The New York Times may have just eviscerated Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign in its earliest stages.
Reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns have been following Biden as he stumps for Democrats before the November election. And they noticed something interesting.
While Governor Gina Raimondo and other Democratic candidates are firmly opposed to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court while defending the truthfulness of his accusers, Biden has taken a more nuanced approach.
That’s because Biden, as a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, oversaw the controversial nomination process for Justice Clarence Thomas. And many Democrats are still furious about how he treated Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment.
For Biden, the nomination of Kavanaugh couldn’t come at a worse time:
As he actively explores a 2020 presidential run, the 75-year-old former vice president is coming under increased scrutiny from his fellow Democrats because of his role in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991, as explosive debates over gender, sex and the Supreme Court overshadow the themes of economic fairness that Mr. Biden trumpeted across the Northeast in recent days.
His name has been invoked frequently in recent days, mainly by Republicans, for leading the 1991 hearings when an all-male, all-white Judiciary Committee aggressively questioned Anita Hill about claims that Judge Thomas sexually harassed her. The hearings have long been a source of discomfort with Mr. Biden among Democrats who remember the process.
And he’s even been canceling recent events, likely to avoid answering more embarrassing questions:
Mr. Biden and his aides have issued multiple statements accusing Republicans of taking his past remarks and actions out of context to bolster their defense of Judge Kavanaugh. But he has largely stayed on the margins of the current Supreme Court fight, and last week scrapped a trip to South Carolina and Georgia that would have overlapped with Dr. Blasey and Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony, though aides said that was not the reason for the cancellation.
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What has been most devastating to Biden was a clip of his discussion of what an FBI investigation is. As Senator Lindsay Graham reminded us in a passionate speech in the Judiciary Committee, Biden made it clear during the Thomas confirmation hearings that the FBI doesn’t reach conclusions. Their job, as America’s top law enforcement agency, is to gather the facts and present them in ways that a courtroom or Congress could make decisions accordingly.
Biden insiders have tried to downplay his comments about the FBI and claim they were taken out of context, but their explanations aren’t working.
Liberal California Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who was elected immediately after the Hill-Thomas hearings, refuses to defend her former Senate colleague and is calling on Biden to address the controversy directly: “If he handles it right, it could be a plus; if he handles it wrong, it’ll be a minus. And handling it right means stepping up to the plate.”
Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, who is a Biden fan, said that a 2020 race would require him to address “the Anita Hill” period of his political life.”
To make matters worse, Democrat insiders and donors are quietly suggesting Biden pledge to serve only one term to help him avoid concerns about his age. He likely would have run in 2016, but decided against it after the death of his son Beau and after news of his other son Hunter’s scandalous divorce. In 2020, Biden will be 77 years old.
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