HORIST: Does Biden have too much baggage?
Biden has been around Washington for a long, long, long time. After serving two years as a member of Delaware’s New Castle County Council from 1970 to 1972, Biden entered the Senate at the age of 30 – barely meeting the minimum age requirement set out in the Constitution. This means that the former Vice President has been on the public payroll for 49 or his 76 years on earth, with zero work experience in the private sector. He is the poster child of professional politicians – the quintessential Washington establishmentarian.
The major tragedies in his life were the death of his wife and young daughter in a car crash that injured his two sons, Beau and Hunter, and the more recent death of his son Beau, the victim of brain cancer. The publicity and sympathy that arose from the accident on the eve of the 1972 election to the Senate was said to what enabled Biden to win a narrow victory in a race in which he was behind.
What is less remembered has been his series of potentially career-ending issues. He has survived them individually, but as a leading candidate for President, they are likely to be repackaged for public consumption. Hmmmm. I guess that is what I am doing with this commentary.
While the liberal media pounds Trump for his deferment during the Vietnam War because of “foot spurs,” Biden also avoided military service at the height of the conflict due to student deferments and then failing his physical based on alleged asthma – an affliction that has never since appeared in his record.
Those who might have more closely followed Biden’s long, long … oh, we did that already … career in politics may recall that he was alleged to be a serial plagiarizer, not once, not twice but multiple times – at least four of them becoming a matter of public record.
His first recorded accusation of plagiarism occurred while Biden was still at Syracuse University College of Law. He was accused of lifting five pages from a law review article. He claimed to have been unfamiliar with the rules of citation. Yeah, right. The guy is in law school where they tend to emphasize those rules a lot. Biden got an “F” for the course, but that part of the record was later expunged. I tried to find out why but could not.
This issue of the college plagiarism arose in his unsuccessful 1988 presidential campaign, a political friendly Delaware Supreme Court – at Biden’s request — cleared him of the two-decade-old charges. It boggles the mind that a state supreme court would get involved in an old academic issue that had no criminal underpinning. Political favoritism?
In his 1988 presidential campaign he was accused of plagiarizing a speech made in 1987 by British Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock, who said:
Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?
Biden said in his speech:
I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright?
What made matters worse was that Biden had to misrepresent facts about his family to fit the Kinnock speech – and as reporters look deeper into Biden’s past remarks, they found Biden had also lifted passages from President Kennedy’s 1961 Inaugural Address, a 1967 Kennedy speech and from a 1976 speech by then former Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
Biden was also discovered to have dishonestly enhanced his resume by stating that he attended law school on a scholarship, was in the top half of his law school graduating class and that he had earned several college degrees. Each of those claims was untrue.
The public scandal that resulted – rather modest by today’s standards – was enough to force Biden to withdraw from the race. (It is interesting to realize that Biden’s first and presumably last attempts to seek the White House would occur 32 years apart.)
Questionable civil rights record
Biden can point to many instances of supporting civil rights, but his total record is not so clear. During his early political career, Biden claimed to have participated in civil rights marches. That claim was later fact checked by reporters and found to be untrue.
Then there is the resurrection of the old bussing issue. Biden claims that he was always a supporter of bussing, but his claim is nuanced, to say the least. He is clearly on the record as an opponent of anti-busing legislation – and had introduced a bill supported by southern Democrat colleagues to prevent federal action.
He says that he supported voluntary busing, but he well knew that leaving that constitutional issue to the states or local school districts would have prevented integration of the southern school controlled by his fellow Democrats – just as the local option had done for the 100 previous years.
This issue might have remained buried in the mausoleum of history had Biden not used two of the most strident Democrat racists in the Senate to brag how he can deal with others – specifically mentioning hardcore racists Senators James Eastland of Mississippi, and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. Contrary to his implication – and the way the press reported it – Biden was NOT working “across the aisle,” but within his own Democratic Party.
When Biden brags about being able to work with the likes of Eastman and Talmadge, he fails to explain that he was working cooperatively on THEIR issues, such as opposing bussing legislation. For all Biden’s claims of working together with those guys, he never got their cooperation on any civil rights issues. It was a one-way deal.
In modern America – especially with resistance movement-minded radical left Democrats – working with anyone on the proverbial “other side” – even fellow Democrats — is politically toxic. California Senator and presidential rival Kamala Harris seized on the opportunity Biden handed her to not only attack him for allegedly elevating the stature of Eastland and Talmadge, but to segue that into taking the stake out of the heart of the long dead bussing issue.
Suddenly, Biden’s long-ago letter to Eastland – thanking the powerful senator for his help with the anti-busing bill – has resurfaced. In recent years, Biden has enjoyed an unblemished public reputation as a strong advocate of civil rights – and has had significant black support – but that reputation is now a bit blemished.
