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.