The Real Joe Biden

Creepy Uncle Joe’s record is so much more ghoulish than you thought it was.

Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas

As Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson report in Strange Justice, their book about the Thomas nomination battle, Biden’s questions were “sometimes so long and convoluted that Thomas would forget what the question was.” Biden prided himself on his legal scholarship, Mayer and Abramson suggest, and thus his questions were often designed “to show off [his] legal acumen rather than to elicit answers.”

In one instance, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter appeared to argue that inappropriate comments Thomas made to Hill about women’s “breasts” were commonplace, while in another Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) suggested that she made up allegations based on prose featured in the book The Exorcist.

While every lawmaker on the committee had his own dedicated time to ask questions, Hill supporters noted that Biden was the one overseeing all of the proceedings and could have used his authority to step in. “The Republicans metaphorically stoned Anita Hill, while the Democrats, Biden being the gatekeeper, let it happen,” Angela Wright Shannon, an EEOC employee who also raised allegations against Thomas, told Roll Call.

As Mayer and Abramson write, “Hill’s reputation was not foremost among the committee’s worries. The Democrats in general, and Biden in particular, appear to have been far more concerned with their own reputations,” and feared a Republican-stoked public backlash if they aired more details of Thomas’s sexual proclivities. Hill was therefore thrown to the wolves, and America was saddled with a Supreme Court justice of limited legal qualifications and extreme right-wing views (which he had taken pains to deny while under oath).

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Biden said that he believed Hill at the time. “And my one regret is that I wasn’t able to tone down the attacks on her by some of my Republican friends. I mean, they really went after her,” he said. “As much as I tried to intervene, I did not have the power to gavel them out of order. I tried to be like a judge and only allow a question that would be relevant to ask.”

“I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill,” he continued. “I owe her an apology.”

“It’s become sort of a running joke in the household when someone rings the doorbell and we’re not expecting company,” Hill said. “’Oh,’ we say, ‘is that Joe Biden coming to apologize?’”

Sexual Harassment

Abortion Rights

Wading into this debate will be Joe Biden, who has what can generously be described as a mixed record on abortion rights. While he has, like many pro-life Democrats, “evolved” on the issue over time, what sets Biden apart is that even this evolution has carried him only to what he himself describes as a moderate position on the issue.

The GGR prohibits global health assistance from being provided to fNGOs that use funding from any source to: perform abortions in cases other than rape, incest or life endangerment; counsel or referral women for abortion; or lobby in any abortion related advocacy, including to make abortion legal, in their own country.

It’s no wonder, then, that a Planned Parenthood official complained to the Wall Street Journal in 1986 that Biden “usually votes against us,” adding that it was “difficult to know whether this issue is purely personal, purely political, or a combination of both with him.”

Joe Biden’s White Supremacist Allies

Biden said the Washington press would refer to him and Thurmond as the “marvelous marriage” and “the odd couple” and would often ask them how they got along.

The Drug War and Police Militarization

By the 1980s, Biden had begun to see political gold in the harsh antidrug legislation that had been pioneered by drug warriors such as Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon, and would ultimately lead to the age of mass incarceration for black Americans. One of his Senate staffers at the time recalls him remarking, “Whenever people hear the words ‘drugs’ and ‘crime,’ I want them to think ‘Joe Biden.’” Insisting on anonymity, this former staffer recollected how Biden’s team “had to think up excuses for new hearings on drugs and crime every week — any connection, no matter how remote. He wanted cops at every public meeting — you’d have thought he was running for chief of police.”

There were many examples of inherent and undisguised discrimination. Take the crack vs. powder cocaine debacle that helped grow that prison pipeline. Dope is dope, all of it needs to be taken off the streets, right? But crack cocaine, mostly peddled in minority communities, was deemed far more dangerous. The federal 100-to-1 ratio mandates a 10-year sentence for anyone caught with 50 grams of crack. To get a comparable sentence, a dealer selling powdered cocaine would have to be caught with 5,000 grams. So white dealers with more access to powdered cocaine continued to pour it into communities of color, who cooked it into crack. Guess who took the most heat under the law? Makes you wonder if this law wasn’t specifically intended for people of color.

