It’s easy to forget, but Joe Biden used to be a punchline that very few people took seriously as a major political candidate. In 2008, he couldn’t surpass the immortal Bill Richardson in the polls—never exceeding 5% support—and Biden dropped out after the Iowa caucus—the first vote of primary season. Barack Obama single-handedly changed the course of Biden’s career, and after standing next to the most popular politician in America for eight years, Biden has finally gained the mainstream appeal he never was able to assemble on his own, as he officially launched his (doomed) presidential campaign today while leading in tons of polls.
Joe Biden’s Senate career has been defined by being essentially a center-right Republican. In no particular order, here are the 10 worst things Joe Biden has done in his political career*.
*We’re confining this to the legislative and campaign arena, so the creepy Joe Biden stuff, like the title photo of this column, will not be making an appearance.
1. Anita Hill Hearings
When Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of Congress about Brett Kavanaugh’s attempted sexual assault, it depressingly mirrored another testimony like this from Anita Hill about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment in 1994—when Joe Biden and Orrin Hatch oversaw a disastrous testimony that they structured. Biden called no independent experts and forced Hill to defend herself alone against an avalanche of immensely powerful white men, and Joe Biden has since apologized and said he wished he would have done more. This is an ongoing theme with Uncle Joe, where he royally screwed up in the past, defended himself in the past, and then apologized in a more tolerant future that his political instincts are clearly not geared towards.
2. 1994 Crime Bill
In 2016, Joe Biden defended his crime bill that is as responsible for mass incarceration as any other piece of legislation passed in the last forty years, saying:
”I’m not ashamed of [the Crime bill] at all. As a matter of fact, I drafted the bill. We talk about this in terms mostly of ‘black lives matter.’ Black lives really do matter, but the problem is institutional racism in America. That’s the overarching problem that still exists.”
His speech from 1993 defending the bill is one of the more fascist things you will hear out of a modern Democrat.
This is the legacy of the Biden Crime Bill.
3. Had to drop out of the 1988 presidential race for plagiarism
He got caught plagiarizing in law school at Syracuse, and admitted to it. He failed, but was allowed to retake the class. Biden ultimately had to drop out of the 1988 race after it became clear that this didn’t stop in law school, as he stole excerpts of speeches from John F. Kennedy and other famous politicians.
A big chunk of Biden’s brand is wrapped up in being authentic, but his 1988 run was anything but.
4. Reportedly used his son’s death for his own political gain in 2016
Joe Biden has been making his 2016 deliberations all about his late son since August.
Aug. 1, to be exact — the day renowned Hillary Clinton-critic Maureen Dowd published a column that marked a turning point in the presidential speculation.
According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her, painting a tragic portrait of a dying son, Beau’s face partially paralyzed, sitting his father down and trying to make him promise to run for president because “the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”
But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in The New York Times, asking them to call.
5. He voted to gut welfare
Biden was a 1990s Democrat through and through, as he supported all of Bill Clinton’s most conservative policies, like welfare “reform” that ultimately failed, as Jordan Weismann described in Slate:
The Urban Institute’s Pamela Loprest and Sheila Zedlewski found that during the early postreform era, about one-third of single parents were jobless soon after leaving welfare. Those who did find work often earned no more than what they lost in benefits; studies have concluded that anywhere from 42 to 74 percent of those who exited the program remained poor. Meanwhile, states began enrolling fewer new families in welfare. As the rolls shrank, a new generation of so-called disconnected mothers emerged: single parents who weren’t working, in school, or receiving welfare to support themselves or their children. According to Loprest, the number of these women rose from 800,000 in 1996 to 1.2 million in 2008.
In keeping with that trend, researchers have also found a gradual uptick in what economists call deep or extreme poverty. Johns Hopkins’ Edin and Luke Shaefer, now of the University of Michigan, reported that the number of American households with children living on less than $2 in cash per person each day grew 159 percent, from about 636,000 in 1996 to 1.65 million in 2011. Even if you treat the value of food stamps as cash, the number rose some 80 percent, to 857,000. In their book $2.00 a Day, Edin and Shaefer describe women and children living on the fringes of society, relying on homeless shelters and selling their own plasma to get by. “Some of those people are ending up in very frightening conditions that don’t even look like America,” Edin tells me.
