If you’re someone on the Joe Biden campaign, here’s a handy way to ensure you’ll keep your job: Don’t ask the big guy, “So, how’s your week going?”
There were the first round of debates, in which a flat-footed Biden was attacked by everyone on stage and staggered to find any sort of footing. Not only did the debates show that Biden’s opponents were going to use his past against him — in particular his unsavory association with arch-segregationists on the using issue — they were also going to bring up his age as a way of showing he’s out of touch.
Two days later on Saturday, he did himself no favors in the “out of touch” department when he made a comment about the speed of cultural change and seems to have misjudged his audience.
To be fair, his audience was in Seattle, where the rush to the left tends to happen a bit more quickly.
Even judging by that crowd, however, this is the kind of pandering that kills campaigns.
At the fundraiser, Biden said that if five years ago, someone “made fun of a gay waiter” at a business meeting, others in the room would have simply let it go. He said that “that person would not be invited back” now.
Those in attendance, according to CNN, “vocally responded to the remark and some in the crowd said homophobic comments would not have gone unchallenged even before five years ago.”
“Not in Seattle!” one individual said.
To make things worse, this came at a fundraiser put together for Biden by Roger Nyhus, a PR executive who’s a bigwig in Seattle’s gay rights community.
Now, mind you, there was plenty of other pandering at the Seattle event; Biden talked about how he had come out for gay marriage before President Obama, who eventually came around to support it: “The American people are so far ahead of their leaders on this issue.”
And then there was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots: “Think of the incredible, physical, moral courage it took to stand up and fight back,” he said.
Those riots, by the way, were four years before Biden said that, while he hadn’t considered the issue, he thought that LGBT individuals in government would likely constitute “security risks.”
I’m sure he’s “evolved” on that just the way that other politicians — including Barack Obama — “evolved” on gay marriage. That being said, I don’t think that you’d be able to make a joke about a gay waiter in any mixed company at the business level in many places in America five years ago and had it tolerated. This isn’t just in Seattle; I don’t think you could have gotten away with that crack anywhere five years ago.
Perhaps that’s why he thought that “[t]he American people are so far ahead of their leaders on this issue.” Aside from his embrace of gay marriage, pretty much everyone was ahead of Biden.
It wasn’t the first time that Biden has trotted this one out before an LGBT-centric group.
In September 2018, speaking at the Human Rights Campaign’s dinner, Biden said, “If you were at a fancy restaurant in Washington five or six years ago at an important business meeting, and a gay or lesbian waiter came up, or transgender, spoke with a lisp or demonstrated they were gay or lesbian, and someone at that luncheon table made fun of that person, no one would have said anything. Not a joke.”
“Today, if that same thing happened, the other four or five people at that table would say, ‘You horse’s tail, get outta here!’ Really! So guys, believe in yourselves. Believe in how much more you can do.”
Well, all right. How about we agree on one thing, Joe? Five years ago, the type of person you would have had a luncheon with would have made a homophobic remark about a gay waiter, and other people at the table wouldn’t have said anything. Deal?
It has been a bad week for Joe Biden. In both this speech and that debate, you can glimpse the possibility of worse weeks for a pandering gaffe machine long past the point of diminishing returns.
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