A year later, however, with Bush’s approval ratings getting a bump from the Gulf War, Biden revived these measures, which also included increasing mandatory minimums, limiting the number of appeals for prisoners, and allowing the use of illegally obtained evidence in court as long as police were acting in “good faith” when they broke the law. Biden assured the president that he and the Democrats were “ready right now” to pass all of it if Bush just dropped his opposition to the gun control provisions they wanted to pass in tandem.

It is hard to name an infamously unjust feature of America’s criminal-justice system that Joe Biden didn’t help to bring about. Mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, civil asset forfeiture, and extensive use of the death penalty — the Delaware senator was involved in establishing them all.

When it wasn’t drugs, Biden used terrorism as a justification to militarize law enforcement. He inserted a provision into the Patriot Act that allowed state and local departments to apply to get equipment needed to combat terrorism. This was beside the extraordinary surveillance powers the law granted to police, which they now casually use for drug and immigration cases.

When Bush floated a review of the centuries-old law against the domestic use of the military in 2002 — about the same time he had considered sending troops into suburban Buffalo to arrest a group of suspected terrorists — Biden supported it, saying: “I think it is time to revisit it.”

Because they tend to be multijurisdictional, no sheriff or police chief oversees the investigations of Byrne task forces. They are “effectively accountable to no one, least of all the communities they purportedly aim to serve and protect,” says Graham Boyd, director of the Drug Law Reform Project for the ACLU, which has documented abuses by Byrne-funded task forces all over the country.

In Texas, Byrne-sponsored task forces created so many problems that much of the state has stopped participating in the program. A Byrne-funded operation was in charge of the 1999 debacle in Tulia, Texas, in which 46 people were arrested based on the word of a lying undercover police officer, Tom Coleman. Most of the 46 were later released and shared in a $6 million settlement. The next year, another Byrne task force arrested 28 people in Hearne, Texas, based solely on the word of a police informant who also proved to be a liar.

Because Byrne grants are given out primarily on raw arrest statistics, they also distort the way drug investigations are handled. Take the use of drug informants. Typically, police arrest a low-level drug offender, then try to make a deal with him to give up his supplier. They then continue their way up the ladder as far into the operation as they can go. But when funding for a task force depends on the number of arrests it makes, the incentive is instead to go down the ladder. A midlevel distributor may supply dozens of lower-level dealers, who boost the arrest numbers. Investigators thus have a reason to cut deals with bigger players in exchange for giving up the street dealers they supply.

The 1994 Biden Crime Bill

What the states didn’t misinterpret was the more than $8 billion the law allotted to them to encourage building more prisons and/or to change existing prisons to accommodate more “clients.” It created a virtual feeding frenzy for the cash, and helped contribute to a rapid rise and expansion of a whole new prison industrial complex, including oppressive privatized prisons.

The martial/incarceral state has had no greater friend in Washington over the last 35 years than Joe Biden.

“Many of us who grew up in the black community in the ’90s,” said Patrisse Cullors, a political organizer and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, “we witnessed the wave in which the policies that came from both federal government but also local government tore our families apart.”

“I think that any person coming to office who was really a part of that is going to have to deal with a large amount of criticism from those who were affected by this policy,” she said.

Tough-on-crime laws weren’t just part of [Biden’s] political career. In many ways, they were central to that career — his most substantive impact on American life. Backing away from them is no easy feat. It’s as if Warren were to call for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be abolished, or if Al Gore renounced a carbon tax.

The main problem with federal block grants is that once they’re issued, Congress can’t monitor them to be sure they’re spent properly. And that’s certainly true of COPS. A 2000 report by the Madison Times, for example, found that COPS grants, along with a federal program through which local police departments obtain surplus military equipment from the Pentagon, led to a mass expansion of SWAT teams throughout Wisconsin in the 1990s. SWAT teams popped up in absurdly small communities like Forest County (population 9,950), Mukwonago (7,519), and Rice Lake (8,320).