6. He gave Obama a classic racist backhand compliment
Before he became Barack Obama’s running mate, he took a shot at America’s soon-to-be first black president that was just dripping in racism. Per Biden:
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Biden went on The Daily Show and apologized for using the word “clean,” saying he should have opted for the word “fresh.” He did not address the “articulate” part of his statement, which is a classic racist backhanded compliment that typically conveys a sense of surprise that a black person can speak clearly and with gravitas.
7. Voted to overturn Glass-Steagall
Glass-Steagall was one of the first things that we did in the wake of the Great Depression, as it created a firewall between investment banking and FDIC-insured deposits, meaning that Wall Street could not gamble with your savings. It is one of the central reasons why so many Wall Street banks are too big to fail. Joe Biden, Bill Clinton and the rest of powerful Democrats in 1999 changed all that, to the dismay of the longest tenured congressman in U.S. history, the late John Dingell, who called our coming crises the night of Biden’s vote in 1999:
I think we ought to look at what we are doing here tonight. We are passing a bill which is going to have very little consideration, written in the dark of night, without any real awareness on the part of most of what it contains.
I just want to remind my colleagues about what happened the last time the Committee on Banking brought a bill on the floor which deregulated the savings and loans. It wound up imposing upon the taxpayers of this Nation about a $500 billion liability …
Having said that, what we are creating now is a group of institutions which are too big to fail. Not only are they going to be big banks, but they are going to be big everything, because they are going to be in securities and insurance, in issuance of stocks and bonds and underwriting, and they are also going to be in banks.
And under this legislation, the whole of the regulatory structure is so obfuscated and so confused that liability in one area is going to fall over into liability in the next. Taxpayers are going to be called upon to cure the failures we are creating tonight, and it is going to cost a lot of money, and it is coming. Just be prepared for those events.
Again, when confronted in the future with the failure of his policies, all Biden could do is apologize.
8. Eulogized one of America’s most famed racists
Perhaps there is no better summation of Joe Biden’s Senate career than the fact that America’s most famed 20th century congressional racist asked him to speak at his funeral. Strom Thurmond staged the longest filibuster in American history, speaking for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the 1957 Civil Rights Act. During his run for presidency in 1948, Governor Thurmond said “There’s not enough troops in the army, to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the n******* race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches.” When confronted with this quote in 1988 (by the time Biden claimed Thurmond had changed into a more tolerant man), Thurmond responded with “I was just trying to protect the rights of the states and the rights of the people. Some in the news media tried to make it a race fight, but it was not that.”
9. Opposed school integration in the 1970s
One big reason why Biden and Thurmond were so close was their joint efforts to oppose integrating schools in the 1970s. Per Politico:
Ed Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican, was the first black senator ever to be popularly elected; Joe Biden was a freshman Democratic senator from Delaware. By 1975, both had compiled liberal voting records. But that year, Biden sided with conservatives and sponsored a major anti-busing amendment. The fierce debate that followed not only fractured the Senate’s bloc of liberals, it also signified a more wide-ranging political phenomenon: As white voters around the country—especially in the North—objected to sweeping desegregation plans then coming into practice, liberal leaders retreated from robust integration policies.
Biden was at the forefront of this retreat: He had expressed support for integration and—more specifically—busing during his Senate campaign in 1972, but once elected, he discovered just how bitterly his white constituents opposed the method. In 1973 and 1974, Biden began voting for many of the Senate’s anti-busing bills, claiming that he favored school desegregation, but just objected to “forced busing.”
“Forced busing” was a phrase that Thurmond leaned on heavily to oppose integrating schools, and when Biden embraced Thurmond’s politics on this issue, he also embraced his rhetoric.
10. Biden voted for the Iraq War
The biggest quagmire of millennials’ lifetimes—our Vietnam, sans the draft—was aided along by Senator Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton lost in 2008 because of this vote, while Barack Obama made hay off his opposition to an immoral and illegal war. Joe Biden’s entire political career is proof that he has been behind the times every single step of the way, and there is no reason to believe that 2020 will be any different.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.