Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither:
Ripeness is all.
—spoken by Edgar in King Lear by William Shakespeare
As someone a decade older than Joe Biden, I sympathize with him: In the past century, times have indeed changed markedly with relations between the sexes, as well they should. One can see that he understands this, and is trying his best to change. But for Biden — despite his current popularity — it’s too late, at least for the purpose of running for president of the United States.
If he were nominated it would be ironic that misogyny might become a major battle of the presidential race. This topic should be a simple win for the Democrats: Trump’s a world-class sexist, with buckets of evidence — tapes, tweets, videos, entire books — to prove it. Of the 20+ Democratic candidates, only against Biden could Trump retaliate with ammunition of his own. Biden has already apologized for his behavior — but if he didn’t satisfy Anita Hill (see her May 10th letter to The New York Times) — it’s not going to work with voters, either.
Biden’s instincts haven’t helped him. He doesn’t realize how much damage was done not only to Hill, but to other specific women, and to women in general still today, as shown during the confirmation hearing of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. How many voters will blame Biden for both of these macho males — Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas — who’ll be dragging us backward for years to come? To use lawyerly language, with his handling of the Hill case, Biden set a precedent.
When he talks about Hill’s trial, he still hedges. Recently he said, “To this day, I regret I couldn’t give her the kind of hearing she deserved.” But why couldn’t he? He failed to allow at least three credible women to testify against Thomas; he failed to show letters some of the women wrote, and later falsely claimed they backed out on their own.
Biden has led a good life, and has handled great personal tragedy with dignity. His vice presidency under Barack Obama gives him instant and positive name recognition. And, again to his credit, he’s going hard after Trump — but so will everyone eventually. He raised big money on his first day in the race, and is ahead in the polls. Still, we have a ridiculously long way to go, and the run for president can be a nasty and negative experience, undoubtedly for Biden embarrassing; and he deserves better. His opening statement that we’re fighting for “the soul of our country” was right on, but almost all Democrats have far more specific ideas on how to achieve this than Biden has even hinted at.
I’ve left out so far his vote for the Iraq war (which hurt Hillary), his “hard on crime” outlook (similar to Trump’s), and the women who’ve come out accusing him of squeezing their shoulders and nuzzling their necks like a tipsy uncle. Doesn’t he realize how many more will pop up during our extended and overheated presidential campaign? This “handsiness” isn’t Trump-like behavior, who tends to skip the neck part, but it’s not good; and the Democrats don’t need it.
I’m sure I’d like Joe Biden if I met him, and with all his political experience he has much to offer the country, even at the age of 78. He’d probably still make a decent vice president; that would be a smart choice for one of the Democratic contenders — an experienced vice president!: “Kamala Harris and Joe Biden” has a nice ring to it. But this isn’t the time for him to run for president. For governor of Delaware maybe. Or he could retire to St. Pete and run for mayor. I’d like to hear him debate Darden Rice.
We number two or three hundred
Million. We are hungry. We sit in the coffee shop waiting.
Why do the trains and pipelines not serve us the breakfast?
We will see this through.
We will make it to lunch.
—from “Juice” in Fifty Poems Fifty by Reed Whittemore (U. of Minnesota Press, 1970)