The Rehabilitation of Biden

The headline at the Washington Post was either shocking or amusing, according to how closely one follows such issues or how flexible one’s ideology is to compromise when necessary.

Joe Biden’s affectionate, physical style with women comes under scrutiny

Another day, another person, and this would have been demanding his head on a platter. But not this time. Joe Biden’s not all rapey, but has an “affectionate, physical style.”

In some of the photos, Joe Biden is behind the women, his hands on their shoulders, as he whispers in their ears. He embraces Hillary Clinton, his hands around her torso. He kisses a young girl’s head, his fingers framing her face, as she looks blankly toward the camera.

This affectionate and sometimes intimate physical style is one of the former vice president’s trademarks, a defining feature of the warm and upbeat persona he has built during more than four decades in the national spotlight. But the appropriateness of Biden’s physical behavior toward women is now being questioned, after a female Democratic politician penned a viral Internet piece describing an alleged 2014 encounter that left her offended and uncomfortable.

The female Democratic politician was a former Nevada state rep and nominee for lieutenant governor, and saw fit to write about her experience with Biden. While she neither said nor did anything at the time, current interest in Biden’s potential presidential bid gave her a platform to tell of her moment of awkwardness.

As I was taking deep breaths and preparing myself to make my case to the crowd, I felt two hands on my shoulders. I froze. “Why is the vice-president of the United States touching me?”

I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair. I was mortified. I thought to myself, “I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual fuck?

Biden, in response to this mature question, said “Not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately.” It’s almost as if he got a say in what he believed, as opposed to what she believed. And then came the “brave” coattail rider, Amy Lappos, who didn’t want to miss out on her chance to be relevant.

Then, on Monday, Amy Lappos, a former aide to the Democratic congressman Jim Himes, told The Hartford Courant that Biden pulled her toward him to rub noses during a 2009 fund-raiser. “There’s absolutely a line of decency,” Lappos said, adding: “Crossing that line is not grandfatherly. It’s not cultural. It’s not affection. It’s sexism or misogyny.”

Is Biden a misogynist or just a guy with an affectionate style? Who better than Michelle Goldberg to issue a ruling on such matters of woke Millennial feminist angst?

Flores, Lappos and Biden are probably all telling the truth. There are countless photos of Biden behaving in the ways that Flores and Lappos describe: squeezing women, rubbing their shoulders, leaning in too close. All this was open, not furtive, presumably because it never occurred to Biden that he was doing anything untoward.

I don’t necessarily blame him. In the past few years, women have been calling out daily indignities that previous generations grew up quietly tolerating: lingering hugs from a boss, embarrassing intimate questions, crude office jokes. Individually, these are small acts, and most men probably don’t understand how cumulatively draining they can be. Women, after all, have only recently begun to articulate it.

A remarkably temperate response from the woman who would make stare rape a capital offense. While everything Biden did was horrifying and exhausting, let’s not blame him because it never occurred to Biden that he was doing anything untoward.” Indeed, if a person has no reason to know that his actions are concerning, can he be blamed for taking them? Notice to the perp is a rather important element in his mix.

The problem is that no one else in recent years has gotten the benefit of this reasonable view. Not from Goldberg, but more importantly, not from Biden, who has been at the forefront of the condemning male students for the campus rape “epidemic,” calling men to be the white knights and to believe all women.

Biden has certainly championed this approach for accused college students, as the Obama administration used Title IX to impose guilt-tilting procedures on the nation’s campuses. Until 2016, high-ranking administration officials consistently refused to provide much, if any, explanation on why they imposed a preponderance-of-evidence (a hair over 50 percent) standard; discouraged colleges from granting accused students the right to cross-examination; or demanded that schools let accusers appeal not-guilty findings.

Biden has been the most outspoken senior Obama administration figure to defend these policies.

Yet, here he is, Joe Biden not only engaging in this bad behavior, but refusing to believe Lucy Flores and denying, denying, that he did anything wrong.

In an ideal world, Joe Biden would use his new experience as an accused party to champion fairer treatment across the board. More likely, he’ll fall back on a double standard, demanding that he receive the benefit of the doubt denied to others—especially students with far less power than he possesses.

Few things make a person appreciate the error of their absurd ideology more than becoming a victim of it, but what’s remarkable here is that Biden is given a pass, an excuse, from the Washington Post and the New York Times, a courtesy that neither has extended to anyone else. Whether Biden’s behavior outraged you or makes you shrug is up to you. That it’s flagrantly hypocritical in light of his vociferous arguments to deprive accused students of the opportunity to defend themselves, to “believe the victim” without scrutiny or doubt, is a very different issue.

But why Biden?

