Accusations Should not Disqualify Joe Biden
Over the last couple of weeks, several women have accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching them inappropriately and making them feel uncomfortable. Biden, the 76-year old grandfather who has been in elected office since his election to the US Senate as a 29-year old in 1973, appeared in a video responding to such accusations and acknowledged that times have changed. He stated that he would be careful but offered no apologies for his intentions.
Let me start by saying that I completely disagree with many of the former Vice President’s political views. Joe Biden often seems to measure his contribution to the debate by the quantity of words uttered rather than by the veracity of his arguments. That said, I also think that he was an exceptional chairman of many Senate committees by maintaining a tough balance between voicing his strong opinions and being fair to the other side. I have learned many lessons on chairing meetings just by watching Joe Biden. Biden has served this country admirably. I still remember right after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 how reassuring it was to hear Joe Biden’s voice on the radio as the relatively inexperienced President Bush was in the air unable to return to the White House for security reasons. Political differences aside, I find him likable. We should never let political differences turn into personal dislike.
Back to the accusations, Biden has been touchy-feely for most of his political career. Make no mistake, I think kissing someone on the head goes too far. I am not prepared, however, to attribute Joe Biden’s poor judgment to nefarious intentions or predatory behavior. Intentions matter, and from everything we have all seen from Joe Biden during his five decades in public life, I have no reason to believe Joe Biden is anything but a well-intentioned, good man from a different generation where open affection was expected from political figures. There are serious issues around treatment of women in our society that need to be addressed and focusing on Biden’s actions undermines the real issues that need to be addressed. Let us not confuse Joe Biden with Harvey Weinstein.
Speaker Pelosi, in responding to Joe Biden’s accusations, said that she believes in greeting others like we all have a contagious cold. A hug is a show of affection, and while I am not prepared to go around hugging people I barely know, to treat each other like we all have contagious diseases is no way to live life. Such interpersonal interactions show a high degree of mistrust, which is also unhealthy. Treating people with respect should not require us to shut ourselves off from each other.
One final point: Most polls show Joe Biden as the frontrunner for the Democrat party nomination. It would be convenient for me to pile on and try to beat up Joe Biden with the hopes of taking him down before he even announces a run for the White House. If we start disqualifying candidates based on actions like the ones Joe Biden is accused of, we will lose too many qualified candidates. I would like to see President Trump go up against the best the Democrat party has to offer (which a consensus of Democrats currently believe to be Joe Biden), have both candidates make their case on policy grounds to the American people, and let the people choose. What the country needs is a vigorous debate on policy, not personal takedowns of political opponents.