After Joe Biden boasted about his ability to work with segregationist Senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge, I wrote: “There was nothing improper about Biden working with Eastland and Talmadge on non-racial issues of mutual interest.” It turns out, however, that Biden worked with them on a racial issue — school busing.
Biden opposed busing children to school for the purpose of creating more integrated classrooms. One of his earliest legislative initiatives was a bill to curb such busing.
Biden enlisted Eastland, the powerful racist Senator who chaired the Judiciary Committee, to help advance his anti-busing legislation. In 1977, he wrote a thank you letter to Eastland. It read:
I want you to know that I very much appreciate your help during this week’s Committee meeting in attempting to bring my anti-busing legislation to a vote.
There was nothing wrong with Biden working with his Committee chairman to promote anti-busing legislation. Biden’s position on busing was defensible and, in my view, probably correct. If Biden was to advance this legislation, he needed Eastland’s help.
However, news that the cooperation with Eastland that Biden touted in his recent talk pertained to a civil rights issue highlights what a huge blunder Biden made. His staunch anti-busing position was already a negative in Biden’s effort to win the presidential nomination of the modern Democratic party. It’s a much bigger negative now that it ties into the cooperation with racists that Biden has set forth as a model for the Senate and the nation.
Had Biden not waxed nostalgically about the era of cooperating with racists, the Biden-Eastland anti-busing correspondence almost surely wouldn’t have come to light. It is contained in Eastland’s papers at the University of Mississippi.
Until Biden brought it up, the mainstream media wasn’t going to look for evidence of Biden’s collaboration with Eastland. Nor would his Democratic opponents have gone rummaging through the papers of a long-forgotten Senator looking for “dirt” on Biden. They would have had no reason to believe they would find any there.
But now, Eastland’s papers have yielded first-rate “oppo research.”
Joe Biden is 76 years old. Donald Trump is 73. But the age difference might as well be 15 years.
Biden, like many old people, seems more comfortable with the past than with the present. To some extent, he may be living in the past.
Trump is a man of the present and the future. He rarely talks publicly about the distant past. Neither, for that matter, does Bernie Sanders, age 77.
In this respect, Biden reminds me of Bob Dole in 1996. Dole was 73, and he campaigned on being “a bridge to the past.” It didn’t work.
Maybe the past looks better compared to the present in 2019 than it looked in 1996. However, I suspect that, other things being equal, America would still prefer a president who thinks more about tomorrow than about yesterday.