I’m starting to think that Joe Biden cannot beat Trump. Sure, we’ve all been tricked into thinking that Biden is the “safe” candidate because he’s a white male in America who has the best name recognition in the race, but there’s a reason why Joe Biden never polled above 5% in a primary before this one. He’s an industrial-sized gaffe machine and a bad, cynical candidate who, like Trump, wants to return all of us to an idyllic period that never existed. Case in point is this jaw-dropping story from the 1988 presidential race, published yesterday in the New York Times:
“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.
First off, the notion that the civil rights movement lacked a policy vision is insulting. Rosa Parks is famous for opposing a policy that forced black Americans to sit in the back of the bus. Martin Luther King Jr. constantly spoke about state power and how systemic racism creates outcomes which impoverish millions of people. Americans had separate water fountains and could not eat at the same counters. That’s all policy. This is stuff kids learn early in high school, and yet 1987 presidential candidate Joe Biden tried to characterize the civil rights movement (that he knowingly claimed to falsely be a part of) as simply one big group hug trying to “change attitudes.”
The next year, Joe Biden dropped out of the 1988 presidential race when it became clear that he had plagiarized excerpts of his speeches from other politicians. This was not the first time Biden had been caught stealing other people’s work (and I’m not referring to the story above where he takes credit for marching in the civil rights movement), as he admitted to plagiarizing at Syracuse law school.
So just to recap Joe Biden’s 1987:
— He would publicly take credit for marching in the civil rights movement despite knowing this to be a lie, all while ahistorically characterizing the movement as lacking a policy vision.
— He admitted to stealing someone else’s work in law school, and said his “mistake” was neither intentional nor malevolent (this came out while he was head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, overseeing Robert Bork’s hotly contested Supreme Court confirmation).
— Biden claimed that the plagiarism accusations about his presidential speeches were “much ado about nothing,” before dropping out of the race a month after these similarities with British politicians’ speeches came to light.
The next time Biden ran for president was in 2008 where he dropped out after Iowa and said of then candidate Obama “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” This time around, after not apologizing for his general creepiness towards women, he did this.
This is what 2020 would be all about versus Trump—Joe Biden’s endless stream of “gaffes.” There is likely more bad Biden content to work with than time available in the general election, and I can pretty much guarantee that this will not be the last “remember when Biden did this awful thing!?!?!” story to surface in this Democratic primary. The Democrats can and should do better than a man who knowingly lied and falsely took credit for marching in a movement that yielded more positive change on this country than Joe Biden ever has.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.