The Joe Biden brand was built on blue collar mythos. Inherent in that stereotype are several core American values: honesty, hard work, the production of something tangible.
The American public knows Biden’s laundry list of foibles and failures, but undergirding it all–keeping the precarious structure standing–is the received wisdom that Biden has a good heart. That for all his human error, he means well. That even when he erred tremendously, he believed he was doing the right thing.
Biden’s supporters don so many blinders, their field of vision is a pinhole at this point.
The Iraq war? Hey, a lot of people thought WMDs were real. The ’94 crime bill? Tough love for blacks. The fondling? He’s just a touchy-feely guy. Even the China and Ukraine deals that benefited Hunter: just a dad trying to help his troubled son. Tara Reade? Pffft lol, never happened, no pattern!
The essential quality of a man is how closely his ideals match his actions. It matters if the motivational speaker actually rose from rags to riches, if a preacher truly felt a calling to the priesthood, if a gangster rapper in fact shot his rivals and grew up in the projects.
“I am what I am,” says Popeye the Sailor. That’s why he is the hero, and insincere Bluto the villain.
Not Making the Grade
Biden, upon closer inspection, did not eat his spinach. Reports have recently resurfaced that Biden dishonestly bragged about his academic achievements to voters. It was a different time, before folks could fact check a speaker with a smartphone before he’d finished his sentence.
The year was 1987, and Biden had mounted his first presidential campaign. A New Hampshire primary voter questioned Biden’s academic record, and Biden popped off with a string of falsehoods. Contrary to his claims, he didn’t finish in the top half of his class (he was 76th out of 85 students in law school at Syracuse). He did not receive a full academic scholarship, nor was he the outstanding student in the political science department. He graduated with one degree, not three.
These are the lies of an insecure man, perhaps made up on the spot. He just never expected to get caught, which is further proof of his foolishness. Biden mounted the national political stage in 1972, the very moment Richard Nixon was ushered off of it. He knew the value of trust and betrayed it anyway, casually at that. Carelessly.
Have You Heard This One?
Next, and the coup de grace that toppled his first presidential bid, was plagiarism. Biden had copied sections of a law school paper from a published source and passed it off as his own. But the true stain was a speech, stolen almost word for word from a British contemporary, Labour Party MP Neil Kinnock.
Plagiarism is surely a venial sin, not mortal. That’s not the point. Kinnock’s speech was impassioned, a true heart’s cry about opportunity, achievement, and class divide. Biden stole it for its emotional power, its resonance with audiences. The man who so often proffers his “word as a Biden” has proven repeatedly how hollow that qualifier is.
Perhaps the smallest lies Biden tells have to do with physical appearance. The bright white dentures, the hair that has grown thicker, not thinner, over the past 47 years, the Botox. These are admittedly small steps that many of us take in seeking to answer the insults of age, but they are the small brushstrokes which affirm that the painting has been retouched.
Such are the wages of insecurity, be it physical, intellectual, or academic. Biden is afraid of how the world sees his education, his mind, and his body.
Reade, Rights, and Arithmetic
My final example is the most serious. In the catalog of Biden’s lesser dishonesties, seeking to use the power of the US Senate to shield himself from sexual assault accusations is the most crass.
In 1991, Biden voted against the creation of the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices, an oversight group that would hear accusations of sexual impropriety committed by senators.
The point of order vote was a subset of the larger Civil Rights Act of 1991, of which Biden voted in favor. It was this particular office which would hear sexual accusations against senators that he opposed. Until ’91, senators enjoyed exemption–immunity–from workplace discrimination accusations. Must have been some kind of an atmosphere for young aides to work in.
Biden was one of six Democrats who joined an effort to block the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices in 1991 on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. The vote came less than two years before Tara Reade allegedly filed a complaint about her treatment as an employee in Biden’s Senate office.
Created as a part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 in the shadow of Anita Hill’s testimony on Capitol Hill, the Office of Senate Fair Employment Practices was an attempt to remedy the fact that Congress was, at the time, exempt from workplace discrimination laws. An amendment to the civil rights law introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) chartered the office and provided “procedures to protect the right of Senate and other government employees … to be free from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.”–Washington Free Beacon
Of course, Biden’s vote only suggests that he had something to hide, and it came two years before his staffer, Tara Reade, filed her accusation. It is not a smoking gun, rather a moral tell, a tic that betrays the gambler. Biden never thought a point of order vote on a large piece of legislation was going to bubble up through decades to strengthen the case that he was guilty of sexual assault. Just as he expected to skate on plagiarism and his education.
What is lost in all the finger pointing is the cost of such cynicism. True victims of sexual assault everywhere are forced to revisit their trauma every time a prominent public figure is accused of rape. The replays turn manifold when a credible accuser is ignored or smeared for weeks at a time.
And in this final analysis of whether Biden forced his fingers inside Tara Reade those many years ago, consider this: it was Biden who led the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings which degraded and humiliated Anita Hill just months earlier in 1991. It was the tenor of those hearings that led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
It was Biden who badgered Hill so nauseatingly that the US Senate had to make a law to hold itself accountable for their behavior. And when it came time to vote for accountability to the American people, Biden voted no.