Grading the Candidates- Joe Biden

No candidate has bothered the activist class of the Democratic Party more than Joe Biden. For me though, Biden remains among my top four candidates. The former Vice-President is far from perfect, as he showed with his Iraq War vote, his credit card/bankruptcy legislation, and parts of the 1994 Crime Bill that he wrote. Looking at the preponderance of his record though, Biden has been an excellent public servant and would be a good President.

Biden’s strengths as a candidate are well documented. Biden leads primary polling, usually comfortably, and has done so all year. He also continuously polls the best against Trump. He does this with near 100% name recognition. His “Scranton Joe” persona polls very well with “Rust Belt” white voters and African-Americans (as evidenced in South Carolina). He’s probably the only candidate who can boast those strengths at this point. There’s also no question that he has the qualifications for the job.

Biden’s weaknesses are also known. His legislative record offers a treasure trove of votes to examine, like those I mentioned above. His career stretches all the way back to the days of debates over busing desegregation, meaning Biden has some real challenges reaching a more progressive Democratic Party than the one he entered as a young man. An older white man is not exactly what the activist class probably has in mind for 2020. His early debate performances didn’t inspire confidence. In short, Biden has very real challenges.

Of course, some of Biden’s critics have gone off the deep end in their criticisms of the former Vice-President. It started with a ridiculous hatchet job trying to hit Joe Biden on #MeToo allegations for smelling the hair of women, orchestrated by allies of Bernie Sanders. It never stopped there. There have been multiple attempts to portray Barack Obama’s Vice-President as a racist, with the latest being the absurd attack by Jamil Smith of Rolling Stone. There was last week’s pathetic attempt by Julian Castro to make Joe Biden look old and forgetful in the debate, in which Castro ultimately got his facts wrong. This week we saw “CornPop” gate blow up on Twitter, as this week’s crop of millennial progressive writers accused Biden of making up a story about an altercation with an African-American man nicknamed “CornPop.” It turns out that despite their mockery, “CornPop” was real. Imagine that. A lot of the young, progressive class of the Democratic Party are exposing themselves as shameless and morally bankrupt in their pursuit of power- and incompetent. Their attacks aren’t working because they failed to connect with or change the mind of the base of Biden’s voters. They’re not knocking down his “Scranton Joe” image because their attacks lack credibility and don’t relate to the things Biden’s voters care about.

Biden’s credibility as a candidate will rise and fall with his ability to maintain his “Scranton Joe” working class appeal to older white and black voters. If that falls apart, he can’t win. If he can maintain it, he will pick up steam later in the process. People on both sides of the Biden debate would be smart to realize that.

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A Hit Job By Any Standard

Let me start by saying what I think- It’s not going to work. I don’t believe attacking Joe Biden for kissing a woman on the back of her head, or rubbing noses with a woman is going to kill his potential Presidential bid. While it might resonate with supporters of Bernie Sanders, or more activist driven feminists, those folks weren’t going to probably support Biden in the Democratic Primaries anyway. Biden’s base of support within the party, a base that currently puts him in the lead, would probably require a much higher standard of wrong doing- something much closer to criminal, to even give it much thought. These aren’t the issues animating them, and they’re not likely to be moved by them.

Let’s be clear for a second that while Biden is very popular within the party, he’s not universally loved, or the absolute sure thing, silver bullet candidate his fans sell him as. He’s run and lost for the nomination twice. He’s gaffe prone, at times. He’s an old, white male, and there are plenty of people in the party who would rather not do that. I like Biden a lot, and could easily vote for him in November against Donald Trump, without second thoughts, even with these attacks on him. I’m also not committing myself to support him yet, because well, he does have flaws.

Let’s also be clear that what’s being done here is an absolute political hit job. Lucy Flores, a Bernie Sanders supporter and surrogate, dropped this revelation about Joe Biden “smelling her hair” and “kissing the back of her head” on the Friday before the second fundraising quarter was set to begin- roughly the point where many folks believe Biden may enter the race. It got her on the Sunday shows, and now a Congressional aide comes out and says he “rubbed their noses” together the next day. It comes as polls show Biden with a significant lead nationally, and a lead in the kickoff state of Iowa. A Biden candidacy right now would be the biggest roadblock for Bernie Sanders, Flores’ candidate of choice. To be clear from the pictures above, Flores isn’t always upset by older men entering her personal space in a friendly manner. If you think this is all happening randomly and accidentally right now, I have some ocean front property for you in Nebraska.

Now, through all of this, let’s be clear here, I’m not saying we should give Biden a pass here. Hair sniffing is kind of weird. His intimate, physical style of interacting may not be welcome by everyone, and if it isn’t, he needs to understand that and adjust his behavior accordingly. Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, rushed to Biden’s defense when a picture of him touching her shoulders was used to attack Biden’s style, as did several former female aides to Biden. They are entitled to their feelings on Biden’s actions, as is Flores and those who don’t appreciate it. I’m not going to rush to judgment on other people’s feelings. When Joe Biden put his hands on my shoulders a decade ago in Iowa, it didn’t bother me, but I only get my say.

I just wish people would be honest about their real issues with Joe Biden, rather than making a mockery of real accusations against actual monsters. Lucy Flores is already backing away from making this a sexual harassment issue, instead saying it’s a “personal space issue.” Can we call it what it really is though- a front-running candidate issue. Some people don’t like Biden on ideological grounds. Others don’t like him because they don’t feel he represents the identity of the base of the Democratic Party. These are legitimate reasons to oppose a Joe Biden candidacy for President. Pretending Biden is some sort of predator for kissing the top of a woman’s head, or rubbing noses, is a ridiculous hit job, being done on the behalf of an inferior candidate for President that is not as likable or achieved as Biden. Should Joe check this behavior? Yeah, while it’s endearing to me, it’s just not something he can do indiscriminately in 2019. His rivals should stick to taking him on with real issues, not making the entire American left look like a bunch of prude clowns though.