The strangest thing about the new allegation from Lucy Flores that former vice president Joe Biden touched and kissed her inappropriately is the timing. This is the kind of opposition research that generally lands just after a presidential candidate announces a run, not just before. Whatever the truthfulness of Flores’ claims, the timing seems to send a message.
It’s not just Flores. Leftist writers like Rebecca Traister at New York Magazine seem to be sending a clear message to Biden. “Jump in the pool,” they say, “the water is boiling hot and will disintegrate the skin off your bones and leave your legacy in ruins.” Many seem to believe Joe Biden cannot possibly survive these attacks, and a year ago that might have been true. But then Brett Kavanaugh happened.
It is easy to forget just how finished we all thought Kavanaugh was after Christine Blasey-Ford came forward with her unsubstantiated claims that she had been sexually assaulted. We all pretty much assumed he was toast, especially when further, even less credible, allegations against Kavanaugh began to emerge. But then something happened: Kavanaugh fought back. And he won.
Biden’s response to Flores is already more Kavanaugh than “believe all women.” He says he remembers the incident, supposedly an uninvited kiss on the back of the head at a campaign rally, differently. His statement also contains no small measure of defiance. “In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort,” Biden said in a statement. “And not once – never – did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1980s, just a few scant miles from Biden’s Delaware, I watched politicians like Frank Rizzo, Joe Rocks, and Ed Rendell press the flesh, give hugs, kiss babies and yes, gasp, sometimes even women. Human beings touched each other without terrible consternation. Biden might not have been completely off when he blamed “white men’s culture” for all this touching. Especially for ethnic whites, as they were once known, such as Italians, Irish, and Jews, touching, hugging, and kissing are not taboo, they are part of daily life.
There is a reason Biden’s nickname is Uncle Joe. He has been serving in political office longer than I have been alive, and I’m old. He views his constituents as his family, quite literally. And he treats them that way, which includes physical embrace. What is remarkable about Biden’s statement is that he does not run away from this. Rather, he almost seems to admit that it is part of what makes him him.
This is where Kavanaugh comes in. “I like beer,” he said to the Senate committee that Biden once ran. His defiant face like that of the Covington Kid a few months later was a Rorschach test. To progressive scolds, it read like the embodiment of all the privilege, racism, and sexism they see everywhere. But to more people, it read as righteous defiance, an unwillingness to succumb to the absurd notion that men should sacrifice themselves on the altar of the Me Too movement and like Al Franken just fritter the rest of the lives away as treasurer of the home owners’ association.
Kavanaugh broke a fever in the body politic of the United States. He stood up. He is the reason that the top three Democrats in Virginia, enmeshed in scandals involving race and sex, remain in office to this day. And he may well be the model that helps Biden survive this attempt to cut down his candidacy before it starts.
Make no mistake, the “Creepy Joe” meme, long a mainstay of conservative Twitter, isn’t new, but the need for progressives to dredge it up is. Despite constant warnings from well-respected pundits and politicians that the Democratic Party electorate won’t stand for it, the old white guy who isn’t intent on abortion is leading the polls. Many Democratic voters are obstinately refusing to live in the box of identity politics that their betters have provided for them.
Some believe that a Senate confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court justice will define Biden’s presumed candidacy for president. This may be true, but it’s not the one most people think it is. Biden will not be sunk by his long-ago committee’s treatment of Anita Hill in Clarence Thomas’ hearings. But he may well be saved by Kavanaugh’s self-defense at his.
Dropping opposition research, like the Flores allegation, before a candidate even announces is rare. Generally it would be used to dampen momentum on the day the campaign begins, as we saw with drops on Beto O’Rourke and Amy Klobuchar. The message to Biden is clear: Stay out of the race. But in all likelihood, that is not what is going to happen. And that’s a good thing.
Like Kavanaugh, Biden seems poised to say that these ridiculous allegations bathed in the holy water of intersectionality will not erase his lifetime of service to the American people. There are many good reasons why Biden should not be the next president of the United States, but his physically affectionate nature is not one. And he shouldn’t let it be.