It’s far from the strangest or most offensive thing he’s ever done, but for some reason the spectacle of Vice President Joe Biden getting “handsy” with freshly-minted Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s wife Stephanie was the straw that broke the camel’s back for a few people on the left.
Well, okay, it didn’t break the camel’s back, but the camel might need an Icy Hot patch to get through the mild and temporary back pain from this particular straw.
Rest assured that Joe Biden remains protected by the impenetrable partisan “D” shield and will never suffer anything more than a bit of light mockery or mild frowning for actions that would immediately vaporize the career of a Republican. If Biden were a Republican, we’d already be swamped with op-eds and Sunday-show passion plays about how his creepy behavior around younger women (and his vicious partisanship, constant stream of idiotic comments, and casual lapses into racism) were symptoms of deep problems within his Party.
A fine example of Biden-freude from the left was penned by Alana Levinson at Talking Points Memo, who was a very good sport when I was mean to her on Twitter, so please do click the link and read her post. She does a fine job of summarizing Biden’s objectionable behavior, but then raises only the mildest objections to it, with a zesty dash of honesty about how liberals give Democrats like Biden unlimited hypocrisy coupons for political reasons. (If you’re in the mood for a more extensive catalog of Biden’s groping, the Washington Examiner put together a photo gallery.)
What I find robotic about this is its predictability. It’s like a computer briefly locking up during an operating system update. There’s no way Joe Biden is ever going to be treated like a Republican by Democrats or their media. The brief shower of puzzled editorials about this double standard is like a glitch that can, and will, be overcome by clicking “Retry” on the liberal mind a few times. It’s a moderately interesting sign of the Obama Administration’s fall from grace that a few liberals declared themselves moderately disturbed by Biden getting into Stephanie Carter’s personal space, but we all know it’ll pass quickly.
It’s the latest example of the left treating politics as the sole measure of character — a philosophy taken to the extreme during those notorious encomiums for Ted Kennedy that implied (or outright stated) Mary Jo Kopechne’s life was a small price to pay for his influential political career. Kennedy can’t possibly be “anti-woman,” because he did so much for “women’s issues” during his Senate career, despite the fact that Kopechne died in his car. On the other hand, a Republican like Mitt Romney can be labeled “anti-woman” because he had the unmitigated gall to put the resumes of female job applicants — provided to him by a feminist group, at his request — into a “binder.”
Have liberals truly forgotten the example set by Bill Clinton? Years of feminist crusading against “sexual harassment” went up like pieces of flash paper in a cheesy stage-magic act when it was time to defend a Democrat president from a clear-cut example of such behavior, followed up by perjury to protect himself from the consequences. As far as anyone knows, Creepy Uncle Joe has never done anything like that. There is nothing complicated or remarkable about his free pass for lechery. You don’t need an essay to explain it, when a simple sentence will do: because he’s a Democrat.
There’s also the matter of liberals’ belief in aristocratic privileges for their top leaders, which is also a major component of the left-wing psyche but something they’re even less eager to talk about than politics-as-character. Embracing liberalism means holding yourself up as intellectually and morally superior to the benighted masses — that’s how you justify using enormous amounts of compulsive government force to make the greedy, sexist, racist, homophobic rubes behave themselves. This means the liberal must regard his own superiors as demigods — people so intelligent and wise that they’re qualified to command the hosts of enlightened liberalism. (This is one reason liberals are so obsessed with credentials, as most recently seen in their efforts to denigrate Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for lacking an advanced degree.) The aristocracy deserves its privileges, ranging from wealth that would be denounced as brutally unfair in the hands of anyone outside left-wing royalty, to the lavish perks of high government office… and, yes, to a bit of sexual harassment here and there.
If all of this truly bothers anyone currently professing to be disturbed by Biden’s performance at Ashton Carter’s swearing-in ceremony, it’s time for some deep soul-searching, because this notion of politics as character is deeply embedded into modern liberalism. You’re never going to persuade the majority of liberal opinion leaders, or journalists, to start treating Democrats with anything resembling the standards they apply to Republicans. The standard for Democrats will always be that their political stances tell us everything we really need to know about their character, until overwhelming evidence of literally criminal behavior forces a reassessment… at which point their party affiliation will be scrubbed from media accounts of their downfall, as part of the ritual process of separating them from the Democrat Party.
That’s how you know it’s time to stick a fork in someone like Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber — the word “Democrat” drops out of the headlines, slides down the greasy slope of interior paragraphs, and finally drops right out of news stories. It’s like watching a hospital monitor go flatline. Good luck finding a mainstream-media story about billionaire financial prestidigitator Jon Corzine that mentions he was the former Democrat Governor of New Jersey, a Democrat Senator, and a top bundler for Barack Obama.
There’s no danger of any such thing happening to Joe Biden, because the process of covering for him has become a game liberals can never walk away from. The contortions they would have gone through to protect a hypothetical Vice President John Edwards would have been spine-cracking, but they might have eventually given up on him. As long as Gaffe Master B remains north of the Edwards moral abyss, he’ll be just fine.
He can grope women of even the most tender age, make comments about Somali cab drivers that would get a Republican hounded out of office for racism, use the most viciously divisive and slanderous rhetoric in his speeches (“They’re going to put y’all back in CHAINS!”), pose for photos with Muslim leaders who thought Israel was a likely suspect in the 9/11 attacks, and say every stupid and inappropriate thing that pops into his head. It won’t matter, because he’s the vice president of the United States from the Democratic Party. There’s no need to search for any more elaborate, or less venal, explanation. If you’re a liberal who isn’t satisfied with that explanation, it’s time to do some hard thinking about liberalism, not Joe Biden.