Sunday, March 31, 2019

What Joe Biden Still Doesn't Understand

I've never met Joe Biden, but he seems like a good guy.  I know some folks who have worked with him over the years, and they tell me he's very generous.  He has been a good senator, who tried to serve the people of his state; and he was a loyal vice president during the Obama years, the same way that Mike Pence is loyal to President Trump.  (Vice presidents are supposed to be loyal. They're supposed to defend their boss.  Joe Biden understood that role, as Mike Pence understands it now.)  It's also well-known that Joe Biden is a family man, and he's very down-to-earth.  And whether you agree with his politics or not, most of his congressional colleagues (on both sides of the aisle) will say he genuinely wants to do the right thing for the country.

But that doesn't mean he should run for president. Agreed, he probably will.  Any day now, I fully expect him to enter what is already a very crowded presidential race.  He's tried before, and there's no reason to think he won't try again.  But as much as he seems to be a basically decent guy, I sincerely wish he wouldn't run, because in my view, he's not the right person for the job.

There are a number of reasons why I say that.  But one of them is personal:  I don't think his attitudes about women have modernized.  I remember watching with horror during the 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings at how the all-white, all-male judiciary committee badgered and insulted Anita Hill. They treated her like she was on trial, like they thought her claims of sexual harassment were utterly outrageous.  As someone who has endured sexual harassment (bordering on sexual assault), I strongly identified with Ms. Hill, and I was appalled by how the men on the committee, led by Mr. Biden, showed her such disrespect. I too was disrespected and disbelieved when I reported what happened to me. I too was subjected to a committee with men who blamed me, or implied I must have done something to "lead him on" (I assure you I did not).  Whether you believed her or whether you believed Mr. Thomas, the way the men on that committee patronized her brought back a lot of memories.

I could let it go and forgive Mr. Biden, since it happened years ago.  People change.  Times change. And yet, when asked about it recently, his response was puzzling.  He said that he wished he could have "come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved, given the courage she showed by reaching out to us."  He agreed that the tone of the questioning of Ms. Hill was angry and hostile, and he said he regretted it. He also repeated that he wished he could have done something.  Umm, he was the Chairman of the Committee. He was in charge of the hearing.  He wasn't some bystander. But even now, he talks about it as if there was absolutely nothing he could have done. 

There are many people in their mid-70s who understand that we are currently in the midst of some generational shifts.  There are things you could say back in the 1950s and 1960s that are probably not appropriate today.  I'm not referring to so-called "political correctness"; I'm referring to actual changes in attitudes.  For example, back when I was growing up, many people thought it was okay to make gay jokes or black jokes or Jewish jokes openly, or even to use slurs about those and other groups.  I don't know a lot of folks today who think it's okay to do that.  Or, I've written about the fact that guys used to think it was funny to grope a woman at work-- if she complained, she was told she wasn't a "good sport."  I doubt that kind of behavior would be okay in most workplaces today.

But I'm not sure Joe Biden understands that times, and attitudes, have changed.  He seems like someone stuck back in the 1960s or 1970s.  (I often feel that way about a number of older politicians, including President Trump. The expressions they use, the way they speak, reminds me of stuff I used to hear when I was in college.  Maybe people over 65 can relate to it, but I'm not sure young adults still do.)  And no, I'm not trying to be ageist; after all, I'm 72 and periodically I admit I too express myself in ways that reflect the times in which I grew up, rather than the current cultural environment.

I'm not saying Joe Biden is too old to run. I'm simply saying I haven't seen any evidence that he could inspire younger voters, or make them feel he understands the issues that matter to them.  There are some candidates who seem totally able to reach out to audiences of any age. And there are some who just seem like they're out of touch.  Mr. Biden seems like the latter to me, and that's why I'm hoping he won't run. 


  1. I'm with you on this. What got me started was videos of Biden handling 10-12 year old girls at photo ops. The girls were obviously uncomfortable, he was obviously not paying attention. I started a facebook poll. "Does this video show creepy behavior or not?"

    After a week, 14 people said, "not creepy", 13 people said, "creepy." Interesting. I did not require that people tell me their political affiliations. When I asked those who said his behavior was not creepy if they'd let him be alone with their 12 year old daughters, there was a lot fo back-pedaling. I thought it interesting that watching the videos of him being "handsy" with your girls during photo ops, made my skin crawl and hit my fight/flight button, others who participated in my poll were not so affected.

    Were their decisions politically co-opted, or were they really brought up that way? What does it say about us? Sadly, you don't have to scratch very hard to hear stories about a "Grabby Grandpa" or uncle.

    Shortly after you posted this article, the "Creepy Joe" issue blew up. About a week later, 3-4 days ago, "Occupy Democrats" put out a video of him addressing the issue of his invasion of personal space. In the video, he said he "got it."

    Here's what he said,

    I think whoever convinced him to do the video was correct. It was an issue that he had to face if he is going to run, or NOT! Donna, I'll be 71 this year. Joe Biden will be 76 in November. Bernie Sanders is or will be 77 this year. I think Sanders got a raw deal in the last election.

    But I'm not sure either of them are the right people for the job. Ageism? Yes, maybe, but partially based on the thought that while the crust around old guys and gals may be loaded with invaluable experience, it also contains less positive stuff that will not help this country.

    Back to you, Donna: is Bernie Sanders a viable candidate?

    1. I've been a fan of Bernie's for more than 40 years. But much as I like him and agree with some of his policy proposals, he's in his late 70s (not that there's anything wrong with that); and I'm not sure he'd be electable (especially in the south). I'd like to see some of the newer and younger group of politicians, like Pete Buttigieg or Kamala Harris, gain some traction, as I believe it's time for all the generations (not just the elders of the party) to bring forward some of their ideas and proposals.