Joe Biden often harkens back to a more amiable time, when politicians crossed party lines more frequently.
And at a fundraiser in New York Tuesday night, Biden’s nostalgia extended to the “civility” of Southern segregationists. Reported the New York Times:
At the event, Mr. Biden noted that he served with the late Senators James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both Democrats who were staunch opponents of desegregation….
“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, slipping briefly into a Southern accent, according to a pool report from the fund-raiser. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”
“Well guess what?” Mr. Biden continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
Biden’s remarks are drawing rebukes from other contenders for the Democratic nomination.
“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’” Cory Booker said in a statement. “Men like James O. Eastland used words like that, and the racist policies that accompanied them, to perpetuate white supremacy and strip black Americans of our very humanity.”
“Frankly, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans,” Booker said.
Bill de Blasio tweeted that Biden is “longing for the good old days of ‘civility’ typified by James Eastland. Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to ‘the pursuit of dead n*ggers.'”
Biden made his remarks at a fundraiser for affluent donors, including former Wall Street heavy hitters turned Treasury Department officials Robert Rubin and Roger Altman. According to a Bloomberg report, Biden reassured donors that he would refrain from criticizing wealthy people during his campaign.
“Remember, I got in trouble with some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side, because I said, you know, what I’ve found is rich people are just as patriotic as poor people. Not a joke. I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who’s made money,” Biden said.
In a poll released earlier this month, Biden had a substantial lead among likely Nevada Democratic caucus goers. However, several recent polls in other early states and nationally have found Biden’s lead slipping, usually coupled with rising support for Elizabeth Warren.