And not just in Wisconsin. In a survey conducted by criminologist Peter Kraska, two-thirds of responding police chiefs said SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics “play an important role in community policing strategies.”

Busing and Desegregation

Biden called busing “the atom bomb of anti-discrimination weapons,” and worked to stop busing in his home state, calling it “the single most devastating issue that could occur to Delaware.” In 1975, he put forward an anti-busing provision that barred the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from using federal funds “to assign students or teachers by race,” broad language that actually barred the department from taking anti-segregation actions beyond just busing.

The amendment was meant to be a “softer” alternative to one put forward by hall-of-fame racist and Biden friend Jesse Helms, a version Biden had actually initially supported. Still, the New York Times at the time charged that Biden’s supposedly more moderate alternative would “signal a major crumbling of federal determination to achieve equal justice,” and called it “a real threat not only to the gains of the sixties, but to decency in this society.” The Washington Post was equally disapproving.

The principal tragedy of the Biden amendment, should it survive, is that it would signal a major crumbling of Federal determination to achieve equal justice. It has been demonstrated in cities from Little Rock to Pontiac that where there is a clear will to enforce the law, substantial social progress can occur. It is equally clear that where the will is flabby, the nation’s worst instincts come to the fore. The Biden amendment is thus a real threat not only to the gains of the sixties, but to decency in this society. Congress will be advancing the cause of justice by eliminating it from the bill.

I do not buy the concept, popular in the ’60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race,’ ” Biden told a Delaware-based weekly newspaper in 1975. “I don’t buy that.”

In language that bears on today’s debate about whether descendants of slaves should be compensated, he added, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”

The NAACP called Biden’s proposal “an anti-black amendment.” The Senate’s sole African-American member, Ed Brooke, called it “the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.” But Biden helped his fellow liberals reconcile themselves to the wrong side of history by recasting integrationists as the real racists.

Legal constraints have much to do with this backward momentum. Some 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, a series of key Supreme Court decisions have dramatically reduced the number of implementation methods available to communities engaged in school desegregation. They have eliminated strategies such as cross-district busing, dismantled local court supervision of desegregation plans, and limited use of race-based admissions to ensure diversity in magnet-school programs.


‘’During the 60’s, I was, in fact, very concerned about the civil rights movement,’’ he said. But at another point he said, ‘’I was not an activist,’’ adding:

‘’I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Del. I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. But I was not out marching. I was not down in not out marching. I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans.’’

“When I marched in the civil rights movement, I did not march with a 12-point program,” Mr. Biden thundered, testing his presidential message in February 1987 before a New Hampshire audience. “I marched with tens of thousands of others to change attitudes. And we changed attitudes.”

More than once, advisers had gently reminded Mr. Biden of the problem with this formulation: He had not actually marched during the civil rights movement. And more than once, Mr. Biden assured them he understood — and kept telling the story anyway.

In the speech, Biden described a “cadre of young people, tens of thousands of them, born out of wedlock, without parents, without supervision, without any structure, without any conscience developing because they literally … because they literally have not been socialized, they literally have not had an opportunity.” He said, “we should focus on them now” because “if we don’t, they will, or a portion of them, will become the predators 15 years from now.”

Biden added that he didn’t care “why someone is a malefactor in society” and that criminals needed to be “away from my mother, your husband, our families.”

“The consensus is A), we must take back the streets,” Biden said, “It doesn’t matter whether or not the person that is accosting your son or daughter or my son or daughter, my wife, your husband, my mother, your parents, it doesn’t matter whether or not they were deprived as a youth. It doesn’t matter whether or not they had no background that enabled them to become socialized into the fabric of society. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re the victims of society. The end result is they’re about to knock my mother on the head with a lead pipe, shoot my sister, beat up my wife, take on my sons.”

Biden added in his speech that rehabilitation could not be a condition for release or sentencing, because the United States criminal justice system didn’t know how to rehabilitate offenders.