None of this means that Democrats need to disavow Biden. He is by most accounts a man of great personal decency. As vice president, he pushed Barack Obama’s administration in the right direction on issues including gay marriage and campus sexual assault. It’s not surprising that he leads most polls of 2020 Democrats; he is well known and well loved.

Has no other male condemned for similar, or lesser, indignities been a “man of great personal decency”? But then he’s leading the Democratic polls, not because of his history of supporting “progressive” causes, but because he’s the closest thing the Dems have to someone whose sordid political history isn’t remotely progressive, and thus potentially electable.

Does this spell the end of condemnation of males for making women silently feel uncomfortable? Hardly. Just change a few adjectives and the sad tears magically dry up. But they need Biden, at least for the moment. They don’t need you or any of the young men Biden happily sacrifices to the cause.

25 thoughts on “The Rehabilitation of Biden

  1. Rxc

    Bill Clinton also championed policies about sexual harrassment that would have gotten him fired if he had been an ordinary government employee. He was equally charming and beloved.

    1. SHG Post author

      But they now regret their complete and unmitigated support of Clinton, notwithstanding the absence of any cost to doing so now.

  2. B. McLeod

    The hypocrisy is glaringly obvious. Being too ignorant to know that his conduct was “untoward” would be “BURN THE WITCH” for anybody else.

    1. SHG Post author

      You have the hypocrisy of those judging Biden, and the hypocrisy of Biden, who would deny to others what he now wants for himself. Which one are you referring to?

  3. Harvey A. Silverglate

    The reason Biden is such an attractive candidate on the Left is that he is one of the very few who are vying for the Democratic nomination who is a liberal rather than a “progressive.” The difference between liberals and progressives is that the former retain the left-liberal’s respect for civil liberties, while the progressives are concerned with ends but not with means (the antithesis of civil libertarians). I do not think that a progressive candidate is electable, but a liberal candidate is. That’s why Biden has been given a free pass. (By the way, he deserves a free pass. At worst he was a bit boorish, if that.)

    1. SHG Post author

      I make that distinction constantly, but to little avail, when people conflate progressives and liberals. It seems only those of us who still respect constitutional rights, civil liberties, and aren’t willing to sell our souls for outcomes, seem to care about it. There aren’t many of us left, Harvey, and we’re not getting any younger.

    2. Miles

      It may be a stretch at this point to call Biden a liberal, after his enthusiastic efforts to deprive male students of due process on campus and to redefine two drunken kids having sex into post-hoc regret rape. But in comparison to the rest of the field, he’s as close as they come.

      As for Scott, tweeting regularly to tell both right and left to stop confusing liberals with progressives has not gone well. Nobody seems to grasp that progs aren’t liberal. Or maybe the progressives just can’t grasp the concept that civil liberties are for all, not just their chosen victims.

  4. Pedantic Grammar Police

    This has been all over the Internet for years, and the creepiest part still hasn’t hit the MSM; he also does this to young girls. The editorial tries to soften the blow by preparing us for the ugly part: “He kisses a young girl’s head, his fingers framing her face, as she looks blankly toward the camera.”

    It’s hopeless. There’s no way they can run Biden now that this has come out. Whitewash all they want; Trump will have a field day, and Biden’s nickname will be a classic.

    1. SHG Post author

      He’s long done things that were peculiar, maybe creepy, at the time, but it’s not until the current trend that it went from boorish and inappropriate to rapist.

      1. Pedantic Grammar Police

        The #metoo thing seems pretty irrelevant here. Nobody is calling him a rapist; the #metoo-ers appear to be giving him a pass. This behavior has always been creepy and wierd, and he only got away with it because nobody called him out. Yes the #metoo standards are ridiculous, but this isn’t an unproven accusation; he is on video doing it over and over. There’s no way he could run against Trump with this hanging over his head.

        1. SHG Post author

          I’m afraid #MeToo isn’t just about rapists. That they’re giving him a pass (something, something Al Franken), on the other hand, is very much the point.

          1. Pedantic Grammar Police

            I get your point; that giving him a pass is hypocritical, but there’s nothing surprising about that; hypocrisy is the order of the day.

            The hypocrisy will not save him. Even if the entire #metoo crowd continues to support him, this creepy behavior will be used by Trump to destroy him. Another Washington insider might leave it alone; Trump will ruthlessly exploit it.

      1. Pedantic Grammar Police

        Trump hasn’t assigned it yet. I’m betting on “Creepy Joe Biden.”

  5. Black Bellamy

    I was wondering when the Swift-Boating of Biden would begin. First you start hearing about how white he is, how old he is, but none of these are fireable offenses yet. Need something better.

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