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Posted at 12:26 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Joe Biden: 'They're gonna own our kids' without high-speed rail

By Alexandra Petri

Speaking about the need for high-speed rail, Vice President Joe Biden commented that, "If we don't get a grip, folks, they'll not only be teaching us, they're gonna own our kids."


If I'd known that all it required to own someone's kids was to discourage him from supporting high-speed rail, I would be beating Angelina Jolie right now in the people's-kids-owning-game.

Leaving aside the numerous objections to high-speed rail, this seems like an odd thing to say under any circumstances. I understand that this makes it characteristic of Joe Biden. I think the most impossible quiz in the world would be something called, "Joe Biden Quote Or Something An Old Guy In a Sweater Says To You To Make Conversation At The Gas Pump." It's sort of a mouthful, but I think most of his remarks pass the test.

"I had a successful dump!"

"You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent....I'm not joking." (Something Biden actually said to an Indian-American man that was caught by C-SPAN)

"Big [verbing] deal!"

And now this one. Fail to get a grip, and they'll own our kids.

Things look pretty bleak for our kids, based on the remarks our public officials have been making. They are, apparently, going to be outsmarted, outcompeted, out-Sputniked, outparented, owned, transformed into robot slaves, outsourced, and forced to appear on the NBC comedy "Outsourced," all by people from another country who are marching back and forth doing calculus in the snow, or something.

And don't get me started on the trains. It's not that I have anything against trains. I'm a frequent rider. [One of the greatest disappointments of my young life was realizing that wedding dresses did not come with actual trains attached. I watched Unstoppable for the trains, not for the presence of Chris Pine. I also watched the 2009 Star Trek movie for the trains, not for Chris Pine. I just had to watch it five times to make certain there weren't any trains I'd missed the first four times around.

So it is with love that I say that I think trains are inefficiently run, often randomly late, contain no edible food, and stop sometimes for no reason in the middle of Pennsylvania to take what appears to a layman to be a long nap, forcing you to spend two hours conversing with a man who claims he knew your grandfather in the wars as the car slowly climbs to a temperature usually associated with the inside of bear suits. So the idea of funneling large amounts of money into the present system so that fast trains can reach every door in America whether or not anyone would actually like to ride them seems, well, a bit dubious.

Yes, there are areas of the country in which high-speed rail makes sense. The vast megacity of the northeast corridor where Joe Biden likes to hop the train to Wilmington springs to mind. But otherwise? The lack of trains in places where trains don't belong will probably do more to discourage people from owning our children than covering the country in unnecessary rails, in spite of what Thomas the High-Speed Tank Engine -- or Joe Biden -- might say.

By Alexandra Petri  | February 9, 2011; 12:26 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, That's awkward  | Tags:  Joe Biden, oratory, trains  
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"Speaking about the need for high-speed rail, Vice President Joe Biden commented that, "If we don't get a grip, folks, they'll not only be teaching us, they're gonna own our kids.""

This from the same guy who told us last week Mubarak is not a dictator. You are really believable Joe.

Posted by: g30rg3544 | February 9, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The Chinese already own our kids. Who do you think will be paying back all the money we borrowed from them? If we borrow more for a high-speed rail system, the Chinese will own that too.

Wouldn't we get a higher return from limited investment dollars by building new nuclear power plants? Or how about investing in education?

The one train-related investment we SHOULD make is to teach children the lesson of "The Little Engine That Could." Hard work combined with "I Know I Can" gets you to the top of the hill.

Posted by: divtune | February 9, 2011 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, well. The trains in the sky. Airbus. Concorde. The AirBus 380..... Are "we" sure about this?

Posted by: deepthroat21 | February 9, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Maybe to warm up to the idea of bullet trains, perhaps Congress can issue each citizen one free pass to Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah where one can watch a car cruise at 260 mph during it's warmup to 600 mph.
Speaking of flats'.... at a railroad crossing......

Posted by: deepthroat21 | February 9, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

who picked biden for v.p. ? the smartest guy in the country. hahaha.

Posted by: 12thgenamerican | February 9, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

w/e, I love Biden. Also, I'm an American of Indian ancestry, and I'll defend that 7/11 remark--when you listen to the whole thing, you can tell he was saying that Indian immigrants are successful at starting businesses and basically living the American dream. In the same conversation, he mentions that 30% of Silicon Valley CEOs are of Indian heritage. Somehow people never seem to quote that part.

And trolling the press camped out in front of his house in August 2008 with that "successful dump" line was hilarious. Don't even care, I love this guy.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 9, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Joe Biden is soooooooooooo stupid. Makes one what else was served at the White House during the Super Bowl. Plus the high fat food is so consistent with the first lady's eat healthy agenda.

Posted by: gone2dabeachgmailcom | February 9, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

While I admire ole' Joe's passion, his intelligence comes into question everytime he says stuff like this.

