Uneasy lawmakers are warning Democrats to take it easy on party frontrunner Joe Biden (D), worrying that friendly fire may help President Trump secure a victory in 2020.
Biden has been in the midst of a political firestorm over praise of late Sens. James Eastland (D-MS) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA) – both segregationists. Biden has been facing backlash from Democrats and media personalities alike, but some lawmakers – those in the Senate Democratic Caucus specifically – are worried that they are destroying their best chance of defeating Trump in 2020.
“It doesn’t help our cause as Democrats who hope for a next administration that is Democrat to spend time going back and forth,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said, according to the Hill.
“To the extent we get into endless internecine back and forth, that is really harmful to the cause of defeating Donald Trump in 2020,” he added.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said everybody is “picking on” Biden simply because he is leading the pack.
“I think everybody is picking on him, press as well as others. He’s the front-runner so he’s the one to shoot down, so to speak,” she said.
Feinstein does not believe Biden was properly prepared for this kind of scrutiny.
“I think it’s a little unexpected, I don’t think he has figured for this,” she added.
Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) has also tried to explain away Biden’s remarks by pointing to the greater lesson.
“When you’re sitting next to a Senate colleague, especially someone who at the time was in his own party, you’ve got to work together,” he said. “You’ve got to figure out and find some common ground.”
Another Senate Democrat – who spoke to the Hill on the condition of anonymity, characterized Booker’s response as a “cheap shot”:
“I think everybody’s shooting because that elevates, they think, themselves, but I also think it has detriment to it because we’re in the same party. What can happen is you can so weaken the front-runner, you may take his place but you may be weakened by it too,” the lawmaker said. “So my view is, don’t snipe at your people. Run your own race.”
Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA) weighed in on Biden’s political fallout, expressing her desire for everyone to “move on.”
“I certainly wish he wouldn’t have used that example,” she told reporters Thursday. “I think there’s a lot of other examples of where he has worked in a bipartisan fashion. But I would like to see us move on from there. I don’t know what good an apology would serve.”
Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to condemn Biden, instead praising his “authenticity”:
I think that authenticity is the most important characteristic that candidates have to convey to the American people, and Joe Biden is authentic. He has lived his life, he considers certain things a resource, that he has worked across the aisle, that’s what he was saying. That’s not what this election is about. This election is about how we connect with the American people, addressing their kitchen table needs. For us to spend time on an issue like this, which is important, but it’s not central to what the election is about, what the election is about is the financial stability and well-being of Americans working families.
Biden bragged about his ability to lead during a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City Tuesday, telling donors about his special relationship with Eastland in particular.
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said. “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”
“Well, guess what?” he continued. “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,” he added. “Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
Biden’s example fell flat, as Eastland and Talmadge were both Democrats.
As Breitbart News continued in its reporting:
Eastland, who served as senator from 1943 to 1978, was known as the “voice of the white South” for his stringent opposition to civil rights and integration. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Eastland attempted to derail both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
In his first Senate campaign, the New York Times wrote in Eastland’s obituary, “He often appeared in Mississippi courthouse squares, promising the crowds that if elected he would stop blacks and whites from eating together in Washington. He often spoke of blacks as ‘an inferior race.’”
The backlash was swift. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) came out with a strong statement, urging Biden to apologize to the American people.
“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys.’ Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity,” Booker’s statement said in part.
“Frankly, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans,” Booker added. “He should.”
Biden told reporters that Booker “knows better” and should apologize, but he reportedly called him afterward to clear the air. However, Booker remained firm in his demand for an apology. He is not the only one calling for one, either:
I agree with Cory Booker. This is especially true at a time when the Trump administration is trying to divide us up with its racist appeals. https://t.co/VyVcG6srQM
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 19, 2019
WARREN on Biden: “I’m not here to criticize other Democrats but it’s never ok to celebrate segregationists. Never.”
— Alan He (@alanhe) June 19, 2019
For the record, Cory Booker does *not* owe Joe Biden an apology for pointing out that waxing nostalgic about working with segregationists is insensitive.
“He knows better?” Really? What is “better?” To stay quiet about it? https://t.co/RvFzqAXPI5
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 20, 2019