Former Vice President Joe Biden is running on a promise to bring the country together, but he is personally culpable in some of its worst divisions.
He continues to claim — falsely — that President Donald Trump supported neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, when Trump actually said they should be “condemned totally.” It is only the latest case in which Biden sought to exploit racial division and other fault lines in American society to achieve political gain.
1. Biden voted to restore U.S. citizenship to Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. Biden voted to honor Confederate leaders who are now vilified by his party, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the New York Times as racists and traitors who must be expunged from history. He joined a unanimous Senate in voting for citizenship for Lee in 1975, and again in voting for citizenship for Davis in 1977 — the latter being sided into law by Democrat President Jimmy Carter.
2. Biden sided with segregationists. Early in his Senate career, Biden formed alliances with Southern politicians who had been segregationists. He also opposed of “busing,” the policy of forcibly desegregating schools. Though the policy was broadly unpopular, Biden’s opposition went further than many. In an interview in 1975 unearthed by the Washington Examiner, Biden said that busing would lead to “a totally homogeneous society,” hurting black and white people alike.
3. Biden made Supreme Court confirmations fights to the death. Prior to Biden becoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court confirmations were based almost entirely on qualifications; conservative Antonin Scalia was confirmed unanimously in 1986. But the next year, Biden presided over the confirmation hearings for Robert Bork, who was smeared for his conservative views, and rejected. Confirmations have been death matches ever since.
4. Biden’s votes against, and for, war with Iraq. Biden made the wrong call on Iraq — twice. In 1990, he voted against the Gulf War, after Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait and presented a direct threat to U.S. allies in the region. In 2002, he voted for the Iraq War, which was originally justified based on faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. The first war united Americans; the second war divided Americans. Biden made the more divisive call in both cases.
5. Biden conducted the Anita Hill hearings. Biden presided over the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who was nearly derailed by Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment. Biden managed to outrage both sides. Women were furious at the way Hill was treated by Biden and the male members of the committee (Biden now claims, falsely, that he believed Hill at the time.) Others were outraged at the vilification of an eminent black jurist.
6. Biden described Barack Obama in racist terms. Biden has a long history of racist language. One of the more notorious examples involved then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), who ran against Biden in the 2008 presidential campaign (before inviting him to join the ticket). Biden described Obama in demeaning terms: “You got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
7. Biden supported the passage of Obamacare along party lines. The so-called “Affordable Care Act” — which turned out to be unaffordable for many — is the most divisive entitlement in the history of the United States. After it was pushed through Congress against bipartisan opposition, using a parliamentary mechanism in the Senate to evade a filibuster, Biden celebrated with Obama. Not realizing a microphone in the White House was live, he called it a “big fucking deal.”
8. Biden tried to scare black voters against voting for Mitt Romney. In the 2012 campaign, Biden told a largely-African American audience in Danville, Virginia, that the Republican ticket would “put y’all back in chains.” It was a striking remark that Biden later tried to pretend was a reference to middle-class families, not slavery: “The last time these guys unshackled the economy, to use their term, they put the middle class in shackles,” Biden claimed.
9. Biden launched his campaign with the Charlottesville “fine people hoax.” As noted above, Biden launched his campaign with the “fine people hoax,” the false claim that Trump called neo-Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people.” (Trump actually said the “fine people” were non-violent protesters, left and right, over the removal of a Confederate statue.) Biden continues to use the claim during nationwide race riots, seemingly unconcerned about the consequences.
10. Biden claimed that black people could not vote for Trump. In an interview last month with popular radio host Charlemagne tha God, Biden claimed: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” He later tried to claim that Charlemagne had “baited” him into making that statement, but the host denied it — and indeed, video of the interview showed that Biden had brought up the claim independent of any actual question.
The only real claim Biden has to being any kind of unifying figure is the fact that he was chosen by Barack Obama to be his vice president. That, in turn, helped Biden build support in the black community that he had never had before.
Biden has also drawn on his experiences in handling personal grief in an effort to show empathy with the nation as a whole. Yet he has never reckoned with his own role in causing division and pain — not only in the past, but in the present as well.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.