April 3, 2019

Biden's Behavior Under Scrutiny

“On Friday, former Nevada assemblywoman Lucy Flores recalled a 2014 campaign event where Biden approached her from behind, smelled her hair and kissed her head… [Since then] a second woman has come forward, claiming former Vice President Joe Biden touched her inappropriately at a political event. Former congressional aide Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant that Biden reached for her face and rubbed noses with her during a 2009 fundraiser in Greenwich, Connecticut.” CBS News

See past issues

From the Left

The left is considering whether Biden’s behavior should preclude him from the 2020 presidential race.

“Biden is a career politician and an extraordinarily charismatic one at that. His life’s work has been built on his ability to read individual people, gain their trust, make them feel comfortable, and modulate his emotions to mirror theirs. [But] even those of us with a less preternatural knack for schmoozing would surely be able to guess that a new acquaintance, a young woman trying to earn political power with an imminent speech, might not appreciate an unsolicited back-of-the-head kiss...

“His famously touchy demeanor usually manifests as bro-y back slaps and bear hugs with men; with women, it’s a patronizing set of hands on the shoulders, an unsettlingly close lean, a kiss on the head… A politician concerned with gender equity might have given some thought to why that is.”
Christina Cauterucci, Slate

“If he is not malicious, but merely incompetent, this is hardly a defense, and it is certainly not an argument that this socially incompetent man should be given the most powerful job in the world. The mandate to understand basic social cues, and to adjust to a world in which women’s bodies are no longer available for opportunistic fondling by white men in their vicinity, are basic requirements for much less powerful positions than the presidency.”
Moira Donegan, The Guardian

Some argue furthermore that “the widespread assumption that Biden would pose the strongest challenge to Donald Trump is unwarranted. In recent years, neither party has done well when they’ve chosen candidates who were meant to appeal to some elusive cadre of swing voters but lacked a robust grass-roots base. On paper, the war heroes John Kerry and John McCain looked electable; Obama and Trump did not… No one should judge the whole span of Biden’s career by the standards of 2019, but if he’s going to run for president, it’s fair to ask whether he’s the right leader for this moment. He is a product of his time, but that time is up.”
Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

Others ask, “Is there someone better positioned to beat Trump?... His touching is often inappropriate and can be unnerving. He should cut it out and apologize to those who felt uncomfortable. However, this is not #MeToo sexual harassment or assault. In the crazed atmosphere of immediate takes and absolute judgments, it’s difficult for some to make distinctions, but that is what grown-ups are supposed to do. Biden’s habitual embraces can be inappropriate without being sexual harassment; his conduct can be a demerit without being disqualifying.”
Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

A longtime aide and former press secretary of the Vice President writes, “From 2006 to 2011, I worked closely with Joe Biden on both his Senate and White House staff. I traveled the country and the world with him, certainly logging more miles and sometimes feeling as if I spent more time with him than I did with my own family. Wherever he was during those years, be it Wilmington or Baghdad, I wasn’t far away. I saw him at his best and his worst, in quiet moments and on the world’s largest stages. Through it all, in big ways and in the small ways that sometimes matter even more, he was, is and always has been a champion for women and equality.”
Elizabeth E. Alexander, USA Today

Critics of the candidate argue, “Want to defeat Trump? Attack Biden… Many progressives are understandably fearful that attacking the presumptive frontrunner might weaken him and give Trump ammunition for the general election. But challenging Biden’s record is important. For example, his core base of support – older Democrats – needs to know what an unreliable defender of Social Security and Medicare he is. By challenging him on his record, especially in the eyes of older, traditional Democratic voters, progressives could break the myth of Biden’s ‘electability’. (A strange trope given that Biden has tried and failed to be a presidential nominee since the 1980s.)… Anyone angling to be the Democratic nominee should espouse a real progressive agenda – just being ‘anti-Trump’ isn’t enough.”
Bhaskar Sunkara, The Guardian

“For Warren or anyone else to prevent the uniquely depressing experience of a Biden ‘national unity’ campaign, specifically targeted at a tiny cadre of wobbly Trump voters and Jeff Flake-style dissident Republicans, something has to change before next winter. Democratic voters and the media and basically everyone else must get over their skittish, fearful response to the Trump presidency, and their based-on-nothing certainty that nominating a progressive or a woman or a socialist or anybody who isn’t an avuncular white man with a vaguely reassuring demeanor and no discernible ideology will once again lead to disaster.”
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

From the Right

The right points out that Biden’s behavior has been common knowledge for years, but does not think the allegations are in and of themselves disqualifying.

