Home / Commentary / “Handsy” Joe Biden And The Political Scope Of His Grope: His behavior is nothing new, just a continued maelstrom in the # Me Too view
“Handsy” Joe Biden And The Political Scope Of His Grope: His behavior is nothing new, just a continued maelstrom in the # Me Too view

Joe Biden, the 47th Vice-president of the United States, was the featured guest for the Tom Johnson Lectureship at the LBJ Presidential Library, on Tuesday, October 3, 2017. LBJ Library photo by Jay Godwin.

“Handsy” Joe Biden And The Political Scope Of His Grope: His behavior is nothing new, just a continued maelstrom in the # Me Too view

By Yvonne Sam
Social and Political Commentator

Yvonne Sam -- newHere goes America once again! Suddenly the Democratic media complex has decided that former Vice-president, Joe Biden, has a creepiness problem.

My immediate remonstrance is: Why now? What happened during the eight years, when he was Vice-president? Why not then?

Is there anyone, who can bring to immediate memory, when the unrelenting White House press corps threw questions at the press secretary, inquiring when the then-President Barack Obama would tell his understudy to stop putting his hands on women — and little girls — and putting his face uncomfortably close to theirs?

There have been loads of pictures of Biden pawing women, placing his arms around girls, kissing their necks etc. Such acts have been ridiculed for a long time by Conservatives, while Liberals always suggested it was, Biden being Biden. www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/3/29/18241598/joe-biden-lucy-flores-touching-women-media-history-explained.

For the former Vice-president, being handsy is certainly not an age-related issue, or the rehearsal of a recently-acquired skill, as he has also been handsy with young children. At a swearing-in ceremony for Senator, Chris Coons, a Democrat from Biden’s home state of Delaware, the Vice-president was seen holding the hand of the senator’s pre-teen daughter, and whispering into her ear, as she is seen becoming visibly uncomfortable. Then he kissed the side of her forehead, a gesture that made the girl flinch. The senator has previously stated, and reiterated this week, that Biden’s words and actions did not bother his daughter, who has known Biden her entire life.

And in another unbecoming moment, when Biden was introduced to Orrin Hatch’s granddaughter, at a Senate swearing-in ceremony, his immediate words to her were: “Hi Emily! Hope you have a big fence around the house!”

Again in February 2015, New York magazine did a slideshow of nine times, where Joe Biden was seen, creepily whispering into women’s ears, and additionally there is a large track record of handsy Biden snapshots that liberals would likely view as problematic had the perpetrator not been a popular Democratic vice-president.

Former US President, Barack Obama, presents Vice-President, Joe Biden, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, during a tribute to the Vice-President in the State Dining Room of the White House, January 12, 2017. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy.

Former US President, Barack Obama, presents Vice-President, Joe Biden, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, during a tribute to the Vice-President in the State Dining Room of the White House, January 12, 2017. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy.

Vice-president, Joe Biden, left some observers, in and out of Washington, dismayed by his whisper-in-ear embrace of new Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s wife, Stephanie, at Carter’s swearing-in ceremony. As Carter was delivering his opening speech as Pentagon chief, Biden, standing in the background, put his arms on Stephanie Carter’s shoulders and his face to her ear, supposedly telling her something in what could rationally be interpreted as an intimate embrace.

A still image of the gesture shot around the social media world.

It is unabashedly apparent that the current offending behavior has been out in the open for many years, and for diverse reasons, it is garnering more perusal than previously. Biden, who is considering a presidential run in 2020, is suddenly faced with the issue, simply because two females came forward to claim that his long-known and joked-about behavior made them uneasy.

In 2014 Lucie Flores was the Nevada state Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor. Biden visited Nevada to help boost voter turnout. She now accuses the former vice-president of touching her shoulders and kissing the back of her head, uninvited, during the campaign event.

Flores, a former board member of the Bernie Sanders-aligned group, Our Revolution, wrote on March 29, 2019, in The Cut: “I had never experienced anything so blatantly inappropriate and unnerving before.”

