From the NYTimes:
[Sen. Barack Obama is] the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.
-Joe Biden, the next President of the United States!
(Translation: "He's clean and articulate, and all around a darn bright boy! Give that darkie a pair of gloves, and I wouldn't mind letting him carry my bags!")
Biden's comment, like most racially-loaded comments that explode in the face of politicians today ("Macaca" excluded), is objectionable in relatively subtle ways. Of course, it clearly plays into perennial stereotypes of blacks as "dirty," reinforcing the idea by pointing out just how exception Obama's status as "clean" is. Kudos to Sharpton for apparently reassuring Biden that he bathes every morning. I'm certain that sets the Senator's mind at ease, especially considering that he has to share the Senate bathrooms with a few of "those people." Clearly, Biden isn't free of the repressed racial terror that haunts most whites in an integrated society.
But, of course, the comment is also ignorant in a way that's not even strictly speaking racist - Biden clearly doesn't know the history of the office he's declaring his candidacy for. There have been a bunch of African-American candidates for President, most notably Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. And while Jackson is a little before my time, as far as "articulate" goes, I can tell you Sharpton was a beast in the '04 debates.
Luckily, in this case, you can have it both ways - the comments may reveal Biden as both a repressed racist and a historically ignorant buffoon. It's like cake and ice cream! At the same time!
WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! BIDEN '08! WE'RE GOING ALL THE WAY!
(Seriously, though, for the good of the party, Biden needs to drop out. Now. And awkward, defensive press conferences aren't helping us.)