From the Right

The right points out that Biden’s behavior has been common knowledge for years, but does not think the allegations are in and of themselves disqualifying.

“For a long time, Democrats benefited from a media mentality that almost always interpreted their traits through the most positive lens. Rahm Emanuel’s stabbing a table with a steak knife or sending a dead fish to some pollster wasn’t seen as a sign of psychological instability or rage issues; that behavior demonstrated he was a passionate, fiery competitor with a relentless drive. Bill Clinton was a passionate extrovert who wanted to connect with people, not a shameless womanizer…

“For eight years, Biden got away with a lot because the media chose to perceive him as that ‘wacky, lovable Uncle Joe’ and if the media paid too much attention to his flaws outside of comic relief from the usually serious Obama, it would call into question Obama’s judgment in picking him.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“In giving him a pass for his public behavior for years, the Left has effectively endorsed it as totally appropriate. So, it's no wonder Biden would continue invading people's personal space… There's no real reason to believe that Biden thought he was getting away with anything underhanded when the entire Democratic Party lionized him for years, knowing full well he could get a bit handsy. None of this is to say that future claims about Biden should be automatically written off, but just as #MeToo requires us to understand the gradient between an unwanted advance and an aggravated assault, it should also demand nuance in intention.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“I imagine there’s a mixture of women… among the people Biden has touched in this way, some for whom it was fine and others for whom it was uncomfortable, even deeply so. In that sense, I think it’s fair to deem the behavior wrong, because his decision to act this way is predicated on an assumption that it’s okay…

“But is it disqualifying?... I’m still of the persuasion that character counts in presidential candidates. On its own, an ignorance of personal boundaries, even if rooted in a deeper sense of entitlement or arrogance, is not a fatal character flaw… this alone isn’t enough to undercut his fitness for office.”
Emily Jashinsky, The Federalist

“Let him run if he wishes. If voters decide these past habits are a deal-breaker, then let’s find that out in real elections. Haven’t we had enough of today’s instant guillotines of reflex outrage? Especially in this case, where the outrage seems so opportunistic. Everyone of both parties sounding oh-so-serious about these new revelations has been aware of Cuddly Uncle Joe for years without any serious suggestion that he is unfit for high office.”
Mark Davis, Townhall

“In other #MeToo stories we’ve seen women come forward in response to men denying responsibility for their actions. So far Biden hasn’t done that. He says he’s listening. But for his campaign to move forward, he has to try to put this behind him. That’s going to be the moment of maximum danger. If Biden says anything that seems to be denying responsibility, I think the floodgates will open. He’s going to have to handle this very deftly to avoid a steady stream of new allegations.”
John Sexton, Hot Air

“If Joe Biden can win his way through the primaries, he’s almost lab-engineered to beat Trump. He doesn’t cause Republican panic, he has the potential to connect with white working-class voters in a way that Hillary couldn’t in 2016, and he has a potential to connect better with black voters than Hillary did… if Biden emerges from [this] crucible, Trump will face a very different challenge than he faced in 2016.”
David French, National Review

A libertarian's take

“The relevant question is not the nationality of a source offering ‘oppo research’ but the accuracy and relevance of the information. Another consideration is whether the information was obtained illegally—by hacking emails, for example. While the Supreme Court has said people have a First Amendment right to share illegally obtained information if they were not involved in the lawbreaking (something that news organizations frequently do), you might reasonably argue that they should also report such crimes when they become aware of them, which may be what Trump had in mind when he said he might contact the FBI ‘if I thought there was something wrong.’”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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