The new narrative about Biden suggests that he is exploitative and solipsistic in his encounters with women. Although I did not witness what the women who have come forward to criticize Biden experienced, and only they can say how these encounters felt to them, it seems relevant that Biden is touchy-feely with everyone—not just women, but children and men, too. My kids fought to be plus-ones for Biden events because of the type of behavior that is being called into question. He habitually nuzzled, hugged, and kidded around with them. But he wasn’t just physical. He tuned in emotionally. In the below photo, while a long line of influentials wait for his attention, Biden is listening to my 7-year-old’s concerns about Syrian kids.
After these encounters, I asked the question of the moment: Why does the guy act this way? Those who cite power dynamics are both exactly wrong and onto something. In Washington, warm welcomes are generally reserved for the most influential or the highest-dollar campaign donors. Sometimes that policy is explicit: You get a faux-intimate photo in exchange for a large PAC contribution. Biden’s disregard of this protocol is telling. He enters a room, just as he enters a debate about union rights or domestic violence, with a predisposition to lend an ear to the least powerful.