Yeah, that’s not going to happen. The Biden apology tour isn’t about genuine remorse, needless to say, it’s about making left-wingers feel more comfortable voting for him. Insofar as admitting to a mistake serves that goal, he’s happy to do it. Sure, he shouldn’t have written the 1994 crime bill; right, he should have sided more aggressively with Anita Hill at Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearing. Yes indeed, he should have supported the right to abortion up to the moment of crowning. He wasn’t as woke as he should have been but he is now — and really, which right-thinking progressive couldn’t say the same of their own past? Barack Obama got elected president opposing gay marriage, remember.
Lefties (some lefties) who like Biden will roll with that, seeing it as his attempt to meet them halfway on points of contention. But Uncle Joe creeping on women, rubbing their shoulders and nuzzling their necks? That’s not a relatable mistake or debatable error of judgment, like a policy dispute is. That’s casual lechery. Admitting to it and apologizing wouldn’t move progressives closer to voting for him, it’d move them further away. And so, go figure, Biden’s new statement this morning about Lucy Flores’s claim that he touched her shoulders, sniffed her hair, and kissed the back of her head at an event a few years ago conspicuously doesn’t include an apology:
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort,” Biden said. “And not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention. I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear.”
“But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention,” he said. “And I will. I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women. I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve. I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisers who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own. And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues where there is much more progress to be made and crucial fights that must be waged and won.”
It will never not be weird to see #MeToo-era men accused of misconduct simultaneously insist that they’ve been falsely accused and yet placidly assert how important it is that their accuser be heard. If this is a smear, as Biden’s statement implies, it’s a mortal threat to his political legacy and to his chances of winning the world’s most important job. He should be enraged. But indignation at seeing his reputation impugned would only make his political trouble with the left worse; he needs to genuflect to the idea that all accusers must be heard even in a case in which he claims he’s being slandered. That’s his concession in lieu of an apology: He won’t say he did it but he will say he’ll “listen respectfully” to … alleged character assassination. Bananas.
On the other hand, who would have believed him if he had been indignant in his own defense? It’s not like Biden’s busy hands are a secret:
To set the record straight, I haven’t endorsed any presidential candidate including Sanders. But even if I had endorsed someone, that doesn’t erase the multiple pictures, articles & the well known “open secret” abt Biden’s inappropriate behavior. This shld been addressed long ago https://t.co/g3fwEGZC3H
— Lucy Flores (@LucyFlores) March 30, 2019
A piece at the Atlantic today makes a good point. This Flores accusation might have been handled much differently if Biden hadn’t insisted on taking his sweet-ass time to decide on whether he’s running. Functioning campaigns have infrastructure and strategies to deal with matters like this. Non-campaigns don’t.
Here’s how an incident such as the Flores story might have played out, had there been a Biden campaign in place, in ways that are standard in presidential politics though rarely discussed publicly: Potentially even before the story ran but certainly as soon as it did, reporters covering the campaign closely would have heard from an aide, offering rebuttals and context. Maybe the aide would have pointed out that Flores was a prominent Bernie Sanders supporter in 2016, and a board member of his allied group Our Revolution until resigning last year, or that she spent Saturday morning in El Paso at the kickoff rally for Beto O’Rourke. Maybe the aide would have helped connect reporters with people who were also there that day at the Latino Victory Project event in Las Vegas, several of whom have been talking with one another since the story ran and questioning whether what Flores wrote could be true, because she was never alone with Biden, according to one of the people who’s been in the discussions…
Or maybe a Biden campaign would have fought the publication of the essay in the first place, arguing that it was obviously radioactive politically but impossible to fact-check. Or it might have pointed to pictures that exist online of Biden with his face in Longoria’s hair at that same event, and insisted that this was proof he is just a well-meaning nonstop nuzzler.
If nothing else, the Biden campaign would have been generating other campaign news out on the trail to crowd out the Flores allegations a bit. Instead he’s stuck putting out statements that Flores herself can — and did — attack on live television, as you’ll see below. Basic campaign PR strategy, one would think, would have called for him to wait a few hours until after her appearance on CNN this morning, to deny her an easy highly visible opportunity to answer his comments. But he doesn’t have a campaign. So here we are.
His prospective opponents, both Democratic and Republican, have naturally lunged at Flores’s allegations, each hoping that enough early condemnation might convince Biden that his campaign will be DOA and thus he shouldn’t bother running. It occurred to me on Friday that he could basically blow up American politics if he walked out to a podium and said to the left, “You guys never cared about me touching women before. Why do you care now?” (Or as Jeryl Bier suggested, “In eight years as VP, never once did Barack Obama suggest to me that my behavior was a problem.”) How would they answer? If Biden’s remorse for his ideological sins is phony and calculated, so is left-wing upset at his handsiness: It was awkward but innocuous behavior by a daffy national uncle until the moment Biden began to pose a threat to Bernie Sanders and the progressive revolution, at which point it became disqualifying. A piece at The Cut that appeared in tandem with Flores’s account of the incident with Biden declared that, with the benefit of hindsight, Joe Biden was actually a proto-Trumpian figure for years — and yet never once for nearly a decade was there some serious left-wing effort to remove him from the White House. Every progressive takedown I read of him makes me think of that before-and-after photo of Stalin with the apparatchik next to him airbrushed out.
But I think he’s going to run in spite of it all, so we’ll look forward to many more takedowns to come as the left tries to retcon their view of Biden from a benignly oafish party elder on the Right Side of History to one of the more malignant figures the Democratic Party has produced over the last 40 years. As for Joe, he should probably start nuzzling men’s necks in public, to try to prove that that’s just what he does with people he likes. Two short clips here of Flores from this morning.
Lucy Flores: “Of course I want him to change his behavior. And I want him to acknowledge that it was wrong. And I want this to be a bigger discussion about how there is no accountability structure within our political space. … We are not protected in politics” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/WgrPz6iPzk
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) March 31, 2019