Former Vice President Joe Biden is not just losing support at a rapid rate, but he has lost any moral high ground with a negative attack ad against former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg suggesting that he has a problem with African Americans. The ad below focuses on the fact that Buttigieg fired an African American police chief and fire chief. It does not address the merits of those decisions but suggests that race may have been a motivator for the firings. In other words, it strongly suggests (without having the courage to state directly) that Buttigieg has a racism issue. There is absolutely no support for such a claim. It is a raw and grossly unfair ad. Buttigieg refrained from referring to Biden as the Vice President jokingly referred to a voter as “a lying, dog-faced pony solider.” Remarkably, in his interview with ABC this morning, George Stephanopoulos seemed to brush over the substance of the attack ad or the underlying decision.
Of course, such negative attacks are nothing new. John Adams’ campaign called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
Biden has been increasingly relying on his firewall in South Carolina and his hold on African American votes as his selling point. It has increasingly hit jarring notes. He also has downplayed New Hampshire as a lock for senators in nearby states — though Buttigieg is from Indiana and Biden is from Delaware (hardly the deep South or Northwest). This ad however plays to his claim as the choice of African Americans, a claim that may start to wear on those voters who have yet to vote in significant numbers.
The ad declares “When public pressure mounted against him, former Mayor Pete fired the first African American Police Chief of South Bend. And then he forced out the African American fire chief, too.”
It is hard to watch the add and not conclude that Buttigieg is either an outright racist or a threat to minorities. Otherwise, he had a reason for the actions. If he did have such a reason, is Biden suggesting that he should have retained two officials who he believed were not serving the public interest simply because of their race? The ad suggests that under no circumstances should Buttigieg have fired two African Americans. It also suggests that Biden would have retained them, regardless of the merits, rather than fire two African Americans.
Buttigieg has explained that he received complaints about South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins recording and listening to conversations of officers and that he was told that both officials faced possible criminal charges in a criminal investigation. Buttigieg maintained that he acted to stop criminal charges and told the South Bend Tribune that “charges were not filed because we acted to satisfy federal authorities.” That premise has been questioned since prosecutors do not usually trade terminations for declinations for prosecutions. However, while aspects of underlying record seemed to support both sides of the controversy, even his detractors said that Buttigieg was trying to do the right thing.
Buttigieg stated that he learned a lot from the controversy:
“For a lot of people, this wasn’t about the nuances of the Wiretap Act,. This was about whether they could trust their police department . . . In retrospect, I probably placed too much confidence in that chief at the outset and that’s obviously a mistake I would not have made again. Also, that was the last time I made the mistake when firing somebody who is a direct report to me, not doing it in person, having a direction conversation about why that was taking place.”
Again, the merits of such accusations have been argued from both sides. However, the ad leaves the impression that race alone either caused their termination or that case alone should have prevented their termination. This may be a valid issue for Biden to question the judgment of Buttigieg but it is incumbent upon him to do more than just cite the race of the officials.
Much of the ad mocks Buttigieg for his small-town problems and small-town accomplishments. That is fair game if rather nasty. However, it is the race element that pushed this ad over the line. It is a desperate sucker punch from a boxer who lost one round and is about to lose another: