Well, it was only a matter of time before Joe Biden saw the writing on the wall and now he has apologized for his past remarks about working with segregationist Democrats during his early years in the U.S. Senate.
“Was I wrong a few weeks ago?” Biden asked a mostly black audience of several hundred in Sumter during the first day of a weekend visit to South Carolina. “Yes, I was. I regret it, and I’m sorry for any of the pain of misconception that caused anybody.”
Biden’s comments came as he and rival presidential candidate Kamala Harris were set to circle each other while campaigning Sunday in South Carolina, the first Southern state to vote in next year’s primary and a crucial proving ground for candidates seeking support of black Democrats. Biden defended his record on racial issues and reminded voters of his ties to former President Barack Obama, whose popularity in South Carolina remains high.
The former vice president and the California senator probably will be pressed on their tense debate exchange over race and federally mandated school busing. Though the issue is not at the forefront of the 2020 primary, it could resonate in a state with a complicated history with race and segregation.
Biden previously refused to apologized for his comments, even insisting that rivals like Cory Booker, who have implied he’s racist, should be the ones to apologize. “Cory [Booker] should apologize. He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body, I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career: Period. Period. Period.”
It’s understandable why his rivals would attempt to paint Biden, the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, as a racist, but the silence from the Obamas is particularly shocking. On Saturday, Michelle Obama refused to comment on the Joe Biden controversy, instead choosing to reiterate the Obamas intentions not to endorse a candidate in the primary, and support the candidate who will face off against Donald Trump. “Barack and I are going to support whoever wins the primary, so … our primary focus is letting the primary process play out, because it’s very early,” she said. Barack Obama hasn’t spoken out either.
Of course you don’t have to endorse Joe Biden to come out and defend him, and the silence of both Barack and Michelle Obama in coming to Joe’s defense speaks volumes, especially since Biden takes any opportunity he can to name drop Obama, even to defend his own civil rights record. “It was the honor of a lifetime to serve with a man who was a great President, a historic figure, and most important to me — a friend,” Biden said on Saturday. “I was vetted by him and selected by him. I will take his judgment of my record, my character, and my ability to handle the job over anyone else’s.”
Well, where is Obama now? Obama could have nipped this in the bud a couple weeks ago, but has chosen not to. When a former president can’t even defend his vice president, that’s not a good look during a primary. Obama already kept Joe from running in 2016, and it would take virtually no effort for him to release a statement defending Joe’s record. So why won’t he?
Perhaps Barack Obama doesn’t want Joe to be president. Despite his adopting radical leftwing positions to keep up with his rivals, Joe has a history of being moderate on abortion and other issues. Biden’s purpose on the ticket in 2008 was to compensate for Obama’s lack of experience, particulary with foreign policy. In 2019, Biden is useless as a liberal torchbearer. The only thing he brings to the table today is name recognition, and perhaps Obama nostalgia amongst Democrats. But, if Obama won’t even come to his defense, how long does he expect to coast on that nostalgia?
Matt Margolis is the author of the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published on July 30, 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis