Given the 24/7 media cycle, it's not surprising to hear a candidate stumble now and then but when it comes to Olympic-size gaffes, vice president Joe Biden is in a league of his own.

His idiotic racist statement to a crowd of Virginia supporters, including hundreds of African-American people earlier this week that Republicans will "put y'all back in chains" was pathetic, if not downright scary, from someone just a heartbeat away from the presidency. The Democrats' human gaffe machine was in top form. In that same speech he also told the Virginia crowd that "with you, we can win North Carolina again."

Biden's "chains" remark though produced a sound byte so ignorant and divisive that even the many left-leaning news outlets couldn't ignore it.

Republicans, including Biden's vice-presidential adversary Paul Ryan, were quick to pounce and expect to keep hearing more of the gutter politics, including race-baiting, from the Democrats. Ryan said since Team Obama has such a terrible record to run on, the low-ball tactics are being used to distract people from the issues.

"It's just not going to work," Ryan said. "People are going to see through this. We've gone from hope and change to anger and division and blame and attack."

Gaffe-meister Biden truly is on a roll. Before this week's "chains" speech, he had referred to Mitt Romney "President Romney" and Rep. Paul Ryan as "Governor Ryan." He even got the century wrong when making a reference to American leading the world in making automobiles.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said Biden "just isn't bright" and that "the vice president of the United States has become a laugh line on late night television."

Some may remember that back in 1987, Biden even ran for president. In fact, it will be 25 years next month when his campaign for the Democratic nomination came crashing down after it was found that Biden plagiarized parts of a speech from a British politician named Neil Kinnock.

During a C-SPAN segment at the time, Biden went crazy over a question about his academic record.

He claimed then to have gone to law school on a full academic scholarship, ended up in the top half of his class, and graduated with three degrees.

These were all lies.

In truth, Biden attended law school on a half scholarship which was based not on his academic record but on his financial situation. He graduated 76th in a class of 85 ninth from the very bottom and has two degrees, one in history and the other in political science.

He later admitted exaggerating "when I'm angry."

Biden seems to take pride in talking about growing up in a blue collar family in Scranton, once a thriving city built around the coal industry. Hopefully, before the November election, we'll get a clear answer from Obama or the vice president as to why this administration has turned its back on the coal industry. Thanks to the industry-killing federal regulations, thousands of hard-working miners have been laid off, depriving them of earning a wage to support their families in this stagnant economy.

But then again, with Biden's track record of lies, dishonesty and plagiarism, we wonder how many of the "facts" he delivers on the campaign trail, or the answers he will be giving at the vice-presidential debate on October 1, contain any truth at all.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com