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Friday, May 29, 2020

Joe Biden: Sexual assault case, other controversies that can spoil his presidential bid

His last opponent, Bernie Sanders, highlighted certain controversial political decisions that Biden had taken in the past to label him as someone who was out of touch with the modern Democratic party.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: May 5, 2020 4:36:20 pm
'Everyone's watching': Biden's VP audition process begins Biden has limited some of the mystery by promising to pick a woman, a potentially important move as he faces scrutiny after a former Senate staffer alleged he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Even as Joe Biden, former vice-president and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, readies himself for the 2020 presidential election due to be held in November this year, there are certain undeniable political hurdles and alleged sexual assault cases against him that could sour his chances.

His last opponent from the same party, Bernie Sanders, highlighted certain controversial political decisions that Biden had taken in the past to label him as someone who was out of touch with the modern Democratic party.

Here are some challenges, both political and non-political, before Biden:

US involvement in Iraq War

Earlier in March, Sanders attacked Biden on an issue akin to the one he had used against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: US’ involvement in Iraq war, particularly Biden voting for the decision. Sanders was quoted as saying by the BBC that Biden will have to explain to America – that’s tired of endless wars that have led to a huge loss of lives, cost trillions of dollars, destablised many regions across the world – as to why he was one of the leaders who got us involved in the Iraq war.

Sanders, who is a senator from Vermont, has often highlighted the fact that he had voted against the invasion while the former vice-president conceded. In an interview to CNN in March, Sanders had said that Biden not only voted but helped lead the US effort for the Iraq war, which was possibly the most “dangerous foreign policy blunder in the modern history of this country.”

In the CNN interview he was further quoted as saying, “Joe Biden voted for the disastrous trade agreements, like NAFTA, and permanent normal trade relations with China, which cost us millions of jobs.”

Sanders’ charges against Biden on the Iraq war vote and NAFTA share similar echoes in his heated debates against Clinton during the 2016 primary.

It remains to be seen whether the Iraq issue could be used by the Trump campaign to launch an attack on Biden.

‘Moneyed interests’

One of the sharpest lines of attack utilised by Sanders was in context to Biden’s relations with ‘moneyed interests’. The BBC quoted Sanders as saying in March that the former vice-president “bailed out the crooks on Wall Street who nearly destroyed our economy 12 years ago”. This was in relation to the steepest freefall the US stocks had witnessed in a day since the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Separately, the Vermont senator has also alleged during poll debates that Biden took money from his backers, which was in stark contrast to his campaign that he claims was managed mostly through fundraising and small donations.

Social security issue 

In a tweet on March 6, Sanders said Joe Biden “repeatedly advocated for cuts to Social Security” even as he fought for it during his whole career. Chasing after Biden’s rather mixed record of supporting US government’s social welfare schemes for those who have retired has been a recurrent theme for Sanders, which he used to give a fillip to his campaign.

When Biden was a senator prior to his stint as the vice-president in the Obama administration, he had said that the issue of Social Security should be subject to government austerity. “When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well,” he said in 1995, as quoted by the BBC.

When Biden was challenged on the very same social security issue during campaign trail, he forthrightly denied backing cuts in Social Security.

Abortion rights

During a one-on-one presidential debate with Biden in the month of March, Vermont senator Sanders told a rally that Biden in the past has voted for the Hyde Amendment, as per which women in the US could not avail of Medicaid dollars to protects their reproductive rights and get an abortion.

Biden’s position on abortion has been used as a line of attack by Sanders. In the past, as a senator in 1981, Sanders had supported an amendment which would have given states rights to revoke the apex court ruling that guaranteed the right to abortion. Last year as well, Sanders had said he supported the Hyde Amendment, but when it became clear that he was the only Democrat to back the amendment, he changed his course.

Tara Reade sexual assault allegations, and more

The former vice-president has faced growing calls to react to a sexual assault allegation against him by a former employee and other instances where he had inappropriately touched women. So on Friday, Biden emphatically denied allegations from Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer, that he sexually assaulted her in the early 1990s, declaring flatly that “this never happened.”

This was Biden’s first public remarks on the accusation by Reade but came at a critical moment for the presumptive Democratic nominee as he tries to relieve mounting pressure after weeks of leaving denials to his campaign.

“I’m saying unequivocally, it never, never happened,” the former vice president and senator said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Also Read | What are the sexual assault allegations against White House hopeful Joe Biden?

Only last month, a former employee to Biden during his term in the Senate in the 90s, Tara Reade publicly alleged sexual harassment and assault against the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. She alleged that Biden assaulted her inside the Capitol building in 1993 even as the White House hopeful’s campaign denied the incident and urged the media to investigate the matter. Biden is yet to respond to her allegation.

Over the last year, at least eight other women, including Reade, have recalled instances where Biden inappropriately kissed, hugged, and touched them. Former Nevada legislator Lucy Flores’ allegation came out earlier this month in which she accused Biden of kissing and touching her.

Later, as per the New York Times, Biden acknowledged it and said he had shown “expressions of affection” to people during his years on the campaign trail, but maintained that “not once — never — did I believe I acted inappropriately”.

Read | Reade: ‘I didn’t use sexual harassment’ in Biden complaint

Following this, when Senator Bernie Sanders was asked on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’, he was quoted by the NYT as saying, “I have no reason not to believe Lucy.” And when he was asked if the claim was enough to disqualify Biden from the presidential race, he said in the same show, “I think that’s a decision for the vice president to make. I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”

Flores first levelled her allegations in an article that was published in New York magazine’s The Cut. She said, as per the NYT, that when Biden campaigned for her and other Democrats that year, he put his hands on her shoulders and gave “a big slow kiss” on the back of her head.

Earlier this month, Biden addressed the issues surrounding him in what seems to be a homemade video, in which he laid out his opinion on connecting with voters, emotionally and physically, and also promising to be “be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space.”

“In my career, I’ve always tried to make a human connection — that’s my responsibility, I think,” said Biden, as quoted by the NYT. “I shake hands, I hug people, I grab men and women by the shoulders and say, ‘You can do this.’”
He added, “Social norms have begun to change, they’ve shifted, and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and I get it. I get it. I hear what they’re saying.”

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