Biden the Boastful
From the Scrapbook.
Apr 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 28 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The incomparable Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor died last June at 96 after an astonishing life, remembered both for his amazingly erudite travel writing and feats of almost super-human heroism as a leader of the resistance to the Nazi occupation of Crete. It was in the latter connection that The Scrapbook thought of Leigh Fermor last week, for reasons we will get to in a bit.
But first, let us consult the obituary that appeared last June in the Telegraph, as it provides an admirably concise account of Leigh Fermor’s most famous contribution to the war effort. Having acquired fluency in Greek and great familiarity with the terrain in the years before the war, he was infiltrated onto the island after it fell to the Nazis in 1941, to lead the guerrilla activities of the Cretan partisans. As the Telegraph recounted:
Christopher Hitchens added an important nuance to this story in his own remembrance of Leigh Fermor. That moment between Leigh Fermor and General Kreipe, Hitchens noted,
The Scrapbook thought of Leigh Fermor’s exploits last week when it read of Joe Biden’s over-the-top remarks at a Democratic fundraiser in New Jersey. Congratulating his boss for the raid on Osama bin Laden, Biden said, “You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there. . . . Do any one of you have a doubt that if that raid failed that this guy would be a one-term president?”
Perhaps you can see why we thought of Leigh Fermor, of his tracing a design on steamy glass, driving through 22 Nazi checkpoints disguised as a kidnapped German commander, and subsequently evading capture behind enemy lines—with a bit of Horace thrown in as lagniappe. We offer the story because it is picturesque, not because it is unique in the annals of audacity. Five hundred years is a long time. Taking away nothing from the bin Laden raid, which stands as the finest achievement of the current administration and was a famous demonstration of American military and intelligence prowess, we’re certain every reader, like us, can think of feats which outrank it on a scale measured across the centuries.
On the other hand, when it comes to exploits of vainglory and boastfulness, Joe Biden may still rank high on the list 500 years from now.
Johnny, We Know Ye All Too Well