Vice President Biden's Wednesday kicked off with an acknowledgment that he had used a "poor choice of words." By day's end, he had put foot in his mouth again. Twice.
Biden opened the door to the possibility the United States could commit ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, a strategy the Obama administration has painstakingly avoided raising. That came shortly after he walked back his use of the word "Shylocks" and his use of the anachronistic term "Orient" to describe Asia.
Even for the gregarious and outspoken vice president, whose candor has all too often gotten him into hot water, the trio of eyebrow-raising remarks in about a 24-hour span was something to behold. Two of the "he said what?" moments came in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state where anyone thinking about running for president, a possibility Biden has not ruled out, needs to make a good impression.
After leaving a rally in Des Moines, Biden unexpectedly made news at a diner when he seemingly opened the door to committing ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq, an option the Obama administration has diligently batted down as it has moved to expand air strikes in the region -- and that President Obama himself rejected anew in remarks at MacDill Air Force Base Wednesday. "The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission," he said.
A reporter asked Biden whether he agreed with the comments of Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who on Tuesday left the door open to the possibility of boots on the ground. "He said that if in fact he concluded that was needed he would request it from the president. His conclusion is that it is not needed now," Biden responded.
But might it be needed? "We’ll determine that based on how the effort goes," said Biden.
At the rally, Biden delivered an enthusiastic speech brimming with populist notes. But his message was overshadowed by his story of a meeting he had with Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore. The story was meant as a compliment.
"On the way back from Mumbai to go meet with President Xi in China, I stopped in Singapore to meet with a guy named Lee Kuan Yew, who most foreign policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient," explained Biden in his remarks at a kick-off rally for the Nuns on the Bus “We the People, We the Voters” bus tour.
Biden's use of the word "Orient" was widely mentioned on social media. Some quickly denounced it.
"Vice President Joe Biden’s insensitive remarks are offensive to both Asian-Americans and our Asian allies abroad," said Ninio Fetalvo, the Republican National Committee Asian American and Pacific Islander spokesman, in a statement. "His comment is not only disrespectful but also uses unacceptable imperialist undertones." Fetalvo called on Biden to apologize.
Hours earlier, Biden had walked back his use of the word "Shylocks" in a Tuesday speech, after the head of a major Jewish organization criticized him for it.
In a statement responding to Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman's disapproval, Biden regretted his comment.
"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," said Biden.
In a Tuesday speech at the Legal Services Corporation's 40th anniversary conference, Biden explained that his son Beau Biden, who has served in Iraq, would hear from members of the military who got bad loans and mortgages.
"People would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being -- I mean, these Shylocks who took advantage of these women and men while overseas," Biden said.
Shylock is a Jewish character in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice." He is a villain in the play who asks for a "pound of flesh" from another character who is unable to repay a loan.
For Biden, the controversies upstaged what could have otherwise been a positive day. His speech in Iowa, which came just days after Hillary Clinton visited the state, was full of red meat for liberal activists.
Biden's office said his visit to Iowa was an official one, since his remarks were about official Obama administration economic policies. But it was hard to overlook the political implications of the visit, with Biden touching on many of the issues Democrats are likely to to emphasize in the 2016 presidential campaign.
With his sleeves rolled up, Biden sounded off on immigration, taxes, voting rights and regulating Wall Street banks.
"Income inequity brings a drag on economic growth," said Biden. "Even Wall Street is concerned about this growing gap between the middle class, the poor and the wealthy."
On immigration, Biden encouraged lawmakers to pass comprehensive reform. The people who come to America "are the people who have the most courage," he said.
"Some people think you sit around a table in Guadalajara and say, 'You know what, why don't we sell everything, give it to a coyote and go to a country that doesn't want us,'" Biden continued. "Boy, won't that be fun."
Gaffes are nothing new for Biden, who has committed more than his fair share over the years. But on Wednesday, a day full of personal promise, they proved especially costly.