Elections

The Mythologies of ‘Joe Being Joe’ Biden

Joe Biden speaks during his debate with Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in Danville, Ky., October 11, 2012. (John Gress/Reuters)
Biden is hardly the sober and judicious alternative to a supposedly reckless Donald Trump.

Some polls put 76-year-old Joe Biden as the Democratic front-runner for the 2020 presidential election. There is certainly some logic to that reckoning.

Biden has far more experience than any of his likely party rivals — 36 years in the Senate, eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president, and two past presidential runs.

He may be the only Democratic candidate who could likely win back some of the “deplorables,” “irredeemables,” and “clingers” of the critical Midwestern swing states.

But all of that said, the folksy Biden is hardly the sober and judicious alternative to a supposedly reckless Donald Trump.

In many ways, Biden has been far wilder in his speech and decorum — despite nearly a half-century in politics.

Could a Biden campaign withstand #MeToo-era scrutiny? Biden was widely criticized for his handling of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas during Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991. In 2015, New York magazine ran a photo essay showing nine instances when Biden, in creepy fashion, leaned in closely and whispered in women’s ears, with several of those women appearing visibly uncomfortable with such interaction.

Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that grilled Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork in such a crude fashion as to turn the failed nominee’s name into a verb. “Borked” is now synonymous with the sort of character assassination that Biden led. His later aimless and incoherent questioning of Thomas during his confirmation hearing managed to enrage both critics and supporters.

Biden was accused of — and confessed to — plagiarism in law school, and he withdrew from the presidential primaries in 1987 after being caught plagiarizing British Labour-party leader Neil Kinnock in campaign speeches (while also inserting fabrications about his family’s background).

On the 2008 campaign trail, Biden committed so many verbal gaffes that President Obama reportedly lamented in frustration, “How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?”

More recently, Biden — who has called for more civility in public discourse — has boasted that he would like to take Trump (whom he referenced as “the fattest, ugliest SOB in the room”) behind the proverbial high school gym “and beat the hell out of him.”

Sometimes Biden reveals abject ignorance, even as he tries to sermonize on American history. During the 2008 financial crisis, Biden urged then-president George W. Bush to address the nation in the supposed fashion of president Franklin Roosevelt: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed.” Biden was apparently unaware that Herbert Hoover was president during the 1929 stock market crash, that FDR did not take office until 1933, and that televisions weren’t commercially available until the late 1930s.

But Biden has two far greater problems with the modern progressive movement. His past record has often been centrist. As a result, he recently has been apologizing to left-wing Democrats for prior politically incorrect votes, such as authorizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq and supporting a punitive 1994 crime bill that he helped write.

Even more problematic, Biden has a long history of racial missteps. In an age where there is no statute of limitations on, or forgiveness for, prior stupidity, and every careless remark is regarded as a window into a dark soul, Biden will have a lot of explaining to do to the identity-politics guardians of the Democratic party if indeed he runs for president.

It recently came to light that in 1975, Biden followed the lead of Senator Robert Byrd and spoke against federally mandated busing to integrate public schools. He offered the weird rationale that segregation was good for “black pride.”

“There are those of we social planners who think somehow that if we just subrogate man’s individual characteristics and traits by making sure that a presently heterogeneous society becomes a totally homogeneous society that somehow we’re going to solve our social ills,” Biden said at the time. “And quite to the contrary.”

In 2007, Biden said of Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Did the condescending Biden not realize that for decades before the advent of Obama, brilliant black politicians such as Senator Edward Brooke and Representative Barbara Jordan were popular “mainstream” political figures?

No one knew what to make of Biden’s 2006 comment that, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”

In 2012, Biden used a stereotyped accent to warn a largely African-American audience that Republicans would “put y’all back in chains” — as if Republican candidate Mitt Romney were a racist and blacks could be forced back into slavery.

Biden’s gaffes are often brushed off as examples of “Joe being Joe,” but Biden has long displayed the sort of sloppy, gross, and politically incorrect behavior that progressives routinely and ironically attribute to the current president.

© 2019 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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