Biden His Time?
If you happened to have seen Saturday Night Live this past weekend you probably caught the skit about the Democratic Party. Excited about their victories in last Tuesday’s elections an array of Party “leaders” played up their bright future. The problem, of course, was that their “fresh new ideas delivered by fresh new faces” featured Diane Feinstein (84), Bernie Sanders (76), Nancy Pelosi (77), Chuck Schumer (66), Tim Kaine (59), Elizabeth Warren (68) and Joe Biden (74). So, while there was good news for Democrats on Tuesday, SNL brought one of their most serious problems into high relief: where are the new ideas (simply being “anti-Trump” is not a platform/program) and who are the new faces of the party? The person we have seen the most of this week has been Joe Biden, who is on all the talk shows promoting his new book (a memoir; Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose) who said, on the Today Show, that he was not “closing the door” on a possible 2020 Presidential bid. Biden will be 77 in 2020, of course, but given what we’ve seen in the last two years, who knows what might happen by 2020.
As we watch the Roy Moore car wreck transpire right before our eyes, including testimony about his actions 40 years ago, we may want to remember Joe Biden before he was in Barack Obama’s considerable shadow and became everybody's favorite Grandpa. Biden’s career began in the early 1970’s:
At age 30 (the minimum age required to hold the office), Biden became the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history, and one of only 18 senators who took office before reaching the age of 31 Biden began the practice of commuting every day by Amtrak train for 1½ hours each way from his home in the Wilmington suburbs to Washington, D.C., which he continued to do throughout his Senate career.
Biden was, indeed, one of the “fresh faces” of the Democratic Party back then.
By 1987 Biden had Presidential aspirations and threw his hat in the ring. He discovered the intense scrutiny a candidate endures in these circumstances. What emerged in the 1987 was a history of plagiarism. As noted in Wikipedia:
In September 1987, the campaign ran into trouble when he was accused of plagiarizing a speech that had been made earlier that year by Neil Kinnock, leader of the British Labour Party. Biden's use came under more scrutiny because he fabricated aspects of his own family's background in order to match Kinnock's.
Biden was soon found to have earlier that year lifted passages from a 1967 speech by Robert F. Kennedy (for which his aides took the blame), and a short phrase from the 1961 inaugural address of John F. Kennedy; and in two prior years to have done the same with a 1976 passage from Hubert H. Humphrey.
A few days later, Biden's plagiarism incident in law school came to public light. Video was also released showing that when earlier questioned by a New Hampshire resident about his grades in law school, he had stated that he had graduated in the "top half" of his class, that he had attended law school on a full scholarship, and that he had received three degrees in college each of which was untrue or exaggerations of his actual record. (Later in 1987, the Delaware Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility cleared Biden of the law school plagiarism charges regarding his standing as a lawyer, saying Biden had "not violated any rules")
Needless to say, Biden’s campaign ran aground and Michael Dukakis became the Democratic nominee for President.
Biden was next in the public spotlight in 1991 as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee when Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court and Anita Hill testified that Thomas had sexually harassed her. While Biden voted against Thomas’s appointment (Thomas was granted the seat with a 52-48 vote), as Chair of the Committee he may have facilitated Thomas’s appointment because:
In part due to his own bad experiences in 1987 with his presidential campaign, Biden was reluctant to let personal matters enter into the hearings. Biden said he was striving to preserve Thomas's right to privacy and the decency of the hearings. (wikipedia)
So, Biden’s reluctance “to let personal matters enter into the hearings” probably allowed Thomas to win just enough support to sit on the Supreme Court.
Biden voted against H.W.'s Gulf War in 1991 but did support the W. Bush Iraq War in 2002. More damning was his spearheading the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 that led to the massive incarceration rates we now live with. What we also know about Joe Biden, again as noted in Wikipedia, is:
he has shown "a persistent tendency to say silly, offensive, and off-putting things . . . Biden's weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything. . . Biden's vanity and his regard for his own gifts seem considerable even by the rarefied standards of the U.S. Senate.
This was most evident in 2007 when Biden decided to throw his hat in the Presidential ring and, when asked about Barack Obama’s candidacy, said:
I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that's a storybook, man.
Open mouth, insert foot. Needless to say, he had to walk that comment back --- and what it led to, ironically, was a close relationship with Obama, resulting in Biden gaining the Vice Presidency.
If you know Biden's history you are aware that he has overcome enormous personal tragedy (losing his wife & daughter in a car crash in the early 70's and his son to a brain tumor in 2015). Yet, it’s pretty clear Joe is already running for the 2020 nomination, something the Democratic Party will have to wrestle with over the next few years. What the Party may want to do is actually look around for genuine “fresh new ideas delivered by fresh new faces.”
I’m just sayin’.