I’m asking this question earnestly. Over eight years and hundreds of interviews, *someone* must have asked his opinion about the copious photos of Biden massaging women’s shoulders and smelling their hair at public events.
Surely someone asked Jay Carney or Josh Earnest at one of the daily briefings. No?
This is on my mind because of Philip Klein’s piece today citing the (relative) silence over Biden as a textbook case of media bias.
It’s hard to argue that the issue was irrelevant at the time, and that it’s only emerging now because Biden is considering a run for president. It’s not as if he were an obscure figure at the time these incidents occurred. He was the vice president of the United States.
The only thing that’s changed is Biden’s opponents. Had the media scrutinized Biden’s behavior back then, it would have benefited Republicans and caused headaches for the Obama administration. Now, however, Biden’s opponents are a dozen or more Democrats. Given that he’s been consistently on top of polls for the 2020 Democratic nomination, all of the rival camps are gunning for him, and hoping to destroy his candidacy before it even gets off the launch pad.
So, it’s entirely predictable that the media are suddenly focusing on Biden’s touching problem now, even while acknowledging that it was an open secret for years.
Whenever someone has accused liberals on Twitter of complicity in Biden’s antics since the accusations about his handsiness have picked up, they’ve retorted indignantly that they weren’t quiet about it. Just google and see. Pieces were written. Brows were furrowed. The word “problematic” was invoked.
Which is nice. But my question is whether any meaningful political pressure was brought to bear directly on Biden or Obama or the White House comms shop. Just as only the right truly has leverage over Trump’s and Pence’s personal behavior (which, needless to say, goes almost completely unexercised), only the left had leverage over Obama’s and Biden’s. Were either Uncle Joe or his boss ever made to feel uncomfortable by their own base about this? It’s not an academic question: Given the backlash over the last 96 hours or so, it’s a cinch that Biden will be far more circumspect about physical contact with women going forward.
Which means, if the backlash had come sooner in his career, a lot of women might have been spared moments of discomfort in his presence. So why didn’t it come sooner?
You might read the headline to this post and think that it doesn’t really matter if Obama was asked since we all know what answer he would have given. “Oh, that’s just Joe being Joe. He’s physically affectionate with everyone, even me. A good retail politician knows that nothing forges a connection quite like contact, and he’s one of the best.” Predictable — and yet it’d be nice to have him on record, no? Leftists will have no difficulty retconning their alleged outrage at Biden’s behavior while he was VP in the name of clearing him out of Bernie Sanders’s path, but retconning it to make Barack Obama some sort of #MeToo enabler is another matter. Too many Democratic voters admire O and have invested too much in him emotionally to stand by and see him torched for not having had a problem with Biden’s behavior. Having Obama on record circa 2015 giving Biden a pass on his handsiness would complicate this subject for progressive opportunists.
Whereas not having Obama on record would complicate the media’s alleged concern about Biden’s behavior. If Joe making women uncomfortable is a story now, how could it not have been enough of a story when he was the sitting VP, handpicked by the then-president to inherit the most important job in the world if something happened to O, to ask Obama about it?
Lotta verbiage floating around today about Biden, needless to say, but I think this is my favorite quote. “Woke” is finding Biden’s behavior with women problematic. “Next-level woke” is finding the lack of diversity in Biden’s damage-control team as they go about trying to clean up his behavior with women problematic.
Yet even as they express confidence Biden can weather this storm, some allies worry that the fallout is exposing other potential weaknesses in his prospective candidacy.
“They just didn’t seem prepared and they knew this was coming,” said the Democratic operative. “But maybe that’s what happens when your whole team is a bunch of white guys with the exception of a lone white woman.”
If only Biden had more women and minorities around him, he might have foreseen this completely foreseeable attack about things he’s been doing in public since the Nixon administration.
Ross Douthat argued yesterday that Biden’s caught in a Catch-22 as a candidate. If he runs as a newly reformed woke progressive, the centrist plurality in the Democratic Party that’s leery of progressivism has no reason to vote for him. If he runs on his record as a centrist, progressives will melt down in rage that he’s preparing to move the party back towards the middle and will sit the election out if he’s the nominee — allegedly. I don’t agree. As Klein noted in his piece, the “concerns” about Biden’s busy hands will fade opportunistically in time for the epic battle against Trump; if that liability can be backburnered in the name of slaying the orange dragon, so can his other sins against wokeness. But there’s no question that the primary will be bruising and that the left will mobilize against him in a way that no other candidate in the race, including Beto, need fear. “It’s clear that time has passed him by. He should not be running,” said an advisor to … Stacey Abrams to BuzzFeed, proving that not even lefties associated with someone whom Biden was considering as an early VP pick are comfortable with him. I think he’ll end up running just because it haunts him to imagine what might have been if he had run in 2016 but it’ll be the least pleasant experience of his political life.