When will this end?
Yesterday, many people told on themselves by defending former Vice President Joe Biden and going after Lucy Flores, who alleged that Biden smelled her hair and kissed her head without her consent at a campaign even in 2014. After a second woman, Amy Lappos, came forward to accuse Biden of once putting his hand around her neck to pull her in and rub noses, elected Democrats are doubling down, going so far as to perform Biden’s notorious closeness themselves to defend his intentions.
Just take California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who, based on their remarks to Politico Monday night, must really think that the people who feel uncomfortable with Biden touching them are blowing this whole thing out of proportion or have ulterior political motives. From the publication, emphasis mine:
Biden is “a warm, tactile person. He reaches out and he touches and it’s like this and that. It’s hardly sexy,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), gently touching an aide. “It’s a new thing that people have been affronted by it. Over 25 years I’ve never seen that before.”
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) lightly grabbed a reporter on the shoulder to demonstrate how Biden is and said simply: “If you’re looking for him to have his hand on shoulders there might be a lot of them. I just know Joe Biden, this is how he does it.”
Manchin blamed presidential politics for bringing the spotlight to Biden’s history around women, noting that Flores supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016. He called attacks on Biden “totally wrong.”
Flores and the Sanders campaign, for the record, have stated her previous support of Sanders did not influence her coming forward, and HuffPost reported Flores has not endorsed a 2020 candidate and has no plans to do so in the immediate future.
Sure, there were some Democrats in the story emphasizing the impact Biden’s behavior has had, rather than trying to rationalize his intentions, among them Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono. But then you have Sen. Chris Coons, whose daughter looked visibly alarmed at Biden’s closeness in a 2015 photo taken at a reenactment of his Senate swearing-in ceremony. From Politico, again:
“I’m confident he’s going to run and that Joe Biden is someone who hugs people and encourages people and is incredibly engaged with people is I think a pretty well-known feature of his personality,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who has been swept up in the new story because of video footage of Biden sidling up to his teenage daughter during his swearing-in.
Coons said those who are dredging up that video are missing crucial context: “She doesn’t think there’s anything inappropriate or unkind or in anyway unusual. And he was simply trying to encourage her in a moment that would be tough for any teenager, to have a bank of 50 TV and print cameras.”
Then, just this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tepidly told reporters that she doesn’t find Biden’s actions “disqualifying” but that he needs to get with “the world we’re in now.”
And yet the Biden camp’s response to the whole thing hasn’t gotten any better. Bill Russo, a spokesman for Biden, told Politico the images in question, such as the one of Biden and Coons’ daughter, were “smears and forgeries” exploited by “right wing trolls.”
“The important conversation about these issues are not advanced, nor are any criticisms of Vice President Biden validated, by...a failure to be vigilant about a cottage industry of lies,” Russo said, adding that Biden said he’ll listen to what women have had to say about his behavior.
So far, none of the Democrats running for president have said Biden’s behavior disqualifies him from running, according to the site. But if this is how the former vice president is responding even before launching a presidential run, we haven’t seen the worst of it.