SAN DIEGO. There are different ways to talk about hands in relation to former Vice-president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden. The first image of hands which comes to mind is Joe rubbing the shoulders of women in public who, by all signs, are uncomfortable with the attention.
But there is another way in which “hands” is used in the vernacular. In discussions highlighting different sides of an argument, one often says, “On the one hand … and yet, on the other hand.”
This other usage of such “hands” also applies to Biden.
On the one hand …
As eager as he to ascend to the presidency, until this campaign, Joe Biden had been more or less insulated against criticism, even from fellow Democrats. But a recent Biden remark changed everything. Talking about a time when “at least there was some civility” in the Senate, Biden used as examples, his willingness to work with senators now repudiated as segregationists.
ON THE OTHER HAND, Biden certainly isn’t the first person to espouse the virtues of “reaching across the aisle” to get things done. Senator John McCain did it all the time.
ON THE OTHER HAND, while Joe may have been describing a legitimate diplomatic process, his description of the experience was totally tone-deaf in today’s political environment.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son … Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done … didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. … But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
Senator and candidate Cory Booker invited Biden to apologize.
“[R]elationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone.”
Kamala Harris, also a senator and candidate, chimed in.
“Yes, it concerns me deeply. If those men had their way, I wouldn’t be in the United States Senate and on this elevator right now …”
Biden the gaffe machine …
ON THE OTHER HAND, any fair minded person would take into consideration not only the context of a controversial comment but the source as well. Biden has already earned a well-deserved reputation as a perpetual gaffe machine. And there is a difference between making gaffes and being a racist.
Biden’s gaffes show no bounds. This is the same man who talked about President Roosevelt going on television to talk to Americans about the recent stock market crash. That was a creative version of history inasmuch as Hoover, not Roosevelt, was president during the stock market crash. Also, Americans did not yet own television sets even when Roosevelt did take office.
This is the same Joe Biden who, at a rally, asked a man in a wheel chair to stand up:
“I’m told Chuck Graham, state senator, is here. Stand up Chuck, let ’em see you. Oh, God love you. What am I talking about. I’ll tell you what, you’re making everybody else stand up, though, pal.”
It’s not too hard to predict when Biden is about to make another gaffe. Wait for him to start talking. Then count to thirty.
Sometimes Joe has a better day. In that case, count to forty.
… or just dumb as a post
Perhaps we should overlook Biden’s comment about segregationist senators and refrain from calling him a racist. We should acknowledge a more fundamental problem: The man just seems dumb as a post.
ON THE OTHER HAND, sometimes Biden’s comments come across as stupid and racist at the same time. Take, for example, his infamous observation on late-night convenience stores.
“In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I’m not joking.”
ON THE OTHER HAND, this may have just been his way of acting folksy. There is nothing inherently racist or insulting about pointing out that many immigrants do work in convenient stores.
The black but articulate Barack Obama
ON THE OTHER HAND, long before Obama became president, Joe Biden made another ill-considered comment flush with racial implications. It’s one not so easily ignored:
“I mean, you’ve got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a story-book, man.”
Seriously, Joe? An African-American being articulate, clean and nice-looking is likened to a storybook?
ON THE OTHER HAND, Obama himself could not have been too concerned with this remark. After all, he made Biden his 2008 and 2012 Vice-presidential running mate.
ON THE OTHER HAND, who knows why Obama found Biden to be a convenient running mate?
Anyway, Obama is not on the ticket this time. The comment about segregationists is going to be taken into consideration not for a potential Vice-President Joe Biden, but a President Joe Biden.
What about Hillary and the Democratic Party?
ON THE OTHER HAND, other Democrats routinely get away with statements as troubling as Biden’s. Hillary Clinton is on record for praising Senator Robert Byrd, a former Klan member.
ON THE OTHER HAND, Byrd repented publicly for his days in the Klan.
ON THE OTHER HAND, the entire Democratic Party has a history. They are historically associated not only with the Klan, but with backing Jim Crow laws and even the institution of slavery itself.
ON THE OTHER HAND, times change. We should not routinely hold politicians responsible for the actions/policies of their historic predecessors.
Yet ON THE OTHER HAND, Democrats seem to have no problem rewriting history, particularly when that rewrite makes it sound like Republicans have somehow inherited the racism mantel.
Donald Trump’s own unfiltered speech has garnered much criticism. But accusations of racism from Democrats aimed at Republicans were every bit as frequent when George W. Bush inhabited the White House. As with Trump, Democrats and the media often compared Bush to Hitler for launching the war in Iraq. Likewise, he was frequently – and wrongly – accused of racism for “deliberately failing to help African-Americans during Hurricane Katrina.”
Not an innocent victim
When Mitt Romney ran against the Obama-Biden ticket in 2012, Biden himself said to an audience that included many African-Americans,
“They’re gonna put you all back in chains!”
Just recently, Joe Biden went after Trump in a similar manner, even to the point of kicking off his campaign with the downright lie that Trump had complimented Klan members at a Charlottesville protest.
“With these words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it.”
Trump’s actual words were these:
Excuse me, they didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis, and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. … I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.…
So you know what, it’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the White nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and White nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people. But you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group.
Joe Biden knew all about Trump’s real statement. While his many blunders have demonstrated all too clearly that he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, even he isn’t that stupid. Biden knows the media deliberately quoted Trump out of context. But he also knows that’s how the mainstream media prefers to portray Trump. Biden lied about Charlottesville because he knew he could get away with lying about Charlottesville.
ON THE OTHER HAND, being a liar is not the same as being a racist, and it is unfair to call a man something he is not.
But ON THE OTHER HAND, if, among his many lies, Biden is willing to quote others out of context on subjects related to race, he is not in a position to complain when adversaries do the exact same thing with his own words.
A boomerang will eventually come back.
This hand, Joe, seems to be your final hand.
And this is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
—Headline image: “Size Matters.” Cartoon by Branco. Reproduced with permission
and by arrangement with Comically Incorrect.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and a regular CDN columnist. Bob’s novel “The Dangerous Christmas Ornament” is a 2017 “Distinguished Favorite” of the Independent Press Award and the New York City Big Book Award. “About Read” lists this book as one of its Top 30 Recommended Action Adventure Books for 11-Year-Olds.