Biden ‘Big Fat Deal’ Comment No Big Deal

The latest Fox News survey [PDF] asked whether Vice President Joe Biden’s whispered comment that the health care bill was a “big expletive deal” was offensive.  Not surprisingly, a majority thought not.  Also not shocking:  A majority of Republicans though it was.


Greg Sargent is amused, titling his post “Fox News Polls Biden’s ‘F-Bomb,” Gets Wrong Answer.”

Now, I agree with the people who think the comments weren’t offensive.  After all, my reaction was “There Joe goes again” rather than “How dare he?”   The F-word is too common in American speech, including my own, for me to get upset when a public figure lets it slip.  Especially when he was intending to say it privately to a colleague and wound up getting caught.

Then again, neither the Fox pollsters, Greg Sargent, or myself used the actual word Biden did.  (A convention with which Taegan Goddard, who pointed my to Sargent’s post, dispenses.)  The fact of the matter is that, while most of us are blase about this word, we still don’t expect to see it in public settings.

As to the party breakdown in the polling, it’s just another indication that we view almost everything through partisan lenses these days.   (It’s amusing, isn’t it, that the Independents match the topline almost perfectly, while the Democrats and Republicans cancel each other out?) I can’t quickly locate polling on public reaction to Dick Cheney’s emphatic directive to Pat Leahy six years ago.

Charles Krauthammer’s defense of the F-word remains the definitive commentary on that incident and subsequent variants.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Grewgills says:

    Context does matter, one used as an adjective in what was intended to be a private aside and the other used as a verb with a raised voice on the floor of the Senate. That said I can’t manage to must up outrage at either.