Biden's cringeworthy backpedal on race signals weakness

Biden's cringeworthy backpedal on race signals weakness
© Getty

A criticism of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Biden touts 'progress' during 'candid' meetings on .5T plan Biden to tap law professor who wants to 'end banking as we know it' as OCC chief: reports MORE’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 TrumpDonald TrumpUkraine's president compares UN to 'a retired superhero' Collins to endorse LePage in Maine governor comeback bid Heller won't say if Biden won election MORE — 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 being personally out of touch. It all came to the fore earlier this year when Biden got caught up in a truly absurd #MeToo debacle. As proof of his supposedly lecherous behavior towards women, a photo of him grasping hands and touching heads with rape survivor and women’s rights activist Sophie Karasek made its rounds around 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 in fact were deeply entrenched in positions of power in America.  It is completely naïve to believe that, as a rising politician in the early 1970s, Joe 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 — wasn’t that President 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 Talmadge, 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 more benign — and wise — approach to coalition-building than this.

But leave it up to the left, once again, to cry wolf when there’s no wolf in the room. Democratic rivals lined up to attack Biden in the most disrespectful of terms. Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerBiden employs flurry of meetings to unite warring factions Biden says he will review executive actions after police reform talks fail 11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill MORE (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, Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris unveils 0M commitment to new global health fund Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam House passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims MORE (Calif.) attempted to bait Biden with calculated remarks. She accused Biden of racial animus, stating: “It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States citizens who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country. … You also worked with them to oppose busing.” 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.

Here is where Biden’s lack of leadership, rather than advanced age, emerged. After Harris’s 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 being a Band-Aid on racial wounds and unconstitutional on its face, which it was. 

Biden’s characteristic mistake is that, although he 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 be held hostage by the fake histrionics of his political rivals.  This makes Biden appear to be 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. 

At times it seems Biden has the pulse of the Democratic Party squarely in his grasp. He vocally supported gay marriage before President Obama eventually came around to supporting the issue. But he has been accused of making verbal and physical gaffes, including gestures towards women that can be interpreted as inappropriate. 

Biden appeared to be straining to hear them. He wants desperately to detect a signal amidst the noise, but seems to grow frustrated when he can’t make out a point of principle in the cacophony of complaints. That’s because his 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 appear unaware of the compromises and sacrifices their forebears had to make in dealing with racists and segregationists in power. They are naïve enough to think that they never will be confronted by racism and bigotry by the powers that be. 

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 fantasy land 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 the rights of Americans. 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.

Armstrong Williams (@ARightSide) is the owner and manager of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the Year. He is the author of “Reawakening Virtues.”