Posted: Nov. 11, 2011


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The Delaware Democrats really could have called their major event of the year the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner & Political Circus, because there were a lot of sideshows going on.

Here are some of them, as performed in front of about 500 people Monday evening at the Plumbers & Pipefitters union hall in Glasgow.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. Chris Coons wanted everybody to know he was celebrating the completion of the first year since his election to the U.S. Senate.

Celebrating a year? In the Senate? Where Bill Roth served for 30 years and authored the Roth-Kemp tax cut and the Roth IRA? Where Joe Biden served for 36 years and became the vice president? Where Robert Byrd of West Virginia served for 51 years? A place that considers itself to be in continuous session for 222 years since 1789?

A year in the Senate is like being a brick in the Great Wall of China.

Never mind. Coons probably got the loudest applause and cheers of anyone who was introduced to the crowd at the dinner. Maybe it was because it was the first chance for the party to see him at a statewide event since the election. Maybe it was because of what people love most about Coons.

They love him because he is not Christine O'Donnell.

Coons gets it. It is his identity. He said as much in an interview he did with Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill, when he described what it was like to arrive in the Senate and have people have no idea who he was.

"Invariably, I would have to say I was elected in a special election in 2010," Coons told Roll Call. "They'd sort of look at me. I would say I am the freshman senator from Delaware. And they would look at me. Then I would say OK, OK, I beat the witch. And they would say, oh, oh, that race."

ROCKET MAN. Tom Carper, the senior senator, must have made the most offbeat entrance of the evening, as he came up from his table about halfway back in the room for his turn to speak.

He slanted his arms down, like a little kid pretending to be a jet airplane, and ran to the lectern.

Then he offered probably the sharpest criticism of the Republicans in the entire evening.

"Some of my friends on the other side, they talk a good game when they talk about their faith. I tell you, I think some of them read a different Bible than I do," Carper said.

"Because the Bible that I read says in Matthew 25, if people are hungry, we have a responsibility to feed them. The Bible that I read says if people are thirsty, we have a responsibility to give them a drink. The Bible that I read says if people are naked, we have a responsibility to clothe them, and if folks are sick or in prison, we have a responsibility to visit them.

"The highest priorities are orphans and widows. That's where we ought to be putting our time and our energy and our treasure. Somehow my grandfather's party has gotten away from those values."

So much for not talking politics or religion, let alone both.

GO NORTH, YOUNG MAN. Beau Biden, the attorney general, left the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner but not for home. Instead, he was going to New Hampshire.

New Hampshire. Joe in 2016? Beau in 2024?

Tut-tut. He was going to be a panelist the next morning in Portsmouth at a conference called "Ending Domestic & Sexual Violence," hosted by the University of New Hampshire law school.

The official motto of New Hampshire is "Live Free or Die," but it probably ought to be the "Land of Ulterior Motives."

Nobody goes to New Hampshire just to go to New Hampshire. Nevertheless, Biden insisted his trip was all about the conference.

Whatever you say, Beau.

SMOOTH MOVE. Chip Flowers, the state treasurer, was very smart or very sick, possibly both, and he turned it into a timely political escape hatch.

Flowers came to the dinner. As part of the program, he was scheduled to present an award for an outstanding Sussex County Democrat to Mitch Crane, the president of the state Stonewall Democrats, an organization for gay party members.

Crane also happens to be challenging Karen Weldin Stewart, the insurance commissioner in a primary. The last thing a statewide officeholder like Flowers needs to do is get entangled in a fellow statewide officeholder's primary.

By the time of the award presentation, Flowers had left the building. He was ill, people were told.

Smart or sick, it was slick.