Biden Met Secretly with Elizabeth Warren: What's the Takeaway?
by Gaius Publius
I'm starting to look at the Biden surge (the surge in news stories about him), and think I see three things happening:
- A media push by the Biden camp to position him as the "acceptable mainstream alternative" to Sanders
- A quiet push by the Biden camp to make sure insiders know he's available if the non-Sanders frontrunner "stumbles"
- A media push by the Biden camp to make him acceptable to Sanders supporters
About those three pushes: I think we've seen the first in stories like the one discussed here (and sadly, the Colbert interview). I'll skip discussion of the second push above, since if the first is true, the second is also true. So let's look at the third, the courting of Sanders supporters.
Biden and Warren
Elizabeth Warren is clearly a touchstone for Sanders supporters, someone who would be perfectly acceptable, even desirable, as an alternative candidate, someone who could reliably and credibly carry his message — which is, in fact, their message.
Now come press reports of a meeting between Biden and Warren — more intriguingly, a "secret" meeting. Business Insider:
Vice President Joe Biden secretly met with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) on Saturday, CNN reports.Note that while the stated conclusion, the interpreted meaning, is "this means Biden may be running," the subtext of leading with Warren in the first sentence is, "maybe they're getting on the same page." What's the sourcing of these stories? We get an indication of that in another report of the same "secret" meeting. Bloomberg (my emphasis, explained below):
What's perhaps most interesting about the meeting is the conclusion that it's led everyone to draw: Now he must be serious about a presidential bid!
CNN said it was "the biggest indication yet" that Biden could be feeling out his chances.
Bloomberg called it "a sign that Biden is courting influential members of the party before announcing his intentions."
They're not wrong.
Vice President Joe Biden met with Senator Elizabeth Warren on Saturday as he considers whether to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a person familiar with the matter.About the first bolded phrase, whose camp do you think leaked this story to the press? If Biden's camp, then the meeting is not much of a secret. In fact, "secret meeting" becomes just more Biden spin, to increase interest in the story. Of course, the Warren camp may have leaked the news ... but, why would they do that? I can't think of a single reason (and see below for more).
The meeting with Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who once was seen as the strongest potential threat to Hillary Clinton’s bid because of her appeal to liberals and progressives, is a sign that Biden is courting influential members of the party before announcing his intentions. ...
An affiliation with Warren may help Biden as he seeks to address the challenge of being a 72-year-old white man courting support in a Democratic Party that increasingly is comprised of women and minorities.
Neither Biden aides nor Warren aides would discuss details of the meeting. Clinton similarly met privately with Warren last December.
About the second bolded phrase, note that "affiliation with Warren" seems exactly the goal of the meeting (and of the leak, if Biden's people are the source). But note also, in that case, that the writers entirely misstate the reason for that affiliation. Their offered reason is "to address the challenge of being a 72-year-old white man courting support in a Democratic Party that increasingly is comprised of women and minorities."
Really? He could have met with Barbara Lee to solve that problem. No, I think the writers are, sorry to say, carrying water. More accurate analysis might have read something like this (obviously my writing):
"An affiliation with Warren may help Biden to address the challenge of being a credit-card and banking industry enabler in a Democratic Party whose voters are rebelling against bought-and-paid-for politics."Now that would be analysis worthy of smart Bloomberg reporting. Or so it seems to me.
What Does Warren Think of Biden?
We can't answer that question for sure, of course, since times and minds do change. But we do have indicators from the not-too-distant past, and they aren't favorable (to Biden). International Business Times:
Sen. Warren's Criticism Of Joe Biden Complicates Vice President's 2016 PlansOf course, the writers of this piece reached out to the Biden camp and got this reply, which they published:
As Vice President Joe Biden reportedly mulls a bid for the U.S. presidency, his champions portray him as a credible alternative to Democratic Party front-runner Hillary Clinton, who faces accusations that she is beholden to the financial industry. But a Biden campaign risks confronting the scorn of one of the party’s most influential progressives, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Though Biden has reportedly sought her favor, Warren has historically disdained, charging him with acting as a tool of the credit card industry by limiting debt relief for people grappling with financial troubles.
As a Harvard law professor in 2002, Warren published a journal article excoriating Biden for playing a leading role in delivering legislation that made it more difficult for Americans to reduce debts through bankruptcy filings. His repeated push for the bill -- signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005 -- amounted to “vigorous support of legislation that hurts women,” Warren declared. She said "the group that will be most affected by the changes in the bankruptcy legislation Senator Biden so forcefully supports will be women, particularly women heads of household who are supporting children." She called Biden a “zealous advocate on behalf of one of his biggest contributors,” singling out the credit card industry, which has a strong presence in Biden’s home state of Delaware.
In a separate 2003 book she co-authored with her daughter, Warren said, “Senators like Joe Biden should not be allowed to sell out women in the morning and be heralded as their friend in the evening.”
In a statement to International Business Times, Biden's spokesman, Stephen Spector, said: "Throughout his career, the vice president has been a champion for middle-class families and has fought against powerful interests. As a senator, he succeeded in making the bipartisan bankruptcy bill fairer by demanding protections to help low-income workers, veterans, members of the military, women and children -- despite opposition from the largest employer in his state."Just the opposite of what Warren has said of him.
What's the Takeaway?
I'll leave the takeaway to Elizabeth Warren, from her 2003 book (also quoted above):
Senators like Joe Biden should not be allowed to sell out women in the morning and be heralded as their friend in the evening.Do you think she changed her mind? I don't. Have you seen anything from Biden that makes you think she should? I haven't.
As to Sanders supporters and their temptation to switch to Biden should Sanders become "unavailable" ... well, I can't speak for them, but I'm guessing they'd be less than tempted, given his history.