“I’m the guy that said rehabilitation, when it occurs, we don’t understand it and notice it and even when we notice it and we know it occurs, we don’t know why,” he said. “So you cannot make rehabilitation a condition for release.”

The consensus, Biden again said, was the need to make streets safer. With an impassioned plea, Biden said he did not care what led someone to commit crimes.

“I don’t care why someone is a malefactor in society. I don’t care why someone is antisocial. I don’t care why they’ve become a sociopath,” Biden said. “We have an obligation to cordon them off from the rest of society, try to help them, try to change the behavior. That’s what we do in this bill. We have drug treatment and we have other treatments to try to deal with it, but they are in jail.”

Explaining why schools in Iowa are performing better than those in Washington, D.C., Biden told the Post, “There’s less than one percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than four of five percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you’re dealing with.”

“When you have children coming from dysfunctional homes, when you have children coming from homes where there’s no books, where the mother from the time they’re born doesn’t talk to them — as opposed to the mother in Iowa who’s sitting out there and talks to them, the kid starts out with a 300 word larger vocabulary at age three. Half this education gap exists before the kid steps foot in the classroom,” the Delaware Democrat added.

This isn’t the first time Biden’s words have caused controversy. Last February, on the same day he officially announced his presidential bid, a newspaper quoted the senator describing Sen. Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

The former vice president has a long list of excruciating “Bidenisms.” Remember when he asked a state senator in a wheelchair to “stand up … let ’em see ya”? Or when he told a largely African-American audience that Mitt Romney was “going to put y’all back in chains”? Or when he said, “You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent”? I could go on. And on. And on. (And don’t even get me started on the “Creepy Joe Biden” videos …)

It’s only a matter of time before he says the n-word on stage.

Immigration Policy

Biden’s 1995 vote for Bob Dole’s Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) wasn’t just a broadside against constitutional rights like habeas corpus; it was also one of the principal pieces of restrictionist immigration law whose repeal has, in recent years, become a top goal of activists and critics. Among other things, the law for the first time put into action now-commonplace fast-track deportations and mandatory detention of immigrants convicted of even minor drug crimes, and it expanded the use of indefinite detention for some noncitizens.

A spokesperson for the American Immigration Lawyers Association charged it would let the government “deport the mothers and fathers of innocent kids.” Immigration attorney Dan P. Danilov complained to Northwest Asian Weekly that it let the government use secret evidence to deport alleged terrorists, and that its elimination of judges’ discretion in cases of felonies or crimes of “moral turpitude” meant legal residents with partners and kids could be deported just for writing a bad check.

“Way back in the 1980s, I was the guy who convinced a lot of my colleagues in the military that the military should get involved in this process, and so in the drug strategy thing,” Biden said at the hearing. He wondered “whether or not we should consider someone other than those Federal agencies that traditionally have the responsibility for protecting our borders short of a literal declaration of war or an invasion in the literal sense, whether or not we should bring anybody else into this battle.” Biden praised a rancher for testifying that his land had “basically been eroded into Mexico” and become “part of a Third World country,” which Biden called “chilling.”

At the same time, [Biden] also voted to increase fencing and improve vehicle barriers along the southwest border, to bar immigrants who had their statuses adjusted from accessing Social Security based on work they did when they were undocumented (which passed by one vote), against enhancing labor protection enforcements for both US workers and guest workers, and he voted to declare English “the common and unifying language of the United States, and to preserve and enhance” its role.

Medicare and Social Security

The final deal extended the Bush tax cuts, cut payroll taxes by $112 billion and met a host of other Republican demands: a lower estate tax with a higher exemption, new tax write-offs for businesses, and a maximum 15 percent capital gains tax rate locked in for two years. In return, unemployment insurance was extended for 13 months and the Opportunity Tax Credit for two years.

House Democrats were furious at both the estate tax provision and the Bush tax cut extension, partly because, according to Woodward, Biden had failed to mention the extension was on the table when he briefed Democratic leaders during the talks. Even conservative Democrats like House Whip Steny Hoyer had strongly opposed the extension, and the deal drew consternation from across the party. Dianne Feinstein balked at its size, and Bernie Sanders and two other senators interrupted Biden’s presentation of the package. Sanders later vowed to “do everything I can to defeat this proposal,” including filibuster it. However, enough Democrats eventually capitulated, with some grumbling, for the deal to pass, overcoming an eight-hour filibuster by Sanders.

Later in the negotiations, Biden dangled the possibility of Medicare cuts in return for more revenue — meaning higher taxes. Soon after, he suggested Democrats might be comfortable raising the eligibility age for entitlements, imposing means testing and changing the consumer price index calculation, known as CPI. (Means testing is often seen a Trojan horse for chipping away at these programs, because their universality is one of the reasons they’ve remained virtually untouchable for almost a century. It’s also been criticized for imposing an unnecessary and discouraging layer of bureaucracy.)

At one point, Biden reportedly called the Medicare provider tax a “scam.” “For a moment, Biden sounded like a Republican,” Woodward notes. Biden’s team was forced to remind him that such a move would force states to cut services to the poor, to which he replied, “We’re going to do lots of hard things,” and so “we might as well do this.”

“We’ve given up on revenues, we’ve given on dollar for dollar,” Woodward quotes Biden telling McConnell. “All the major things we’re interested in we’ve given up. So basically you’ve pushed us to the limit.”

“Overnight, it became safe to own the managed care stocks again. Don’t worry, it’s not too late. The political risk was most reduced,” Cramer said. Pointing out that the Democratic leadership in Congress is also against a single-payer system, “with Biden leading in the polls, it’s more obvious that the health insurance business will be just fine.”

I don’t personally believe that Biden is such a strong frontrunner that nothing can knock him off. It’s early; no one knows what the fuck will happen. But I know one thing: The people who are most interested in Biden winning are not your average Democratic primary voters, who are spoiled for choice this year and have favorable opinions of many of the candidates. The people who most want to see him win are health insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical executives, who want nothing more than to silence all talk of Medicare for All, and the people who are most heavily invested in those companies’ continued success — which means continued profiteering off the pain and death of regular Americans.

The Surveillance State

It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufacturers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.

CALEA represented one step in the FBI and NSA’s attempts to restrict encryption without backdoors. In a top-secret memo to members of President George H.W. Bush’s administration including Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and CIA director Robert Gates, one White House official wrote: “Justice should go ahead now to seek a legislative fix to the digital telephony problem, and all parties should prepare to follow through on the encryption problem in about a year. Success with digital telephony will lock in one major objective; we will have a beachhead we can exploit for the encryption fix; and the encryption access options can be developed more thoroughly in the meantime.”

The next year, months before the Oklahoma City bombing took place, Biden introduced another bill called the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. It previewed the 2001 Patriot Act by allowing secret evidence to be used in prosecutions, expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and wiretap laws, creating a new federal crime of “terrorism” that could be invoked based on political beliefs, permitting the U.S. military to be used in civilian law enforcement, and allowing permanent detection of non-U.S. citizens without judicial review. The Center for National Security Studies said the bill would erode “constitutional and statutory due process protections” and would “authorize the Justice Department to pick and choose crimes to investigate and prosecute based on political beliefs and associations.”

Biden himself draws parallels between his 1995 bill and its 2001 cousin. “I drafted a terrorism bill after the Oklahoma City bombing. And the bill John Ashcroft sent up was my bill,” he said when the Patriot Act was being debated, according to the New Republic, which described him as “the Democratic Party’s de facto spokesman on the war against terrorism.”

Biden’s chronology is not accurate: the bombing took place in April 1995 and his bill had been introduced in February 1995. But it’s true that Biden’s proposal probably helped to lay the groundwork for the Bush administration’s Patriot Act.

Legal scholar Lincoln Caplan called [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] “surely one of the worst statues ever passed by Congress and signed into law,” and argued that it “gutted the federal writ of habeas corpus,” slashing the rate of state courts’ reversal of death penalty decisions by 40 percent.

