At the end of April, former Vice President Joe Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign with a short video posted to social media — a video that highlighted the Charlottesville, Virginia, violence of 2017 and tried to connect the president and his legacy to it.
That video was created by Mark Putnam, described in a Twitter post by The New York Times’ Alex Burns as a “cinematic Dem admaker who signed on early.”
Putnam left the campaign the same way he signed on: Early. A little less than two months after the Biden campaign began, Putnam became its first high-profile departure.
More Biden news: Mark Putnam, cinematic Dem admaker who signed on early, splits with ex-VP’s campaign
“I wish the vice president well,” Mr. Putnam said.https://t.co/Qkdhuf894c
— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) June 20, 2019
“Mr. Putnam declined to address the reasons for his departure, though they did not appear to be related to Mr. Biden’s struggles over the last few weeks concerning abortion rights and race,” The Times noted in a Wednesday piece headlined “Biden and Democratic Rivals Exchange Attacks Over His Remarks on Segregationists.”
“I wish the vice president well,” Putnam said, according to The Times.
If Putnam’s exit was unrelated to the current controversies — Biden’s “fond recollections of working relationships with segregationists in the Senate” and his flip-flopping on the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions — it was an odd addendum for an article that dealt with the fallout from both of those matters, particularly the first one.
On Tuesday, Biden recalled his relationship with former Sen. James Eastland, an arch-segregationist Mississippi Democrat who referred to blacks as “an inferior race,” among other faux pas.
His relationship with Eastland had previously come under attack because of unearthed letters from Biden thanking Eastland for working with him on the issue of racial busing.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden told an audience at a fundraiser Tuesday, affecting a Southern drawl. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”
“Well guess what?” Biden said, according to reports.
“At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
Joe Biden, recounting working with the late senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge: “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy” pic.twitter.com/ohTlTbS9Se
— Matt Viser (@mviser) June 19, 2019
Several other members of the Democratic field — including Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — condemned Biden for the remarks.
Harris, according to The Times, said Biden “doesn’t understand the history of our country and the dark history of our country.”
Booker, according to CNBC, issued a statement saying that “frankly, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.”
Biden was unapologetic.
“Cory should apologize,” Biden said, according to The Times. “He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body. I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.”
If Putnam’s departure was indeed unrelated, it’s worth noting that he’s the man responsible for the video that made fighting white supremacy the raison d’être of Biden’s 2020 campaign, painting the Trump White House as having made common cause with it.
“The campaign world knew that Joe Biden would announce his presidential bid Thursday in an early morning video release. But few were expecting it would be so dark and funereal,” Politico’s Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki noted in an article after the video’s release.
“Filled with extensive footage of white supremacists marching with torches, scenes of Nazi and Confederate flags and pegged to President Trump’s reaction to the 2017 racist march in Charlottesville, the 3-minute, 30-second spot was an unlikely announcement video — especially for Uncle Joe, one of the last of the happy warriors.
“Where other 2020 Democratic candidates talked about their biographies and offered sunny visions of the future, Biden launched his campaign with a nod to one of the nation’s darkest moments in recent years, casting the election as a referendum on the president and a need to return to core American values.”
Yes, well, we now know where Biden stands on those “core American values” in re: white supremacists. Beyond that, however, Putnam’s departure is a major sign of trouble in paradise.
If being in the employ of a major political campaign is what interests a fellow — and Putnam is, Reuters notes, “a Democratic advertising and video maker who worked for Obama and several of last year’s successful congressional candidates” — leaving a presidential effort that still enjoys a hefty polling advantage doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
It makes even less sense when you consider he’d worked for the unsuccessful “Draft Biden” campaign in 2016, which had urged the former vice president to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
If Putnam’s decision to exit stage left indeed “did not appear to be related” to the current controversies — and we have no reason to doubt The New York Times on this account — it certainly doesn’t make them look any better.
That’s particularly true when you consider that Putnam was arguably the man who brought white supremacy front and center for the Biden campaign.
If this is a departure in isolation, it may not matter so much. If it’s the start of a trend, however, there could be plenty of trouble, but paradise may be short-lived.
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