The former vice president tried to contain the spreading brush fire as four women have accused him of inappropriate touching. He released a video saying that he knows mores change and will be more mindful of personal space, even while defending his approach by saying he thought it was about “connecting with people.” Biden may have hesitated, worried about fanning the flames, until he felt he had no choice.
Two missing words: I'm sorry. And the liberal HuffPost, which has been hitting him hard, runs with "Joe Biden Still Won't Apologize."
His defenders tend to fall into three categories:
People who know him (and may have been touched by him).
People who like his political positions.
People who will play defense for almost any Democrat.
His critics tend to fall into three opposite categories.
People who don't know Biden, so have no reason to cut him any slack.
People who don't like his political positions.
People who will look for reasons to attack almost any Democrat.
Throw in the national debate over just what constitutes misconduct in the #MeToo era and you have a sizzling-hot topic for the press.
On a human level, it's natural for journalists to be more understanding of those they know (and I've covered Biden on and off since the 1980s). That's why Washington insiders usually get better coverage in presidential politics – unless they're hostile toward the press – than outside interlopers.
Mika Brzezinski has perhaps been Biden's leading defender on the airwaves. While he is very "flirtatious," says the "Morning Joe" co-host, "he's a nice guy, he's not a predator, and this is ridiculous. Let me just say it, this is ridiculous. It’s completely ... the conversation has gotten out of control. And Democrats and those on the left who want to tweet me today and go nuts and get all woke, you're eating your young."
Jen Psaki, a CNN commentator and former Obama White House staffer, said Biden would hold her hands and probably kissed her on the head, and she was never offended. Another CNN analyst, Samantha Winograd, who has known Biden for a decade, praised his efforts "to actually empower women and preventing violence against women."
That's called the benefit of the doubt, from women on your side (as happened, of course, during the Bill Clinton sex scandals). But then there are those (including one accuser, Lucy Flores) who are using the questionable touching as a proxy for their dislike of the ex-veep's ideology.
Michelle Goldberg, a liberal New York Times columnist who said she's received "plenty of unwanted shoulder massages." allows that "Biden’s avuncular pawing" isn't "a #MeToo story." But then she pivots to his lack of liberal cred, saying "his history still puts him out of step with the mores of an increasingly progressive Democratic Party." How so? His "back and forth over abortion." previously reported by the Times, which mainly took place in the 1980s. And besides, he's never apologized to Anita Hill. So he should reconsider getting into the race.
Some liberals, in fact, are hitting him harder than those on the right. That's because, whatever their legitimate objections to his touchy-feeliness, they want Bernie or Beto or Elizabeth or Kamala, not Joe.
To be sure, conservatives such as Sean Hannity are deriding him as "creepy, crazy Uncle Joe Biden." Fox's Katie Pavlich says that if a Republican had faced such complaints, it would be called groping, not inappropriate touching.
But others, including many who defended Brett Kavanaugh against more serious sexual harassment allegations, are offering a nuanced view. And again, it helps to have had contact with a man who's been a Beltway figure for 45 years.
Laura Ingraham told viewers that she encountered Biden at a party a decade ago, "and he put both hands on my shoulders and he said, 'God's honest truth, Ingraham, you're my favorite of the right-wing crazies,' or something like that ... And he was funny and it didn't bother me one bit."
It's hard to know how much this hurts Biden. Maybe he'll thrive as the only big-name liberal who isn't pushing Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, and maybe he'll be Jeb Bush and implode early on. And that depends in part on whether the media keep banging this drum or move on.
One person who couldn't resist jabbing at Joe is President Trump, who's been accused of paying off a porn star and bragged of grabbing women on the "Access Hollywood" tape. Prudence would have compelled most pols to, well, keep hands off.
Trump told a Republican crowd that he asked a general if he could kiss him, saying he felt like Joe Biden.
That's another quality it takes to run for president: chutzpah.