Democrats' 2020 frontrunner is under fire from all sides this week, taking heat for skipping out on a busy weekend in Iowa (he attended his granddaughter's high school graduation instead), getting mocked by top Obama aide David Axelrod for a corny and somewhat bizarre campaign tweet, and is still recovering from the pile-on that resulted in his craven cave-job on his supposed "conviction" of four decades regarding taxpayer funding of abortion. Scheduling spats from June 2019 will quickly recede from voters' minds -- assuming anyone cares in the first place -- and silly, thirsty social media posts are rapidly forgotten. The Hyde Amendment flip-flip, however, could prove to be a meaningful and memorable inflection point. It was the moment Biden abandoned his own long-held beliefs in a slap-dash, fear-driven move. It was the first major sign of deep weakness he's demonstrated since jumping into the race and seizing a significant polling lead, both nationally and in key early states. There's political blood in the water. Reports that his staff more or less forced this decision on him, with the help of an abortion activist and once-prominent actress, does not speak well of his leadership and decisiveness. Here's a longtime (anti-Trump) GOP operative marveling at the toxic dynamic:
This is a bad, sad sign: apparently a culture where the staff are the heroes and have no qualms about boasting about it to media. I feel sorry for Joe Biden. I’d fire somebody today. https://t.co/kr7TAGtdNw— Mike Murphy (@murphymike) June 8, 2019
Symone Sanders, one of Biden’s senior advisers, confronted him, she confirmed to me Thursday night, telling Biden that he was missing how his position disproportionately affected poor women and women of color without easy access to abortion. Alyssa Milano, the actor who’s become a major online presence on issues of women’s rights as well as a friend of the Biden team, spoke by phone Wednesday with Biden’s campaign manager, Greg Schultz, telling him that the candidate needed to change...Biden’s aides say they want this to be seen not as a political move, but as a thoughtful evolution squeezed into a frantic Wednesday and Thursday.
Good luck with that. This wasn't 'thoughtful,' but it sure was 'frantic' -- and transparently political. While Biden's reversal has at least temporarily and partially mitigated an insurrection on the Loud Left, in which his presidential rivals ganged up to join the denunciations, he's hardly reinforced trust among any skeptical potential constituencies. As we've mentioned, the Hyde Amendment is actually a popular proposition among the broader electorate, and the Democratic field's extremist posture on abortion policy is far out of step with the overwhelming majority of voters. Biden could have mounted a spirited defense of his position, called out numerous other 2020 Democrats for hypocrisy in light of their own pro-Hyde voting records, and established himself as an unapologetic center-left Democrat -- which is where a lot of primary voters are. Instead, he collapsed in an effort to appease a hard Left contingent that will always be suspicious of him, quite possibly alienating elements of a coalition he'll need to get elected:
Correct pic.twitter.com/IBJbXli2dC— ??. ???????? ?????????? (@TheAlanNoble) June 8, 2019
Keen political journalist and columnist Josh Kraushaar also sees another big risk in this hastily thrown-together, transparently cynical maneuver: Authenticity. Biden has been seen as comfortable in his own skin, a little old school, and a "safe" pick for voters. That image has suffered a serious blow due to the Hyde misadventure:
Biden now looks like yet another craven politician willing to pander under political pressure. His toughest critics on the Left won’t suddenly embrace him for changing his mind. And for all the uproar over Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment, his old position was embraced by 57 percent of Americans. Even some of his progressive presidential rivals have previously voted for it as part of larger government-funding bills...This whole episode raises questions about whether Biden has the political instincts to navigate through a Democratic primary where progressive activists will be pushing him to disavow key parts of his record. Throughout his career, Biden has always run closer to the views of ordinary voters than Democratic activists, but today’s left-wing organizers have many more avenues to pressure politicians through social media. By flipping on the Hyde Amendment, Biden avoided the uncomfortable position of being the only Democrat in the presidential race who supports any limitations on abortion. But it comes at the cost of his most valuable political asset—his authenticity.
I'll leave you with this painful grilling. It's not the spokesperson's fault that she can't offer compelling answers here. Some things are unspinnable:
CNN's Keilar Brutally Grills Biden Spox on Abortion Reversal: What Changed His Mind in One Day? https://t.co/iGVp6UZChN— Mediaite (@Mediaite) June 7, 2019
And I'm going to once again highlight this data point on the Hyde Amendment:
Here's an interesting stat on Hyde that runs counter to, oh, every tweet that Biden's opponents have put out today attacking his position. It's one thing to be a voice for the poor. Another thing to pose as a voice for the poor when they, uh, don't agree with you. pic.twitter.com/Cttd7YTQxT— Michael Wear (@MichaelRWear) June 5, 2019