High-speed rail is a union payback and will in no way do anything to improve travel in this country without 100% cost overruns. This is another democrat hurry-up, vote-before-you-read-it piece of carp legislation that this administration still believes they can get away with.

Posted by: jimbob3 | February 9, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

While Biden, in his own inimitable way, might have been overstating the case, I think what he was saying is that the type of highly advanced infrastructure represented by high-speed rail will be essential to our future success. I would agree with Petri that high-speed rail is not appropriate in all areas of the country, and one would not want to travel cross-country by rail, but for medium-distance travel between large metropolitan centers, it makes a lot more sense that either autos or short-hop air travel. Routes such as Dallas/Houston/San Antonio, SanDiego/LA/San Francisco, or Chicago/St. Louis/Kansas City (with minimal stops and dedicated roadbed) would make a lot of sense and would save both time and energy. Having traveled on the French TGV, I can attest that there is no more pleasant and efficient way to travel mid-range distances. Riding at 150 mph (or better) in near silence with a ride so smooth that there is barely a ripple in your glass of wine is a real treat, and beats what passes for air travel today hands down.

Posted by: mcstrasser | February 9, 2011 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Joe Biden rambles and says dumb things sometimes, but I'd still rather have him a step away from the Presidency, instead of Sarah Palin.

Posted by: momof20yo | February 9, 2011 7:03 PM | Report abuse


Alexandra Petri must be a blazing idiot -- just look at her column. It has all the feel of disjointed schizophrenia.


Posted by: Here2day | February 9, 2011 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Poor old "crazy Joe" Biden his caregivers need to bump up his Aricept dosage.

Posted by: freetagoodholm | February 9, 2011 7:31 PM | Report abuse

@Here2day, as a disjointed schizophrenic, I can tell you that in no way does this column resemble my condition; rather, as the gigantic thimble rotating slowly in your belly will tell you, the frogman will take what he wants whether you want him to or not. So cheer up, because Petri won't hack your email and find your home address to send you weird messages, but someone the puce bunny knows might have already done so.

Stay cool and have a hot summer,


Posted by: purpledrank | February 9, 2011 9:17 PM | Report abuse

I thought he was referring to the Chinese owning our kids.

Isn't there a high-speed rail project here that will be built by the Chinese because we do not have the technical know-how in this country to build it ourselves?

The Chinese are graduating 500,000 engineers each year, way more than in this country. If you read technical magazines like "Microwave Journal". You will notice that Chinese universities have already taken the lead in technical R&D in electronic components and systems.

Most top high-school science students in this country are of Chinese descent - many first generation immigrants.

The Chinese have a tradition of working long and hard hours, while Americans need their TV, games - incessant diversion and entertainment.

Don't laugh. Joe Biden is right, our next generation will find themselves working for Chinese bosses.

Posted by: loyalsyst | February 10, 2011 12:19 AM | Report abuse

@Here2day, as a blazing idiot, I have to say that from the drawing of Petri at the top of the page it's obvious that all her joints are in place. I don't see any flames either, like the ones coming from my underwear since I soaked it in Ben-Gay.

Purpledrank, the disjointed schizophrenic, keeps babbling this word over and over: "Satire, satire, satire." Do you know what that means?

Posted by: divtune | February 10, 2011 2:06 AM | Report abuse

mcstrasser said: "I would agree with Petri that high-speed rail is not appropriate in all areas of the country, and one would not want to travel cross-country by rail, but for medium-distance travel between large metropolitan centers, it makes a lot more sense that either autos or short-hop air travel."
Cool, then go sell people on how much more sense this makes and investors will flock to you and will build the system.


Posted by: illogicbuster | February 10, 2011 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Hey Joe, you and Barry already sold them our kids, so your statement is without merit.

Posted by: tnvret | February 10, 2011 2:25 PM | Report abuse

LOL, Biden is such a dolt! barry already sold our kids AND their kids to China...

Posted by: NO-bama | February 10, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

illogicbuster wrote (in response to my post) "Cool, then go sell people on how much more sense this makes and investors will flock to you and will build the system." you mean just like they rushed to invest in the interstate system or the construction of airports? The building and maintenance of transportation infrastructure is generally considered to be a governmental responsibility. True, the building of the railroad network in the 19th cent. was largely financed by private interests, but even then I suspect that there were govt. subsidies and incentives of various kinds. There is obviously a role for both private and govenmental involvement in infrastructure, but--leaving aside the question of whether it would be in the best interest of the public--it would be well-nigh impossible for private interests to finance major projects (such as highways, airports...and high speed rail lines).

Posted by: mcstrasser | February 11, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Drivin' that train, high on cocaine,
Barry O you'd better watch your speed.
Trouble ahead, trouble behind,
fifty three billion, smellin' of swine.

Troble ahead, ah Congress in red,
Take my advice you'd be better off dead.
Joe B's sleepin', House one-one-two
Is on the right track, and heddin' for you.

Posted by: stuartspeer | February 11, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

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