‘Get your words straight, Jack!’
As Joe Biden campaigns for the Oval Office, the 77-year-old frequently recounts his five decades as a politician and repeats his accomplishments during campaign events, be they in person or virtual.
His claims are so incessant, it’s got to a point where Cockburn can’t quite remember which accomplishments were truly achieved by Biden and which were not. At this point, Biden definitely doesn’t recall either. So, Cockburn did some digging into Uncle Joe’s statements to separate the truths from the half-truths and outright lies.
Violence Against Women Act
On the campaign trail, Biden often mentions the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 — a piece of legislation that he co-sponsored alongside Republican senator Orrin Hatch to reform the prosecution and investigation of domestic violence. Biden considers it a crowning achievement of his nearly four-decade career in the Senate.
However, the details of the legislation are starting to fade from Biden’s memory. At the February 25 Democratic primary debate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that she had pushed for closing the ‘boyfriend loophole’, which allowed abusive ex-boyfriends and stalkers to retain access to firearms. In response, Biden quickly jumped in: ‘I wrote that law.’
In fact, Klobuchar was the one to forward the closing of the boyfriend loophole in the Senate.
At this point, the New York Times clarified that Biden had closed all loopholes in the Act…except those involving ‘hugs, kisses and touching that women previously said made them uncomfortable’.
Arrested with Nelson Mandela
At a February campaign event in South Carolina, Biden claimed that he had been arrested in South Africa on the way to meeting Nelson Mandela.
‘This day, 30 years ago, Nelson Mandela walked out of prison and entered into discussions about apartheid,’ Joe said. ‘I had the great honor of being arrested with our UN ambassador on the streets of Soweto trying to get to see him on Robbens Island.’ [sic]
At first, Cockburn thought it could be possible that Biden was confusing Mandela with the man affectionately registered in his fading memory as ‘my boss’, Barack Obama. Much like he confused his wife and sister at a Super Tuesday campaign event in California.
However, PolitiFact found no record of Biden’s arrest in South Africa. Towards the end of February, Biden clarified his statement; he had not been arrested, but South African authorities had asked him to separate from members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the airport.
Cockburn wonders if Biden simply got lost after stopping to admire a pair of aviators in the departure lounge’s Sunglass Hut.
The Biden Rule
In 1992, Biden delivered a speech stating that the President ought not to offer a replacement if a Supreme Court Justice resigns in a presidential election year. Biden based this assertion on the historical precedent forwarded by Presidents Fillmore and Johnson. The policy came to be known as the ‘Biden Rule’.
However, Biden failed to remind his ‘boss’ of his opinion in 2016, when Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
Following Garland’s nomination, McConnell said that ‘the Senate will continue to observe the Biden Rule so that the American people have a voice in this momentous decision.’ Biden’s own words propped up the Republicans’ case for delaying Garland’s nomination proceedings. Yet he failed to take credit at the time!
Biden co-sponsored both the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Decades later, he is still living down support for crime policies that led to mass incarcerations.
As Sen. Cory Booker noted during a primary debate in late July, Biden’s crime legislation led to countless arrests and life sentences over drug offenses: ‘There are people right now in prison for life for drug offenses because you stood up and used that tough-on-crime phony rhetoric that got a lot of people elected but destroyed communities like mine.’
The 1986 crime bill established mandatory minimums for crack cocaine offenses tougher than powder cocaine offenses — an attack that Democrats often levy against Republicans like former president Ronald Reagan. Plus, the 1994 crime bill gave states incentives for prison construction and intensified sentencing.
Biden’s campaign website emphasizes reducing mass incarceration and mentions the fact that America’s criminal justice history is by no means spotless. ‘Today, too many people are incarcerated in the United States’, it reads. However, Cockburn was surprised to find no mention of Biden’s role in helping place them there.
The Iraq War
At the February 7 primary debate in New Hampshire, Biden defended his vote in favor of the Iraq War by saying that he trusted George W. Bush’s word that he ‘was not going to go into Iraq’.
However, Cockburn discovered that Bush was clear about the possibility of war. Bush repeated that war was a possibility only a few days before the Senate passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Biden was Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time.
Cockburn also recalls that Biden opposed a later Democratic proposition for Bush to either gain United Nations approval or earn a second authorization from Congress before pursuing further action in Iraq.
In recent years, Biden has continually oscillated on American relations with China.
During a campaign speech in June 2019, Biden declared that ‘we are in a competition with China…they are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat.’
This marked a reversal from his position a month prior, when Biden scoffed at the idea of China as a serious threat. ‘China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man.’
For bonus points, Biden claimed to work with Deng Xiaoping — a former president of China who left office in 1992 — on the Paris Climate Accord in 2016. Presumably, Biden either mistook Mr Deng for another Chinese leader or forgot that Mr Deng had died nearly two decades beforehand.
Cockburn believes that it is only a matter of time before Biden blunders and declares that he is running for president of China, launching a round of applause from the Chinese propaganda coalition sometimes called the ‘mainstream media’.
Biden, a professed Roman Catholic, has waffled on abortion throughout his career. In 1973, Biden asserted that the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade went ‘too far’. Yet one year later, Biden said that a woman has the ‘sole right to say what should happen to her body’. In the early 1980s, Biden voted to remove rape and incest exemptions and favored preventing federal employees from obtaining abortions through their health insurance.
Cockburn remembers that during his 2012 debate with then-congressman Paul Ryan, Biden claimed to agree with the Roman Catholic Church, declaring that ‘life begins at conception’. However, he said that he would nonetheless refuse to force that belief upon others.
Last summer, Biden reversed his support of the Hyde Amendment, lumping abortion under healthcare, which he considers to a ‘constitutionally protected right’. Cockburn suspects that this sudden reversal was a drive to move Biden toward an abortion platform more acceptable to the typical Democratic voter.
As the 2020 election cycle continues, Cockburn will continue keeping an eye out for instances of Biden choosing ‘truth over facts’.