Imperiled Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden seems to be playing up his supposed brand: the wise, fair, experienced leader who’s the only Democrat grown-up enough to beat Donald Trump.
Speaking at a Manhattan fundraiser Tuesday night, Biden reminisced to the assembled big-money donors about his “civil” relationships in the 1970s with racist fellow Democrats and even notorious segregationists such as Mississippi Sen. James Eastland, known as the “Voice of the White South,” and Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge.
“He never called me ‘boy’; he always called me ‘son,'” Biden was quoted as saying of Eastland. “Well, guess what? At least there was some civility. … We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, one of three blacks seeking the Democratic nomination, charged that “Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone … he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together.”
Biden may be known as a gaffe machine, but this actually might be far from a fumble. Some primary voters will undoubtedly see Democrats to the left of Obama’s vice president attacking him and conclude that he’s the only challenger to Trump who isn’t a foaming-at-the-mouth radical sure to be rejected at the ballot box during economic good times.
It is no doubt not lost on Biden and his campaign that a Quinnipiac poll earlier this year found 52% of Democrats and voters leaning Democrat responding that they want a party nominee who as president “will mostly work with Republicans,” while only 39% want one who “will mostly stand up to Republicans.”
The trouble, however, is that Biden’s civility is a clever myth.
‘Smirking Rudeness … Bullying Condescension’
Was Biden’s 2012 vice-presidential debate with Paul Ryan a performance that could be described as “civil”?
“I think people would be better served if we don’t keep interrupting each other,” Ryan said, with remarkable charity considering Biden’s constant interrupting. “Well, don’t take all the four minutes, then,” Biden retorted.
“Do you have the specifics? Do you have the math? Do you know exactly what you’re doing?” debate moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News asked Ryan regarding his ticket’s promise to cut taxes. “That’d be a first for the Republican Congress,” Raddatz’s tag-team partner Biden then chimed in.
Later, when Ryan pointed out that “Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth,” Biden uncivilly interrupted, “Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy.”
George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote of Biden’s debate performance, “He displayed scene-chewing antics and preening exhibitionism and smirking rudeness and egotistical exuberance and bullying condescension. It was the attack of the feral ham actor. It would have been embarrassing if done in front of a mirror, much less on a debate stage.”
The GOP Will ‘Put Y’all Back In Chains’
Was it civil when in 2011 Biden told the National Education Association public school teachers’ union, “everything I believe in is under attack” and suggested that the GOP wants to destroy working Americans’ jobs, and take food from the mouths of American children?
“The new Republican Party has undertaken the most direct assault on labor, not just in my lifetime, but, without any hyperbole, literally since the 1920s,” Biden said. “It should be no surprise that the same people who are pushing vouchers for schools are pushing vouchers for Medicare … that the folks who want to cut school lunch and nutrition programs are the same people who vote against extending unemployment insurance and food stamps for the jobless.”
Biden can’t be said to have practiced much civility in 1987, when as the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee he outrageously charged before Reagan Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork’s chair was warm: “It appears to me that you are saying that the government has as much right to control a married couple’s decision about choosing to have a child or not, as that government has a right to control the public utility’s right to pollute the air.” He would proceed to preside over the Democrats’ slanderous destruction of Bork’s nomination, the forerunner of the Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh character assassinations.
Most infamous of all, was Biden civil when in August 2012 he told a Virginia audience that included many black Obama supporters that Republicans, if elected, would “put y’all back in chains”?
Joe Biden as exemplar of civility in politics is a portrait that is about as authentic as his fabricated family history in the September 1987 presidential campaign speech he plagiarized from then-British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock’s Welsh Labour Party conference speech only four months before. Or his $5 trillion climate plan containing multiple sections swiped without attribution.
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