Joe Biden doesn't get personal space, and Donald Trump doesn't get hypocrisy

How curious that our president, promoter of grabbing women by their private parts, feels he can mock anyone on the treatment of the opposite sex. Yet, there he was earlier this week roasting Joe Biden over accusations that the former vice president and possible presidential contender had been a little too touchy-feely with women.

During a speech at a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee, President Donald Trump told a crowd he “felt like Joe Biden” when he asked for a kiss from a general who told him the country could defeat ISIS. He questioned Mr. Biden about whether he was having a good time amid the charges.

Typical hypocrisy from President Trump who has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct, including forcibly kissing women on the lips, groping their behinds or breasts and making lewd comments about their bodies. He is certainly not the one to pass judgement on such matters. Mr. Trump’s alleged transgressions, which he has denied, are far worse than anything Mr. Biden is accused of.

That said, Mr. Biden shouldn’t get a pass either. We wouldn’t yet call him a suspect of any “me too” sexual harassment behavior based on the complaints against him. And we certainly don’t think that acting over-affectionate disqualifies him from running for the nation’s top office even if he does come off as a bit creepy. But his explanation that he has for years given out “expressions of affection, support and comfort,” doesn’t cut it. He definitely needs to practice a little bit more self-awareness.

He finally seemed to get that late Wednesday when he said in a video posted to Twitter that he understands social norms have changed and that “the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset.”

“I will be more mindful and respectful of people’s personal space,” he said. “And that’s a good thing.”

We get that Mr. Biden’s style of communication is uninhibited and that his manner of expression is more indicative of the era in which he grew up. That way of communicating is not acceptable to everyone today. We are glad, Mr. Biden, that you finally understand that times have changed. Better late than never. But understand that scrutiny will be high to see if you have really learned a lesson and follow through.

The former vice president’s original explanation that he didn’t believe he acted inappropriately — not even once — discounted the feelings of at least four women who said he made them feel uncomfortable. And the fact that others welcomed his physical contact doesn’t change anything. Communication is not a one-way street, and your feelings aren’t the only one’s that matter, Mr. Biden. The Me Too movement has reminded women to take back their bodies and speak out when they are in not-so-pleasant situations.

Former Nevada state legislator Lucy Flores was one of the women who said Mr. Biden crossed her comfort zone threshold. She wrote in an essay that he placed his hands on her during a campaign rally and gave her a “big slow kiss” on the forehead. People have a right to their personal space, and plenty of women don’t want to be kissed on the top of the head by a man who is little more than a stranger, and a powerful one at that.

Another woman, Amy Lappos, a former congressional aid to Rep. Jim Himes, said Mr. Biden, rubbed noses with her at a 2009 fundraiser, according to The Washington Post. Caitlyn Caruso said Mr. Biden put his hand on her thigh and hugged her “just a little bit too long” at an event on sexual assault at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when she was 19. D.J. Hill, a 59-year-old writer said that at a fund-raising event in Minneapolis that the then vice president dropped his hand down her back while taking a photograph. We wonder how many more women will come forward if Mr. Biden doesn’t get this narrative under control.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested that Mr. Biden keep an arm’s length from women and maybe treat them like they have a cold. We would hope Mr. Biden could practice self-control without treating women as if they’re infectious. We certainly don’t want to come to the day that men adopt the methods of Vice President Mike Pence, who won’t even be alone with a woman without his wife, because people can’t keep their hands to themselves.

Ms. Pelosi’s advice is solid: “He has to understand in the world that we’re in now that people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it,” she said in an interview with Politico Playbook.

Mr. Biden now needs to prove that he’s not stuck in the past. If he can’t, he’ll prove less a formidable alternative to Mr. Trump than a tamer version of the same thing.

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