At a speech to members of the National Jewish Democratic Council in Washington, D.C., Tuesday evening, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., started off his speech the way only Joe Biden can.
“1972 campaign," Biden said, "I was a 29-year-old kid nominated for president -- excuse me, nominated for senator, nominated for senator, senator, from the state of Delaware."
Next, Biden was hit by a coughing fit.
“There’s a lot to talk about and uh, excuse me,” he said, stepping away from the podium to cough. “I made the mistake of actually grabbing a handful of peanuts before I walked out here, which you should never do, I know.”
“Thank you, Michael,” he said, as his friend Michael Adler handed him a much-needed glass of water.
Still, the senator was not yet ready to start his stump speech for the audience, launching into a joke about Jews that he found analogous to the presidential election.
“Every year, the Yeshiva crew team used to row against Harvard, and they’d get creamed every year -- year in and year out, after a really tough loss, the coach of Yeshiva told his captain, he said:
"'Look, I want you to go spy on Harvard and figure out what, what is it that they do? I mean, how, how can they win?' So, the captain of Yeshiva’s crew team went and hid in the bushes along the river and after a couple minutes watching, he figured it out. He had a cell phone, he called his coach, he said, 'Coach, I’ve got it, I’ve got it, coach.' He said, 'The secret is they’ve got eight guys rowing and only one yelling.'"
The Jewish audience loved it, laughing loudly as Biden chuckled on stage.
“Well, that could be said about us Irish, as well,” said the Irish Catholic senator. “But the truth of the matter is, that’s what we need to be doing this election year -– we have to ignore all the malarkey, ignore all the distractions, ignore the e-mails, and get behind Barack Obama straight-up, folks.”
Eventually, Biden got to the meat of his remarks, highlighting his past support for Israel.
“I hope no one wonders where my heart is," the senator said, noting that his first trip abroad as a senator was to Israel. "I met, back in those days, with Prime Minister Golda Meir, which is one of the high points of my career. And she had sitting next to her, next to me in front of her desk, a guy named Rabin, who was her aide at the time."
Future Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Biden said.
"Since then, I’ve had a chance to meet with and get to know every Israeli prime minister, all nine," Biden said. “I’ve spent 35 years in my career dealing with issues related to Israel. My support for Israel begins in my stomach, goes to my heart and ends up in my head. And I promise you, I guarantee you, I guarantee you. I would not have joined Barack Obama’s ticket as vice president were I in any doubt, even the slightest doubt, that he shares the same commitment to Israel that I share. I guarantee it. It’s that simple. That is a fact.”
Biden urged the crowd not to believe Republican attacks on his record with Israel.
“So, folks, I hope we’re able to put to rest, put to rest some of the stuff that’s been going around, particularly, a Republican counterpart Jewish organization actually went after me, saying that I threatened to cut off aid to Israel. Things I never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever did.”
Later Tuesday evening, at a fundraiser across town, Biden continued to focus on religion, accusing Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., of hating, but embracing, the religious right.
"The only place John has changed is with regard to the religious right, which he hates, but he's embraced," Biden said to supporters at a Democratic Victory Fund event hosted by the American Association of Justice. "That's the only change with John. The only change."
-- Matthew Jaffe and Jake Tapper