Commentary

Biden Now Claims He Was a Victim of Apartheid in South Africa

Joe Biden is apparently really worried about those black and Latino voters.

The line from the Biden campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire was, yes, he’d Hindenburg’ed the first two states to vote. Biden’s support, his campaign argued, lay with the minority voters that make up a significant proportion of the Democrat electorate and hadn’t even voted yet, considering that neither of those first two states was exactly a hotbed of diversity.

In short, #IowaAndNewHampshireSoWhite.

But Nevada has a fairly substantial Latino population. When the state’s Democrats caucused on Saturday, Vermont’s socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders was the clear winner with more than 46 percent of the votes and counting, according to HuffPost, while Biden got roughly half the vote Sanders did.

The Sanders victory wasn’t exactly powered by lily-white college insurgents, either:

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Clearly, Biden knew something was up. That’s why he’s now started painting himself as a victim of apartheid.

Yes, Uncle Joe is back to the old tactics that once led The Atlantic to say that Biden “has the limber storyteller’s tendency to stretch.” He’s done it recounting stories ranging from his experiences with the American military as vice president to the tragic death of his first wife back in 1972.

This time, according to a report from The New York Times published Friday, he’s telling voters that South Africa’s apartheid-era government arrested him when he was in the country and sought to visit an imprisoned Nelson Mandela.

“This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,” Biden told an audience in South Carolina in mid-February.

“I had the great honor of meeting him. I had the great honor of being arrested with our U.N. ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island.”

Mandela was incarcerated on Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town. But beyond the added “s,” those of us who competed in the geography bee as middle schoolers may indeed notice a problem here:

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Biden didn’t confine this talk to South Carolina; he also made the claim while campaigning in Nevada.

“After he got free and became president, he came to Washington and came to my office,” Biden said last Sunday at a brunch that just so happened to be a black history awards ceremony, according to The Times.

“He threw his arms around me and said, ‘I want to say thank you.’ I said, ‘What are you thanking me for, Mr. President?’ He said, ‘You tried to see me. You got arrested trying to see me.’”

You may perhaps have guessed the problem with Biden’s story:

“But if Mr. Biden, then a United States senator from Delaware, was in fact arrested while trying to visit Mr. Mandela, he did not mention it in his 2007 memoir when writing about a 1970s trip to South Africa, and he has not spoken of it prominently on the 2020 campaign trail,” The Times reported. “A check of available news accounts by The New York Times turned up no references to an arrest. South African arrest records are not readily available in the United States.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Biden “spoke of getting arrested in South Africa between efforts to coax his wife to marry him. That proposal occurred in 1977, both Bidens have said.”

Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor who was the United States’ U.N. ambassador at the time, was also skeptical of the account, given he didn’t believe members of Congress would be arrested in South Africa.

“No, I was never arrested and I don’t think he was, either,” Young told The Times.

“Now, people were being arrested in Washington. I don’t think there was ever a situation where congressmen were arrested in South Africa.”

So, the “limber storyteller” strikes again. Biden has stayed away from this kind of wild-eyed self-mythologizing for a while, mostly because you were almost amazed when one of these myths turned out to be true.

Remember the surprise when elements of the “Corn Pop” story — in which he recounted a showdown with a teenage gangster who went by that rather unbelievable sobriquet — turned out to be accurate? You could have knocked me over with a dog-faced pony soldier.

If Biden was arrested by the apartheid-era authorities in South Africa, he would have talked about it before now. I know this because I’m familiar with how Joe Biden works. Biden would name-check himself if that were socially acceptable. If something ever happened to Joe Biden that would help him with voters, Joe Biden would be the first to tell you about it. His campaign slogan should be “My Friend Barack.”

You think he didn’t bother telling this Mandela story until now because he’s a modest chap?

No. What I’m guessing happened is that he looked at the polls and saw other candidates eating into his minority support, which is basically the only thing keeping his campaign from collapsing into a miasma of 2004 Howard Dean-ocracy. In his predictably patronizing way, he said, “You guys like Mandela? Fine. I’ll give you some Mandela.”

It didn’t help in Nevada. I’d wager it won’t help him in South Carolina, where his lead has all but disappeared and anything but a convincing victory will be as close to a death knell for his campaign as you could get.

Does he withdraw after that? Does he talk about having spent his time before he was in the Senate organizing grape-harvesters with Cesar Chavez out in California and sharing a cell with Martin Luther King Jr. in a Birmingham jail? You make the call.

Given Biden’s history, it’s not a difficult one.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Birthplace
Morristown, New Jersey
Education
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture




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