On March 31, Amy Lappos posted on a Connecticut politics Facebook page, Connecticut Women in Politics — that Biden rubbed noses with her, unasked, at a 2009 Greenwich fundraiser, for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th, where she was volunteering.

She told the Hartford Courant, “It wasn’t sexual, but he did grab me by the head. He put his hand around my neck and pulled me in, to rub noses with me. When he was pulling me in, I thought he was going to kiss me on the mouth.”

Caitlyn Caruso, a former college student and sexual assault survivor, said Mr. Biden rested his hand on her thigh — even as she squirmed in her seat to show her discomfort — and hugged her “just a little bit too long”, at an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She was 19-years-old at the time.

Now 22, she says that she chalked up the encounter, at the time, to how men act, and did not say anything publicly. She however stated that it was particularly uncomfortable, because she had just shared her own story of sexual assault and had expected Biden — an architect of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act — to understand the importance of physical boundaries.

Diane Denish, 70, who served as Lieutenant Governor of New Mexico, from 2003 through 2010, said she had “exactly the same experience” with Biden, and “had a completely different reaction to it”. As they were getting ready to go onstage at a campaign event, Denish said, Biden “just put his hands on my shoulders and leaned back and said, “Go get ‘em”, with a little peck on the head. I paid so little attention to it, but I’m of a different generation than Lucy Flores.”

D. J. Hill, 59, a writer, recalls meeting Biden in 2012 at a fund-raising event in Minneapolis. She claims that when she and her husband, Robert, stepped up to take their photograph with the vice-president, he put his hand on her shoulder and then started dropping it down her back, which made her “very uncomfortable.”

Vice-president Biden, a septuagenarian, is the Democrat’s top choice for president in 2020, affirmed by recent public opinion polls, in battleground states, such as Nevada and Pennsylvania. The political ground has shifted under the former vice-president, and his touchy style of retail politicking is no longer acceptable or tolerated, especially in the current era of the # Me Too movement.

Among the affirmative changes, ushered in by the #Me Too era, is that accusations, such as those leveled by Flores, are taken seriously, not arbitrarily dismissed. During an interview with The Post, the accused noted that she “did not feel a sexual overtone in Biden’s alleged behavior toward her”. But the story also points out that she believes this should not lead people to discount its seriousness. Point taken! Hands off!

So putting aside the grope, for Biden is there hope? A resounding yes, as his behavior pales in comparison to the rapacious assaults of a Harvey Weinstein. There is absolutely no evidence of sexual harassment.

House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, widely seen as the most powerful woman in Washington, has some advice for the ex-vice-president: Keep your hands to yourself. She stood up for him saying that, whatever else we may think of the allegations, they don’t disqualify the former Delaware senator from running for president. She further invited him to join the “straight arm club”.

Some presidential candidates hit the ground running but, sadly, Joe Biden appears to be hobbling before he even reaches the starting blocks. He is struggling to prevent strength from turning into a crippling liability, as he is being forced into damage control mode.

However, it would be somewhat premature to write him off. He has, to his credit, name recognition, that long association with former President, Barack Obama, extensive foreign policy experience, multitudinous friends in the Democratic bureaucracy, and a recognized appeal to blue collar workers in key Midwest states, who, in 2016, abandoned the party for Donald Trump.

Biden has published a book titled “Promise Me, Dad”, which describes a year of unbelievable sensory overload, from his son, Beau’s, cancer to the dilemma of whether to run for president.

Now, following the exposure of your habitual inappropriate embraces, Promise Us, Joe that from henceforth, you a different behavior would show. Keep your hands and face in the right space and you’ll certainly avert further disgrace.

Onward to the presidential race, remaining fully aware that in our current world people’s space is important to them, and more importantly, their reception of it and not necessarily how you intended it. The # Me Too movement will be watching you.

Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.


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