My brother-in-law is an elementary school music teacher. Early in his teaching career, students made thank-you notes at the end of the school year to show appreciation for their teachers. One of the notes stood out for the message inside.
Feedback: You made some mistakes. Try not to do that next time.
Right now Joe Biden is getting some “feedback” about his treatment of women after two of them came forward with stories of uncomfortably close encounters with the former VP.
I’ve already said that I do not think Joe Biden should run for the presidency, so this is not about that. Biden might well decide to run, get the nomination, win the general election and become president. I am notoriously bad about predicting these things, so I won’t. I just don’t think Biden should run.
Biden’s response to the first accuser, in the form of a written statement posted by a spokesman Sunday morning, looks like this:
You made a few mistakes, Joe. Let’s take it apart.
“In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life…” So far so good…
“I have offered countless handshakes…” Offering a handshake is a pretty straightforward gesture: one simply extents a hand. Rejecting the offer is equally straightforward: one does not return the gesture.
“…hugs…” Hugs are another matter. How do you know if someone wants a hug? Do you ask? If you guess at it, you’re already on shaky ground.
“…expressions of affection, support and comfort.” These can take a wide range of forms, which may or may not be welcomed or appropriate.
“Never — not once — did I believe I acted inappropriately.” Hold on. Never? Not once? No one ever said or did anything to make you believe you acted inappropriately? Never, even in hindsight, did you consider that you might have screwed up? I find this remarkable, which is to say very hard for me to believe.
And why, by the way, are we talking about what you believe instead of what you allegedly did?
“If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully.” In disbelief, apparently.
“But it was never my intention.” And that’s not an apology. Nor is it an excuse. All sorts of things happen in life that were unintended. People never intended to have a traffic accident, am I right? That’s why we call them accidents. And while a prosecutor might have to show intent to get a conviction in some criminal cases, intent has no bearing on whether something happened. Actions have consequences, but talking about intentions shifts the focus and misses the point.*
“I may not recall these moments the same way, and I may be surprised at what I hear.” You may not even believe your ears. Wait, didn’t we cover this already?
“But we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.” Yes, “What Women Feel,” by Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Thank you, Joe. How about attending to the experiences that Lucy Flores and Amy Lappos have now related?
“I will also remain the strongest advocate I can be for the rights of women.” Big strong man to the rescue.
“I will fight to build on the work I’ve done in my career to end violence against women…” Good.
“…and ensure women are treated with the equality they deserve.” This rings hollow, because there are so many images and so much video of you interacting with women and girls very differently than you do with males.
“I will continue to surround myself with trusted women advisers…” We’ll call them Joe’s Girls. Or something. Still working on that.
“…who challenge me to see different perspectives than my own.” Did any of these trusted women advisors see this statement before you released it? If so, they’re not challenging you hard enough.
“And I will continue to speak out on these vitally-important issues…” Without addressing specific allegations made against me…
“…where there is much more progress to be made…” Such as equal pay, reproductive freedom, equal representation (wait, maybe don’t mention that)…
“…and crucial fights that must be waged and won.” By me, as your next president.
Hugs to all…
*Biden’s intentions aren’t the issue, as eloquently explained by Washington Post editorial writer Molly Roberts here: It doesn’t matter what Joe Biden meant to do.