. He’s correct, it was a poor choice of words, particularly as he said coming from ‘someone as friendly to the Jewish community and open and tolerant an individual as is Vice President Joe Biden.’ He’s right,” the vice president said in a statement to Politico.