Thursday, June 20, 2019

Literary Corner: On Second Thoughts

Strom Thurmond, in contrast, Joe really liked. Via Current Affairs.

Vice President Biden's Literary Corner entry evokes the Wordsworth of the Lyrical Ballads, with its plain and natural diction organizing itself, as if by magic, into rhyme.

In Memory of James O. Eastland
by Joey Biden
He never called me "boy",
He always called me "son".
At least there was some civil-
Ity. We got things done.
It also occurs to me, on second thoughts, that he's not (at least this time, he's done it before) talking about being friends with these people. He says of Herman Talmadge that he was "one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys" and a possible reading of the "boy" remark is "Maybe I didn't have to suffer Eastland's racist filth, but he did give me shit over my youth."

[Update: Steve came up with this hypothesis last night, a good eight or nine hours before I did. I should have known.]

Which seems pretty likely, given how young Biden was during the brief period they served together, 1973 to 1978, as the sixth-youngest senator in US history, 31 at the start, when Eastland was turning 69, and what a nasty, peremptory old fool Eastland was. I'll bet Eastland smacked him down in Judiciary Committee.

So he too was pained by Eastland, in this more modest way, he might be trying to say. He too hated those bastards, and they hated him, but it didn't stop them from legislatin' up a storm, as it might do today, now that all the vilest racists are holed up in the other party.

And there's something to that. You could say the racists were better back in the day, but mainly the lesson is that you can forget all that Aaron Sorkin sentimentality, Tip'n'Ronnie and all: politics is about people who can't stand each other getting things done. Though it certainly doesn't sound like something Biden would say, and it's not an argument for voting for him either, because it's pretty clear if he did have some special technique for dealing with fellow Democrats Talmadge and Eastland (which I doubt: Eastland liked being courted by presidents from Roosevelt through Carter and important senators like Kennedy and Mondale, not first-term pipsqueaks like Joe), it's not going to work on Republican Mitch McConnell.

It's not an argument for voting for Biden and his incorrigible verbal carelessness, which often makes it next to impossible to guess what he's trying to say and sets him up to be accused of all sorts of awful things, but it's an argument for not hating on him any more than you already did.

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