Handling Anita Hill
Biden has long been accused by many black leaders of not being respectful to Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas. Many believe that had Biden, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee hearing, not been so deferential to Thomas – in their judgment – the conservative black jurist might not have been confirmed by that all-important single vote. This issue might have lost some of its impact over time had Hill not rejected Biden’s mea culpa – at least that qualified apology for which Biden is famous.
For many years, Biden has been regarded as an excessively touchy-feely politician. He likes to hover over women, pull them close to him, rub their backs, hug, deposit kisses on cheeks and heads and – most recently revealed – sniff their hair. This habit was considered a wee bit odd even by the old standards. By today’s post-#MeToo political environment, such actions are tantamount to … shall we say … inappropriate behavior with women.
Biden’s personal approach blew up when University of Colorado Professor Lisa Flores accused him of making her feel uneasy at a public event when he slipped up behind her and … sniffed her hair, The result was an explosion of photographs of Biden posing over women like a Bella Lugosi Dracula movie poster. While Biden did not fully apologize for his behavior, he said he “got it” in terms of respecting a woman’s space – and would not continue his practice.
Biden the gaffe machine
Many of Biden’s problems are because of the things he said. For a man who has spent more than 50 years in public life he has an unusually serious case of tone deafness and political bloopers. Some are funny or embarrassing. Others are politically damaging. It is not just his age – although that may be a factor – it is a characteristic that has dogged him throughout his political career.
By way of examples, there was the time Biden introduced the Prime Minister of Ireland, noting that his mother – “God bless her soul” – once lived in America. In fact, the PM’s mother was still alive. Then there was the time he introduced Missouri State Senator Chuck Graham from the audience – asking him to “stand up and let them see you.” Graham was a wheelchair-bound paraplegic.
Some of his gaffes go beyond funny or embarrassing and actually cause political damage – as was the case with his Eastman/Talmadge references. Biden even gaffed after being accused of inappropriate behavior with women when he hugged a woman labor leader and jokingly announced that he had permission. He made the same joke in hugging a young boy.
Biden’s misstatements are so ingrained in his public persona that he has even referred to himself as a “gaffe machine.”
Age … no, health
At 76, Biden is the second oldest major candidate to run for a first term in the White House – with Senator Bernie Sanders being the oldest. If elected, Biden would enter the Oval Office at 78. That would make a second term questionable – and his selection of a running mate a very important consideration.
By implication and direct accusation, the anti-Biden folks are claiming that he is too much the product of yesterday thinking – in other words, too old. Even his own excusing his past record and behavior by saying those were “different times,” reinforces his critics’ argument.
But it is not his anachronistic thinking that may be of greatest concern. It is his health. So far, that has not been raised, but there will come a time when Biden will be asked to release his medical records. That will make the fight over Trump’s tax returns look like an example of transparency. You do not become a septuagenarian without accumulating a few medical issues, and Biden is loath to share them with the public.
(I am the same age as Biden – and play tennis virtually every day in 90-degree heat – but I have been in and out of hospitals multiple times in recent years – one time serious enough that my family was told I would not survive. Most friends my age also have had their trips to the hospital.)
Biden looks good FOR HIS AGE. It is that last qualifying phrase that tells it all. People his age often have “medical events” – sometimes frequently. If he can avoid a trip to the hospital in the next 18 months, he would be beating the odds. But even a mild heart attack or one of those minor so-called “walking strokes” could end the campaign. And if the odds of a health event in the next 18months, what are the chances in the next five-plus years?
We already know that in 1988 – when he was only 46 years old — Biden suffered a potentially fatal brain aneurysm – and was in such a serious state that he was administered the Last Rights of the Catholic Church. While he was recovering from the surgery, Biden suffered a pulmonary embolism. He then had a second surgery to repair an aneurysm that had previously gone undetected. Following the surgeries, he could not even take a get-well call from President Reagan.
Democrats have, so far, dealt with Biden with kid gloves and no shortage of hypocrisy. They say he has acted inappropriately with women for years – but he is not a sexist or sexual predator. They say his actions were NOT sexual even though such actions have long been defined as sexual by feminists and the #MeToo Movement.
Biden has embraced racists as people with whom he could cooperate, oppose busing, treat Anita Hill badly – and yet his fellow Democrats assure the voters that he is not a racist.
It reminds me of how the ladies of the left hypocritically overlooked the “inappropriate” actions of the late Senator Ted Kennedy – and all the Kennedys for that matter – and President Bill Clinton.
Biden will have the protection of the media, but does he have too much baggage even for Democrats and the press to cover up? Time will tell.
So, there ‘tis.