Former Vice President Joe Biden seems to have missed the mark in his wistful reminiscing about the “civility” that used to pervade Congress, as he touted his friendships with virulent segregationists at a New York fundraiser Tuesday night.
According to the Washington Post, he was riffing on his ability to “bring people together” when he name-dropped the late Sen. James Eastland (D-MS), who believed that black people belonged to an “inferior race.” Biden proudly said that Eastland called him “son” and not “boy.”
As the Post points out, it’s unclear why Biden felt that this was an indication of respect, as “boy” was a derogatory identifier used to degrade black men.
Biden also cited the late Sen. Herman Talmadge (D-GA), another segregationist who he called “one of the meanest guys I ever knew,” but added that “at least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done.”
The Biden campaign declined to comment on the record.
Some observers reacted strongly to the anecdotes.
A senior writer at Rolling Stone:
Eastland was known as the “Voice of the White South.” He opposed the Civil Rights Act, complained of “mongrelization,” and spoke of black people as “an inferior race.” He may have liked you, @JoeBiden. He still voted to undermine our humanity. You just disproved your whole point. https://t.co/H35eEBALJN
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 19, 2019
A New York Times opinion columnist:
This is a good example of how “civility” (as opposed to decency or good faith) is nothing more than accommodation with the powerful for their own comfort https://t.co/vdzdeOVw7K
— b-boy bouiebaisse (@jbouie) June 19, 2019
A Vox editor and cofounder:
The idea that politics shouldn’t be an all-consuming war makes sense, but Joe Biden’s ability to reminisce about getting along with segregationists on a personal level despite their policy disagreements illustrates a real lack of self-reflection as to what the issue was.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) June 19, 2019
Correction: This post originally identified Sens. Talmadge and Eastland as Republicans.