Two black candidates running for the Democratic presidential nomination claim Joe Biden — who served as vice president for America’s first half-black, half-white president, Barack Obama — is racist, with one claiming on Sunday that his views are causing “pain” nationwide.
Before the first Democratic debates last week, Biden said the death of bipartisanship in Congress has led to gridlock. But he said in his time in the Senate, he was actually able to work with everyone, even segregationist lawmakers.
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“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said, referring to a Mississippi senator who served for more than 35 years and opposed civil rights. “He never called me ‘boy’; he always called me ‘son,’ ” he said at a New York City fundraiser, according to a pool report from the event.
“Well, guess what? At least there was some civility,” Biden said, adding that he also worked with Georgia Sen. Herman Talmadge, another segregationist Democrat. “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.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) hit Biden on Sunday, saying the presidential front runner’s words are “causing a lot of frustration and even pain” across the nation.
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Booker said on “Meet the Press” that Biden might not be able to “lead our country forward.”
“This is a bad culture when you can’t admit mistakes, when you can’t speak to your vulnerabilities and your imperfections,” Booker said.” “We all have them, but when it comes to difficult issues with race, if you can’t talk openly and honestly about your own development on these issues, I think it’s very hard to lead our country forward so that we can actually deal with our past and rise to a better common cause and common future.”
During last week’s primary debate in Miami, Sen. Kamala Harris of California blasted Biden’s comments, also alleging that he opposed busing programs to integrate schools. Getting into Biden’s face, Harris said “it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country,” adding that as a young girl, she was bused to school daily.
“[There] was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day,” Harris said. “And that little girl was me.” Within days, her campaign was selling the shirt for $30.
But critics have blasted Biden for authoring the 1994 Crime Bill, which led to high incarceration rates for blacks by setting up differing sentences guidelines for crack-related crimes compared to powder cocaine. The critics also say he did not protect the accuser of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill, when he headed up the Senate Judiciary Committee.
in 2007, when Biden was running for the presidential nomination, he said Obama was “the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Obama, who would later pick him as his running mate, said at the time, ““I didn’t take Senator Biden’s comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. … African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun, and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate.”
After the debate, Biden dismissed the charges that he is racist. “I respect Sen. Harris, but we all know that 30 seconds or 60 seconds during a campaign debate exchange can’t do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights. I want to be absolutely clear about my record and position on racial justice, including busing. I never, never, never opposed voluntary busing and the program that Sen. Harris participated in and made a difference in her life.”