Even some of Mr. Biden’s friends say he will have to show remorse for the Hill-Thomas hearings if he wants Democrats to accept him as a leader for the future in a party sharply defined by the concerns of liberal women…

Mr. Biden has privately expressed frustration about the ire directed at him for his Judiciary Committee tenure, according to multiple people who have spoken with him directly but requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. He has been incensed about Republicans taking some of his past remarks out of context: They brandished one video clip from 1991 to suggest Mr. Biden had dismissed the value of having the F.B.I. investigate Ms. Hill’s allegations. Mr. Biden’s spokesman said he had been rejecting an argument from a Republican, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who said the F.B.I. had effectively exonerated Mr. Thomas.

But Mr. Biden has also complained to allies that fellow Democrats are now judging his role in the Hill hearings without, he believes, appropriately recognizing the limits of his power as a committee chairman, and the political reality of that moment.