Via the Free Beacon, never a good sign for a candidate when his exasperated aide tells a TV news anchor after five minutes of grilling that she’s already answered her question and the anchor replies, no, I don’t think you have.
Sometimes you can feel the conventional wisdom changing, like a thunderstorm coming on. Yesterday’s CW: Biden’s polling has been surprisingly resilient. He’s a more formidable frontrunner than everyone thought! Today’s CW, after a pitiful reversal on Hyde and multiple uncomfortable TV interviews with his surrogates: No way does this flip-floppin’ cuck go the distance.
Kate Bedingfield, the Biden aide tasked here with facing off with Brianna Keilar, at least came in with a game plan. Unlike Symone Sanders, who claimed earlier that Biden’s shift was a matter of simple persuasion by confidantes, Bedingfield frames his reversal as a response to crisis. Biden changed on the Hyde Amendment, she says, because abortion rights are suddenly under threat. Southern states are passing fetal heartbeat laws; the Supreme Court has a pro-life majority for the first time in many years. The political facts on the ground changed in a major way so Biden’s opinion on Hyde changed to support maximum access to abortion via taxpayer funding. Easy peasy.
But it’s not so easy, Keilar notes. For starters, “abortion rights in crisis” doesn’t explain why Biden has flipped three times on this issue in the span of a month, including twice in the span of 24 hours. If he’s worried about Brett Kavanaugh and fetal-heartbeat laws, he should have switched to a no on Hyde months ago and stuck to it. I’d add that if Biden’s view of Hyde is dependent on the threat level to Roe, he should have flipped to no on Hyde decades ago, after Clarence Thomas was confirmed. The Supreme Court at the time had *eight* Republican appointees, five of whom had been appointed by Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush. There was every reason to believe Roe would be overturned in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Instead the Court upheld it, 5-4. (Fun fact: The lone Democratic appointee, Byron White, was in the minority to dump Roe.) Yet somehow, despite watching the Court fill up with justices picked by right-wing presidents over many years, Biden remained a stalwart Hyde Amendment supporter throughout.
Why was the threat in the early 1990s insufficient to get him to reconsider his view of Hyde? Why is the threat now, when the Democratic Party is far more militantly pro-choice than it was then, sufficient to make him do so?
The “best” argument available to Team Biden that doesn’t admit the plain truth, which is that he’s afraid he can’t get nominated in 2019 by remaining pro-Hyde, is that he … just hasn’t thought very deeply about this issue. He remained blithely pro-Hyde for the better part of 50 flippin’ years only to have his new campaign staffers convince him literally overnight that poorer areas of the country deserve some federal sugar to keep the abortion mills running. It was the first time he devoted more than eight seconds of thought to the subject, his aides might say, and a lightbulb went off over his head.
That’s not a very good campaign pitch either, though, for obvious reasons. And it would cut the heart out of Biden’s longstanding defense of his pro-Hyde position, that this is supposedly “deeply personal” for him and a matter of considered moral deliberation. The likely truth is just the opposite: Biden has been always been pro-choice in virtually every meaningful way, with the Hyde Amendment a minor exception he carved out as a sop to more religious Democratic voters. Hyde was his fig leaf that he was somehow torn or conflicted about the subject. The party’s leftward push on abortion now requires him to give that fig leaf up.
Exit question: Why is the campaign even sending out aides to try to spin this reversal? There’s no way to spin it. His shift is exactly what it looks like, which is why his staffers continue to embarrass themselves in interviews. Better to have the whole team lie low, let this blow over in the meantime, and prepare Biden to be grilled about it at the first debate.