Sunday, April 7, 2019


Valedictory: 2017 Cornell University Convocation; photo by Michael Suguitan for the Cornell Sun.

I think Steve is 100% right when he accuses old Joe Biden of Trumpiness in this game he's playing at the moment, hugging male persons up on stage and grinning his sweet open-hearted grin and telling the audience, "I want you to know I had permission to do that," as much as to say "unlike some of these new-fangled ladies who for some unaccountable reason think they feel threatened by my goofy and harmless old self," which as any fool can see is insane and perhaps insanely self-regarding. He's almost the Trump who says he couldn't possibly have assaulted some given woman because she's not hot enough, but makes it about what a silly old good he is.

Then he turns around and says some proper words about understanding that he needs to listen etc. etc. But he's winking, not in the obvious clown Trump way—he's a million times smarter than Trump anyway—but winking nevertheless.

Then blogfriend Lance Mannion comes out to do some handicapping, which, like me, he rarely does, and suggests that Biden's going to win the nomination, because he's kind of "our" Trump:

The others might have political skills and talents of their own that equal his. But I’m worried that with Joe in it they won’t get to show them off on TV. The political media won’t give them the time. If Joe’s on the debate stage come June, they won’t be---that is, they might as well not be for all the attention they’ll get from the media. That’s another way he’s our Trump. The media will cover him to the exclusion of the others except to ask them what they thought of how Joe did. Maybe they’ll still be infatuated enough with Pete that he’ll get attention in his own right too. But then the speculation will be on how Joe should pick him for his VP.
And I, too, really don't like this, and at the same time I don't feel good about not liking it, because we all love Joe, right? Well, hmm, I'm not too sure, or I'm not too sure the love is wisely bestowed. Biden isn't exactly the lovable goofball in the memes, for one thing. He's different in a good way—he's very sharp intellectually and well-informed, as I've said before, especially on foreign policy issues—and a not so good way, in that it hasn't stopped him from taking pretty cynical positions now and again in a way that would be a big problem for a lot of the party including you and me: he was a leading hawk on Iraq in 2002, where Hillary Clinton was an uneasy follower; tied to big banks as a legislator, not just as a speechmaker; wrote the 1994 crime bill that Clinton has been blamed for because her husband signed it; and so on.

Indeed, there's some evidence that the folksy-Joe personality we liked so much in Vice President Biden is a little bit staged, I hope I don't shock you. Let's just say if you think Senator Klobuchar is disqualified for the way she treats her staff, I don't think you should vote for Biden, who to my way of thinking is worse, as seen in the eyes of Jeff Connaughton, a staffer who'd fallen in love with Joe's idealism and intellectual breadth in 1979, when he was an undergraduate at the University of Alabama, spoken to him after the lecture and treasured the autograph Biden gave him for decades afterwards:

George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Macmillan, 2014)

I'd like to stipulate that I think Biden really was a very good senator, if on the conservative side of his caucus, and a truly great vice president, a job that called forth all his best qualities. I also believe he is pretty much as innocent as he thinks he is on the woman-bothering issue, a glad-hander by nature who was glad at some point in the 1970s when it seemed (to people like him) that feminism meant he should do as much glad-handing with women as with men, which was wrong but certainly not malicious, and he's failed to change in the intervening 40 or 50 years. Because, as Anand Giridharadas says, it's not just hugs:

And that mockery of the complainers is worse than the pawing.

I also thought and continue to think Al Franken was essentially innocent, in similar ways and indeed still more so (in the sense that his dopey comedian behaviors are less creepy than the Biden massages and hair sniffings), but nevertheless right to resign from the Senate, because what loyalty to the party demanded at the moment of accusation was to not allow that to become an issue for diluting the party message on sexual assault (if only because, as Jordan has explained elsewhere, Republicans have made it the only issue). And I don't think Biden ought to be placing himself above the party in the way he seems to be doing, at this juncture. At this juncture the party's a lot more important than he is.

I've taken my oath to support the Democrat who gets the nomination, of course; the party's more important than I am, too. But I think Biden's a really suboptimal choice.

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