Did Joe Biden miss his moment?

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Speed read

What’s happening? Former Vice President Joe Biden is under fire after Nevada legislator Lucy Flores said he inappropriately planted a “big slow kiss” on her head at a 2014 campaign rally. A second woman claimed Biden made her uncomfortable when he leaned in to rub noses at a 2009 fundraiser. Both women said the contact was not sexual but that it crossed lines. The charges have renewed scrutiny of a pattern of intimate physical interactions — many caught on camera — that have earned Biden the internet nickname “Creepy Uncle Joe.”

Why it’s sparking debate? Biden has all but confirmed that he will soon announce his 2020 candidacy, but these incidents are forcing the question: Should Biden run for president? Some argue he could divide Democrats generationally and wonder whether he can succeed in a post-#MeToo world. One older Democratic donor likened Biden to a “friendly grandpa” from “a different generation,” but others say his candidacy could alienate younger voters who may see his behavior as “creepy.” There were already questions over whether 76-year-old Biden is too old to run. Now some are asking whether he’s also too old-school and if the “Joe being Joe” defense will fly in 2020.

What’s next? Biden has yet to officially declare his candidacy, and it remains to be seen if the controversy will affect his decision. During a news conference Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “I don’t think that this disqualifies him from being president. … Not at all.” However, she had previously conceded that Biden needs to be more aware of how his actions could be received.

For Biden’s part, he first issued a statement saying he “doesn’t recall” the incident as described by Flores but added: “We have arrived at an important time when women feel that they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention, and I will.” On Wednesday he commented further in a two-minute video posted to Twitter in which he vowed to be “more mindful” of personal space, but still stopped short of an apology to the women who have spoken out against him.

“Social norms have begun to change; they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset — and I get it,” he said.


Biden is not a sexual predator, but he’s out of touch and should reconsider running.

“I don’t think Biden’s avuncular pawing is a #MeToo story. … But if Biden was more oblivious than predatory, his history still puts him out of step with the mores of an increasingly progressive Democratic Party. On Sunday, the New York Times reported that some Democrats are bracing ‘for an extended reckoning about Mr. Biden and gender if he enters the race.’ The inevitably of such a reckoning should make Biden reconsider getting in.” — Michelle Godlberg, New York Times

Biden represents an old era in a moment when voters want a new one.

“In short, Biden proudly, but also problematically, represents an old era at a time when many voters want a new one. If these allegations dent his prospective candidacy, it will not be because they show the man to be different than anyone thought he was, but because it is time for the country to be different than it used to be.” — Lisa Belkin, Yahoo News

Friendly grandpa or creepy uncle? Generations are split on Biden.

“Anyone who knows Biden knows that he is a very warm and tactile personality. There are a million examples of it. … It’s not lasciviousness. It’s just his style. The problem he has is that these gestures, which he and most of the recipients viewed as benign, are now being judged in a different time and through a different lens.” — David Axelrod, Politico

Biden needs to knock if off — but so does the mob.

“What we all are learning, we should hope, is that we should respect women who have the courage to come forward about their experiences with unwanted physical contact. They deserve the benefit of the doubt both about their versions of events and about how they were made to feel. But it is also important — and a sign that a social movement is maturing into a social norm — to recognize that not every offense is of equal severity. Also worth factoring in is whether an alleged perpetrator was acting with malevolence or just cluelessness.” — Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

Biden’s record on gender and racial justice is not strong enough for a 2020 win.

“Many black voters fell in love with Biden after watching him play the affable, dependable VP to President Barack Obama. But that grace will only take Biden so far. Attitudes of race, gender and power have shifted since the Obama White House — we are more suspicious and less forgiving when it comes to accepting excuses and soft apologies for past racial biases and sexual misconduct. We know Democrats face a tough, divisive fight in 2020. And before the battle, I want to know who has my back. Who will fight for us — all of us — when things get grimy? Now, it’s hard to know if Joe’s right for this fight.” — Roxanne Jones, CNN

Biden has always been a champion of women.

“From 2006 to 2011, I worked closely with Joe Biden on both his Senate and White House staff. I traveled the country and the world with him, certainly logging more miles and sometimes feeling as if I spent more time with him than I did with my own family. Wherever he was during those years, be it Wilmington or Baghdad, I wasn’t far away. I saw him at his best and his worst, in quiet moments and on the world’s largest stages. Through it all, in big ways and in the small ways that sometimes matter even more, he was, is and always has been a champion for women and equality.” — Elizabeth A. Alexander, USA Today

Biden could have done more for Anita Hill. He didn’t — and it’s his biggest liability.

“Biden argues that the attitudes of the day stopped him from demanding more respect for a woman who came forward to say that a powerful man, about to be made more powerful, had abused her. But bowing to the attitudes of the day ignores the need for progress. And progress is exactly what the Democratic candidate for the presidency has to be able to promise.” — Molly Roberts, Washington Post

Biden’s 2020 campaign is over before it ever got started.

“Today, Joe Biden, despite decades of service to his party and the country, is still not considered the solid front-runner of his party. Allegations keep side-tracking his message. … Some question his age. Some question whether he is left enough for the times. Others know he has not done well in the past. In 2020, all of those doubts will mean that the Democrat’s presidential nomination will elude Biden once and for all.” — Tom Del Becarro, Fox News

Backing Biden could now hurt Dems’ support from women voters.

“Democrats face an awkward choice. If they continue to back Biden, they forgo the appealing prospect of hounding Donald Trump about past charges of sexual misconduct. A Biden candidacy would weaken their grip on women voters, who were critical to Democrats’ midterm victories.” — Liz Peek, Fox News

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