Foreign Policy

It wasn’t just that Biden voted for the Iraq war on the Senate floor five months before it began. During the lead-up to that vote, in August 2002, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he presided over sham hearings — refusing to allow experts who opposed an invasion to get any words in edgewise — while a cavalcade of war hawks testified in the national spotlight.

“It is difficult to over-estimate the critical role Biden played in making the tragedy of the Iraq war possible,” Middle East studies professor Stephen Zunes wrote. “More than two months prior to the 2002 war resolution even being introduced, in what was widely interpreted as the first sign that Congress would endorse a U.S. invasion of Iraq, Biden declared on August 4 that the United States was probably going to war. In his powerful position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he orchestrated a propaganda show designed to sell the war to skeptical colleagues and the American public by ensuring that dissenting voices would not get a fair hearing.”

“President Bush did not lash out precipitously at Iraq after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss new inspection regimes. He did not ignore Congress,” Biden said in a 2002 floor speech given during the debate over legislation authorizing action against Iraq.

At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation, and I believe he will continue to do so. At least, that is my fervent hope,” Biden said. “I wish he would turn down the rhetorical excess in some cases because I think it undercuts the decision he ends up making. But in each case in my view he has made the right rational calm deliberate decision.”

According to present and former Iraqi officials, Biden’s emissaries pressed hard to assemble a coalition that would reinstall Maliki as prime minister. “It was clear they were not interested in anyone else,” one Iraqi diplomat told me. “Biden himself was very scrappy — he wouldn’t listen to argument.” The consequences were, in the official’s words, “disastrous.” In keeping with the general corruption of his regime, Maliki allowed the country’s security forces to deteriorate. Command of an army division could be purchased for $2 million, whereupon the buyer might recoup his investment with exactions from the civilian population. Therefore, when the Islamic State erupted out of Syria and moved against major Iraqi cities, there were no effective defenses. With Islamic State fighters an hour’s drive from Baghdad, the United States belatedly rushed to push Maliki aside and install a more competent leader, the Shiite politician and former government minister Haider al-Abadi.

[Biden] has nothing but warm words for Juan Orlando Hernández, the current president, who financed his 2013 election campaign with $90 million stolen from the Honduran health service and more recently defied his country’s constitution by running for a second term. Instead, we read much about Biden’s shepherding of the Hernández regime, along with its Central American neighbors El Salvador and Guatemala, into the Alliance for Prosperity, an agreement in which the signatories pledged to improve education, health care, women’s rights, justice systems, etc., in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid. In the words of Professor Dana Frank of UC Santa Cruz, the alliance “supports the very economic sectors that are actively destroying the Honduran economy and environment, like mega-dams, mining, tourism, and African palms,” reducing most of the population to poverty and spurring them to seek something better north of the border. The net result has been a tide of refugees fleeing north, most famously exemplified by the “caravan” used by Donald Trump to galvanize support prior to November’s congressional elections.

In practice, the scheme had done more to open the country up to foreign investment than to stem the flow of drugs. At the same time, the increased investment in security forces that came attached to US funding fueled breathtaking state violence in the country — 1.8 million displaced in three years and 3,000 innocent people killed, dressed up as guerrillas to claim reward money — while its anti-coca fumigation program destroyed only food crops, paradoxically feeding the growth of cocaine cultivation.

Biden viewed all of these plans as successes, even as they fed into a vicious cycle by helping foster the very violence and deprivation that would push ever larger numbers of migrants out, in turn necessitating the plans’ revival. In a June 2018 op-ed, he name-checked both Plan Colombia and the Alliance for Prosperity as models for US policy to deal with the migration crisis going forward. A few months later a thousands-strong caravan of Central American migrants would dominate headlines, driven from their homes thanks in part to that same plan pushed by Biden while vice president.

