When Biden Apologized for a Compliment

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The most telling event of the week had nothing to do with Michael Cohen. Of all things, it was that Joe Biden felt obliged to apologize after issuing a compliment. 

Biden’s response recognized where passion currently resides among Democrats, which is not without risk as the party seeks a torchbearer to run against President Trump.

 Speaking in Nebraska, the former Vice President was making a point about the damage caused by the Trump administration to relationships with American allies.

He said this:

“The fact of the matter is it was followed on by a guy who’s a decent guy, our vice president, who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, ‘I’m here on behalf of President Trump,’ and there was dead silence. Dead silence.”

It was the reference to Pence as a “decent guy” that landed Biden in hot water on the left, as evidenced by this tweet from actress, LGBTQ activist, and former New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon:

“Joe Biden – you’ve just called America’s most anti-LGBT elected leader ‘a decent guy.’ Please consider how this falls on the ears of our community.”

ALMOST IMMEDIATELY, BIDEN RELENTED, TWEETING:

Almost immediately, Biden relented, tweeting:

“You’re right, Cynthia. I was making a point in a foreign policy context, that under normal circumstances a Vice President wouldn’t be given a silent reaction on the world stage. But there is nothing decent about being anti-LGBTQ rights, and that includes the Vice President.”

My colleague Chris Cillizza joked that Biden probably called two-hundred-thousand people a “decent guy” during his career, and not necessarily because he agrees with them – but rather because it’s a reflection of the collegiality that reigned when Biden cut his teeth politically.

There’s a temptation to say, well, things have changed, and Biden’s compliment of Pence shows the former Veep’s out of touch. 

No doubt it’s a different party now. Different even than that which nominated Obama and Biden in 2008.

It’s a party whose would-be presidential fundraising leader is a self-described Democratic socialist, whose currently ranked the number-one presidential contender by the Washington Post, embraced Medicare for All, and seemed to endorse the end of private insurance.

A party whose breakout star in the Congressional freshman class is a proponent of the Green New Deal, which seeks to “guarantee a job with a family-sustaining wage to all people of the United States.”

And who, this week, warned colleagues that voting with Republicans would land them “on a list” for a primary challenge.

And let’s not forget that a close colleague of AOC celebrated her own swearing-in by saying she and her colleagues were going to impeach the M’F-er.

She’s the same representative who, during the Michael Cohen hearing this past week, seemed to call a Republican colleague a racist.

My point is that there’s a lot of passion for very progressive ideas on the Democratic side of the aisle.

The sort of proposals that enliven the base of the party – the very people who can most be counted on in primary and caucus season.

But can that energy be harnessed by someone who can not only be nominated but also win a general election?

President Trump looks at this pathos as a gift – the sort of thinking that won’t fly in a general election with high school educated white males who crossed party lines to vote for him.

He knows he has not expanded his electoral territory since 2016.

Think about it – can you identify a state he lost in 2016 but has a better chance of winning in 2020?

His fate rests with keeping everything he won in his column in the next go around.

Especially Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan – voters with whom Joe Biden has a lot in common.

 That’s why to Trump, it’s all socialism, as he referenced in his State of the Union address.

And it explains why yesterday, Trump’s running mate, the aforementioned “decent guy” Mike Pence – when speaking at the conservative conference CPAC – used that same phrase.