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Backbiting: Is Joe Biden Being Undermined by His Own Arrogant Staffers?

Catherine Avalone/New Haven Register via AP

One of the interesting -- and concerning, if you're him -- themes we've witnessed early in Joe Biden's 2020 presidential run is staff members' willingness to whisper to the media in self-serving, candidate-harming ways.  Over the course of his rapid, craven, cynical abandonment of his 40-year alleged "conviction" on abortion funding, he was reportedly successfully pressured by staffers who switch his position.  We know this because they went out and bragged about it to the media after the deed was done.  They were the progressive heroes, bringing the principal to heel.  For his own good, of course.  They even boasted of enlisting a once-prominent actress and reactionary abortion activist to help impose their will on the man for whom they're working:


Joe Biden’s aides knew that the 2020 front-runner was going to get ripped apart over his support of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for abortion procedures. They were frustrated that the former vice president wouldn’t change his stance, and that he wasn’t initially receptive to their concerns...This was a tense two days in Biden’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. The candidate was caught off guard after an NBC News story published Wednesday morning attempted to nail down where he stands on abortion policy—specifically Hyde. 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.

This makes it sound like the candidate himself, a former two-term Vice President of the United States, was besieged by his own team, caving to their pressure.  It's not a portrait of principled leadership, but of politically expediency, driven by people other than the boss.  Now, on the segregationist/'civility' flap -- in which Biden made some poor choices, in my view -- aides are once again griping to reporters, throwing up their hands.  They want people to know they're on the side of the angels, and there's only so much they can do to help the wayward old man they're working for: "His aides reportedly tried to circumvent the whole mess, urging Biden to choose a less politically charged example of bipartisanship — to no avail," reports TPM.  Here are even more examples:


Top strategists, Republican and Democrat, have been marveling at the myopic poor form on display.  I shared this one from a longtime senior GOP guru during the Hyde flip-flop fallout:

And here's David Axelrod this week:

It now looks like Biden may be drifting away from another long-held view amid a primary fight.  His campaign is currently silent on what his actual position is:

Joe Biden said in a 1992 speech that criminal justice legislation he was pushing was so strict that “we do everything but hang people for jaywalking.” Two years later, his signature crime bill made dozens of additional offenses punishable by death. But in a little-noticed remark earlier this month in New Hampshire, the Democratic presidential frontrunner seemed to offer a decidedly different stance on the death penalty...Biden’s campaign would not comment...or shed light on whether he’s changed his position on the death penalty...Biden's support for the death penalty was consistent throughout his 30-plus years in the Senate. Whether that stand holds will be another case study of how he reconciles long-held beliefs with the leftward march of his party.


If he ends up on the "wrong" side of whatever members of his team want, I'd imagine we'll hear all about it.  Actually, we'll probably hear about it either way.  A weak, prematurely-anointed frontrunner running a leaky, divided ship?  Sounds vaguely familiar.

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