Israel and AIPAC

Even as outrage piled on over Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Biden held the line and assured Begin he wasn’t critical of the invasion. Less than a week after Israeli forces slaughtered thousands of Palestinian refugees in the country, Biden went to a four-day retreat held by the United Jewish Appeal Young Leadership Cabinet, where he spoke alongside the executive director of AIPAC and Benjamin Netanyahu (one of Biden’s old friends), at that point serving in the Israeli embassy in D.C. While even a pro-Israel lifer like Cranston had urged Israel to withdraw in the wake of the crime, a year later Biden said that “Israel’s presence in Lebanon is vitally important.”

Mr. Biden’s ability to raise money quickly, according to officials of some rival campaigns, was in part a result of his willingness over many years to speak at fund-raising dinners for Israel.

‘’Over the years, they’ve done a really methodical organizational job of moving around the pro-Israel network and it’s really paid off,’’ said William Carrick, Mr. Gephrardt’s campaign manager.

“AIPAC commends the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate for their efforts to secure today’s final passage of this critical bill. AIPAC particularly thanks the bill’s House and Senate sponsors, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Joe Biden (D-DE).”

The Internet and Copyright Law

In 2007, Biden declined to co-sponsor the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, a bipartisan bill that would have amended the Communication Act of 1934 to include net neutrality protections.

The Finance Industry and Student Debt

Of the 18 Democratic senators who ultimately contributed to the major 2005 bankruptcy bill’s passage, none were as consistent or deep in their support of the lending industry as Joe Biden.”

There’s also Biden’s history of close relationships to lobbyists. A number of Biden’s longtime staffers passed through the revolving door that led from Biden’s office to the lobbying industry — and back. He’s been known to attend weekend retreats with lobbyists, and from 1989 to 2008 the industry donated $344,400 to him, a little more than the $300,000 given by finance and credit card companies. Mega-lobbyist Gerald Cassidy says he and Biden are “good friends.”

Biden was chosen as one of three Democratic representatives on a committee tasked with writing the bill. Although the National Consumer Law Center advised the committee against an “unwise and unjust” crackdown on students, the committee imposed a five-year exemption on government-sponsored loans from bankruptcy protections. This small hole was chipped away at over years, as bankruptcy exemptions were extended to government loans for vocational schools in addition to higher education in 1984, again with Biden spearheading the effort among the Democratic constituency. Even the unrelated 1990 Crime Control Act included language that further extended the bankruptcy exemptions’ waiting periods.

In 1997, the National Bankruptcy and Review Commission, formed under the direction of President Clinton, advised that student loans be made dischargeable again like any other private, consumer debt. Once again, however, Biden favored the industry professionals’ view and limited bankruptcy protection to those who could prove their failure to pay sprang from “undue hardship.” Common wisdom among law experts is that undue hardship can only be proved if the debtor’s economic prospects are impossible to improve, colloquially known by the grim “certainty of hopelessness.”

For instance, he voted against one amendment that would protect mothers who failed to receive their child support or alimony. He voted against setting a limit of 30 percent on loan interest. He also voted against special protections for bankruptcy among former military, victims of identity theft and those with unmanageable medical debt.

After George W. Bush’s election, lobbyists began pushing for the bill again, so Warren wrote an article in the Harvard Women’s Law Journal castigating Biden in particular for supporting it. “Senator Biden supports legislation that will fall hardest on women, particularly on women trying to rear children on their own,” she wrote. “Why? The answer will have to come from him, if any reporter or constituent presses on this question. There is an unavoidable suspicion, however, that he supports the financial industry’s legislation because there is no political disadvantage to supporting it. Bankruptcy is sufficiently arcane, sufficiently obscure that it is possible for an otherwise respected legislator to support legislation that, over the next decade, will make it more difficult for millions of women to keep their homes, feed their children, and deal with bill collectors.”

More Being a Corporate Tool

Rob Atkinson, a Teamster and Mars resident, said he and other rank-and-file Teamsters are upset about the pension cuts. He blames the Kline-Miller act as the reason the pensions are being cut and says the bill amounts to wage theft. “They don’t know what to do about it,” says Atkinson. “If you are pulling $3,000 a month and then that is cut to $2,000, that makes a big difference.”

Over the last several months, local Teamster Bill Lickert had the job of letting the 17,000 Pittsburgh area pensioners know that they would be receiving smaller checks.

“I’ve had people break down on the phone because they don’t know how they’re gonna make their expenses,” Lickert said to the P-G in January. “And I don’t know how to give them an answer.”

Dirty Money

But Biden isn’t shying away from or apologizing for the speech. In fact, he was defiant in comments to the US Conference of Mayors after the story came out. “I like Republicans. Bless me, father, for I have sinned,” he said with sarcasm and a pantomime.

According to a 2012 story that was curiously ignored by anyone other than conservative outlets, a mid-sized construction firm Hill International that won a $1.5 billion contract to build 100,000 homes in Iraq just happened to have Biden’s brother, James, as its executive vice president, despite his seemingly lacking any experience in residential construction prior to joining the firm. How did the company get the contract? It helped to have “the brother of the vice president as a partner,” the company’s president allegedly told a group of investors.

The Folks at the Top

2020 Presidential Bid

Arch-lich Joseph Biden conducting a necromantic ritual

But Biden’s delusions about how the institution he had spent most of his adult life serving in functions is just one part of the story. Biden is a Third Way Democrat with a seemingly congenital aversion to anything that smacks of populism, at least of the left-wing variety. With a career in politics forged mainly in the “long Reagan era,” Biden has built up an image based on loudly shunning and bucking “liberal special interests” — that era’s code word for civil rights activists, unions, women’s groups, and the poor. As he told the National Journal in 2001, the Clintonite Third Way is both “where the American people are” and “where the Democratic Party should have been.” Resorting to “class warfare and populism” will only hand power to Republicans.

“My intent was not to deceive anyone,’’ Biden wrote at the time. ‘’For if it were, I would not have been so blatant.’’

“Limit it to four years,” Mr. Biden pleaded with a ballroom crowd of 600 in the eastern Iowa city of Dubuque. “History will treat this administration’s time as an aberration.”

“This is not the Republican Party,” he added, citing his relationships with “my Republican friends in the House and Senate.”

“It did not start with Donald Trump,” declaimed Obama in a scathing speech in Illinois in September 2018, ahead of the midterm elections. “He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”

“Over the past few decades,” added Obama while decrying “empty” bipartisanship, “the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.”

“No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.”


Much of what Democrats blame Republicans for was enabled, quite literally, by Biden: Justices whose confirmation to the Supreme Court he rubber-stamped worked to disembowel affirmative action, collective bargaining rights, reproductive rights, voting rights. (Just look at Georgia, where curtailed voting rights may have helped Brian Kemp ascend to the governor’s mansion, where this week he praised and may soon sign a six-week abortion ban, leaving Stacey Abrams conveniently free to be Joe Biden’s imaginary running mate.) In his years in power, Biden and his party (elected thanks to a nonwhite base enfranchised in the 1960s) built the carceral state that disproportionately imprisons and disenfranchises people of color, as part of what Michelle Alexander has described as the New Jim Crow. With his failure to treat seriously claims of sexual harassment made against powerful men on their way to accruing more power (claims rooted in prohibitions that emerged from the feminist and civil-rights movements of the 1970s), Biden created a precedent that surely made it easier for accused harassers, including Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, to nonetheless ascend. Economic chasms and racial wealth gaps have yawned open, in part thanks to Joe Biden’s defenses of credit card companies, his support of that odious welfare-reform bill, his eagerness to support the repeal of Glass-Steagall.

In other words, a Supreme Court and decades of federal legislation shaped in part by Joe Biden and his party have managed to reverse many of the achievements of the 20th century’s most transformative social movements: the very achievements that had provoked the kind of backlash that politicians like Joe Biden were put in place to quell.

Very often, we are told — by people on television and in political media, perhaps by the people in our social circle and our families — that Joe Biden is the only way that Democrats can win in 2020. It’s a version of what we have been told over and over and over again for 50 years. But when I look at these last decades, I don’t actually see how much we’ve won with a party run by Those Guys. I see how much we’ve lost.

Further Reading



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