As usual, the media misses the point in the “civility” flap about Joe Biden’s boast that he was on good terms with former Mississippi Sen. James Eastland. The coverage has focused on Biden’s quote that Eastland “never called me ‘boy.’ He called me ‘son.'”
But the issue shouldn’t be civility. It should be racism and pandering.
Newly released letters from the Eastland archives at Ol’ Miss reveal what the two of them were up to. Biden had asked Eastland’s help in passing his amendment to bar the feds from using school busing as a means to redress school segregation in cases where there is no finding of deliberate racial intent in drawing school catchment areas.
Biden’s amendment passed with Eastland’s help.
Busing was one of the most destructive public policies of our time.
It triggered white flight that re-segregated countless schools and almost destroyed the public school system. But Biden’s amendment, at the time, was part of the post-Nixon Democratic response to the Republican “southern strategy” of embracing white racism for political advantage.
Biden wrote Eastland, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to solicit his help in passing the amendment. On March 2, 1977, Biden, a freshman senator, wrote Eastland: “My bill strikes at the heart of the injustice of court-ordered busing. It prohibits the federal courts from disrupting our educational system in the name of the Constitution where there is no evidence that the governmental officials intended to discriminate.”
He added: “I believe there is growing sentiment in the Congress to curb unnecessary busing.”
Two years earlier, it was a Biden amendment that prohibited the Department of Health, Education and Welfare from ordering busing to achieve racial integration in schools.
So, the issue is not civility to one’s opponents. It is Biden’s embrace of the anti-busing movement which lay at the core of the white backlash against racial integration at the time.
Biden’s courtship of Eastland was persistent and disgusting.
On June 30, 1977, he wrote Eastland: “I want you to know that I very much appreciate your help during this week’s Committee meeting in attempting to bring my antibusing legislation to a vote.”
He wrote again to ask that Eastland speak out on behalf of the Biden amendment during the floor debate in the Senate.
Are the actions of a 35-year-old freshman senator relevant to a 77-year-old’s pursuit of the presidency? You bet they are.
As John Kennedy said in his first inaugural address “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger, ended up inside.”
The opportunism that lay at the core of Biden’s embrace of the anti-busing cause has likely not been expunged from his character.
But there is another point. Delaware, Biden’s home state, was a slave state. It did not join the Confederacy partially because Lincoln hijacked the Maryland state legislature and would not permit it to leave the union.
Delaware, separated from the south by Maryland, could not very well secede on its own.
In fact, Delaware was so southern back then that its voters rejected Lincoln’s plan for compensated emancipation of its slaves, paid for by the federal government.
In this light, his anti-busing amendment should not be seen — as he maintains — as an excrescence in his otherwise spotless civil rights record, but as a logical outgrowth of the sometimes racist views of his constituents, a much less forgivable sin.
Biden’s support of busing and capital punishment and NAFTA and normalization of trade with China and the Pacific Rim treaty and (now reversed) the Hyde Amendment will make him unacceptable to the new leftist Democratic Party.
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