I once worked with an attractive woman who had a strange encounter with Joe Biden. As a young reporter on Capitol Hill, she got stuck in a melee of reporters shouting questions at the senator. Biden saw her plight and invited her to join him as he marched into an elevator. My former colleague was delighted: here was a rare interview opportunity. As soon as the elevator doors closed, though, Biden took out a Snickers bar and inserted the whole thing into his mouth. He then masticated heavily throughout the ascent and walked off without a word.
That’s Joe Biden, the man who could well be the next president of the United States. He’s a weird dude. He may be even weirder than Donald Trump.
Lots of politicians are gaffe-prone: for many, their lack of smoothness is winning. Biden’s isn’t. He adopts that regular-guy manner, but the closer you look, the more phony he seems.
What strikes me about Lucy Flores’s #MeToo account of Biden’s inappropriate kissing of her head – as well as those much-circulated images of Biden being too physical with the opposite sex – is not so much that Biden comes across a pervert. He doesn’t even sound that creepy (for me, the politically expedient timing of Flores’s viral bomb is more sinister). It’s just that he is very, very strange.
His much-reported gaffes are hilarious, of course. But they are also more bizarre than most political clangers. Take, for instance, when he said of Barack Obama, in 2007, ‘I mean, you got the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.’ Why would anyone say that?
Biden seems to have got lost inside the art of political lying. Remember, in 2008, when Biden berated John McCain for not being man enough to look Barack Obama in the eye. Then remember him dabbing his eyes and eulogizing about his ‘brother’ John McCain’s ‘courage’ and ‘values’ at McCain’s funeral last year. He lamented the lack of substance in politics now.
Perhaps he meant both sentiments at the time. It’s more likely the 2008 Biden was faking; he and McCain were indeed very close. Maybe, like many politicians, he is just capable of believing anything as he says it.
McCain and Biden had much in common. They both suffered terribly: McCain as a prisoner of war, Biden has lost a wife and two children. It is admirable that Biden has fought on through his life. It also might explain why, like McCain, he exhibits a certain anger masquerading as passion, as well as a tendency to like military interventions. He is a hot head. This might also go some way to explaining his unusual behavior with women.
But then, Biden’s whole appeal has always mystified me. Maybe, as a Brit, I just can’t understand that whole good ol’ Scranton boy charm. I just see hairplugs and staged machismo and think fraud. He’s not unlike Trump, in that respect, a life spent too long in the public eye: only Biden lacks the redeeming quality of being despised in Washington.
It’s his long career in politics, the Democratic machine, that has turned him into a very peculiar man.