Joe Biden is under fire from leading Democrats for the sin of civility. Biden made the simple observation that the Senate actually “got things done” when he was a member by maintaining “civility.” He noted that he was even able to work with such opposing figures as segregationist senators James Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia. That led to a torrent of outrage that he was ever civil with such individuals. To his credit, Biden correctly refused to apologize. He was making the point that you can oppose others without grinding the government to a standstill or just engaging in shrill and personal attacks.
Biden noted that “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland.” He added “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.'” He then referred to his wok with Talmadge and added “[He was] one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys. Well, guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
The thing about not being called “boy” was another gaffe by Biden but his point was an honest and legitimate one. Biden did indeed have a good reputation in the Senate. I was in meetings with him and he had an effective and affable approach that built coalitions across party lines. It is a record that is relevant and positive for his quest to be the next president.
This point was made later by Biden in noting that
“I could not have disagreed with Jim Eastland more. He was a segregationist. I ran for the United States Senate because I disagreed with the views of the segregationist — many of them in the Senate at the time. The point I’m making is you don’t have to agree. You don’t have to like the people in terms of their views. But you just have to simply make the case you beat them, you beat them without changing the system.”
Biden’s initial comments drew criticism from some of his 2020 rivals, including Booker.
Fellow presidential candidate New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed Biden for his comments, tweeting that Eastland believed his interracial family should be illegal.
“It’s 2019 & @JoeBiden is longing for the good old days of ‘civility’ typified by James Eastland. Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to “the pursuit of dead n******. It’s past time for apologies or evolution from @JoeBiden. He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party,” de Blasio tweeted Wednesday.View image on Twitter
It’s 2019 & @JoeBiden is longing for the good old days of “civility” typified by James Eastland. Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to “the pursuit of dead n*ggers.” (1/2)5,23811:47 AM – Jun 19, 20192,241 people are talking about thisTwitter Ads info and privacy
Sen. Cory Booker, also a presidential candidate, demanded an apology and said
“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys.’ Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity. Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone. I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together. And frankly, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.”
Likewise, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Biden’s comments on Eastland and Talmadge were “misinformed and wrong.” She added “Let’s be very clear that the senators that he is speaking of with such adoration are individuals who made and built their reputation on segregation.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass added “I’m not here to criticize other Democrats, but it’s never ok to celebrate segregationists. Never.”
It truly captures our age of rage that simply saying that you can work with people on the far extremes of politics is considered grossly inappropriate. Civility is now a weakness. It is rage not results that is now the measure for politicians on both sides.