April 3, 2019

Biden's Behavior Under Scrutiny

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“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

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

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 a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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