A criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign for president is that, at age 76, he may be too old to be running for president. His record of success at reaching the pinnacle of politics has been wrought with past failures, and some believed the moment had passed him by. But Donald Trump's election, on the heels of a historic Barack Obama presidency -- an event for which Biden, as vice president, enjoyed a catbird's vantage -- brought Biden's centrist bona fides and street fighter style back to relevancy.
Biden -- a guy who is not too far to the left, who has demonstrated the ability to bridge partisan divides and pass legislation and who is not afraid to go toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow with President Trump -- seemed like a viable candidate to beat Trump in 2020.
But then there is his history of making verbal gaffes. Despite his leadership on women's issues and standing on the forefront of bringing LGBTQ rights to the mainstream, he is seen among his own party as personally out-of-touch. It all came to the fore earlier this year when Biden got caught up in an absurd #MeToo debacle. As proof of his supposedly lecherous behavior toward women, a photo of him grasping hands and touching heads with rape survivor and women's rights activist Sophie Karasek made its rounds on the internet -- again.
It was such an innocuous and obvious attempt at empathy that, at the time it was first revealed, the photo went viral -- not as proof of Biden's "creepiness" but of his ability to connect with others' pain and actually do something to help the plight of rape survivors. But leave it up to liberals to create revisionist history, if necessary, to find a male rapist in power around every corner.
The recent controversy surrounding Biden's remarks about race is par for the course. They may prove that, if anything, Biden is not too old, but the rest of the Democrats may be too young. They are too young to remember the sacrifice and accommodation that civil rights leaders had to make with segregationists, who were deeply entrenched in positions of power in America. It is completely naive to believe that, as a rising politician in the early 1970s, Biden would not have had to work with them to get important civil rights legislation passed -- including my mentor, former Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C.
Harkening back to those early successes in reaching across the aisle to turn adversaries into allies -- President Abraham Lincoln's enduring advice about attaining political influence -- Biden spoke at a gathering in South Carolina. He said of segregationist senators: "I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me 'boy.' He always called me 'son.' Herman Talmage, one of the meanest guys I ever knew -- well, guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done."
One cannot imagine a wiser or more benign -- or wiser -- approach to coalition-building.
But leave it up to the left, once again, to cry wolf. Democratic rivals lined up to attack Biden in the most disrespectful of terms. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., demanded an apology, and when Biden initially refused, stating that his record on race speaks for itself, Booker countered: "What matters to me is that a guy running to be the head of our party ... can't even acknowledge that he made a mistake. He knows better." But does he? Booker's words had the distinct whine of political posturing, not the righteous indignation he seemed to be attempting to muster.
During the Democratic debate in Florida, California Sen. Kamala Harris attempted to bait Biden with calculated remarks. She accused Biden of racial animus. Then she pivoted to the favorite tactic of liberal politicians -- virtue-signaling -- making sure the audience knew that she had been a "recipient" of busing as a child and, well, of course, it worked out great for her.
But after Harris' remarks on busing, instead of sticking to his guns and letting his record "speak for itself," Biden went on the defensive. He started explaining his entire history on race, including his opposition to federally mandated busing as a Band-Aid on racial wounds and unconstitutional on its face, which it was.
Although Biden has great political instincts and is a genius at understanding the political calculus, he is afraid to ruffle feathers. He always wants everyone to like him and thus is susceptible to being held hostage by the fake histrionics of his political rivals. He appears a bewildered grandfather, lost among his own clan, somewhat like the tragic King Lear, tossed about in a dark storm and led along by a blind fool.
It appears Biden wants desperately to detect a signal amid the noise but seems to grow frustrated when he can't make out a point of principle in the cacophony of complaints. But Biden's attackers are not really saying anything. It is all a bunch of sound and fury, signaling virtue but revealing nothing of substance.
Biden's detractors live in a contrived world. They've all seemingly grown up in a bubble crafted for them by the civil rights generation that preceded them. They portray a false sense of reality to their constituencies and put the entire Democratic Party at a disadvantage. Rather than confront the social dynamics of race and class in the real world, they live in a fantasyland in which personal foibles get blown into epic betrayals of party and principle.
Biden's weakness is giving in to the phantasmagorical hallucinations of left-wing fearmongers. His weakness is in refusing to stand on the principles he has worked to erect over a long career as a defender of Americans' rights. He wants people to like him, and when they don't, he cringes. That tendency alone makes him no match for the man currently in the White House.