Tuesday, September 15, 2015

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
The goal would be to allow Democrats to swap out one Establishment-friendly candidate with another, bypassing the anti-Establishment Sanders. (If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)

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.

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.
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):
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.

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 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).

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 Plans

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.”
Of course, the writers of this piece reached out to the Biden camp and got this reply, which they published:
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.


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At 11:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having worked with him some - he did events for a candidate of mine - I can say Joe Biden is a genuinely nice guy and a loyal Democrat. That being said, Sen. Warren is right: Biden can't call himself a champion of the middle class and push the Bankruptcy "Reform" Act of 2006 as he did. He is another corporate Democrat, albeit less of a reptile than Clinton.

But think through the process of replacing Clinton as the "moderate" "mainstream" - i.e. neo-liberal - presidential candidate acceptable to Wall Street for a minute. Unless Hillary drops out soon, and I really doubt given her manifest ambition that she would leave until she knows she is beaten, she and Uncle Joe will be dividing the Democratic primary votes and delegates, which increases, not decreases Sanders' chances of being first in various primaries and caucuses.

Moreover, who is the Biden voter that would not be a Clinton voter? Certainly not the "woman-president-before-I-die" constituent that is the core of HRC's support - now fading according to the Post yesterday. Replacing Clinton with Biden would have to be done like the table cloth trick - very quickly, with so little disruption that everything is transferred from the cloth to the tabletop without breaking any dishes. I have never seen politics, especially Democratic politics, work that way.

In my mind, the likeliest place to accomplish this magic would be when and if Bernie came up short in the delegate count at the Convention and Hills and Uncle Joe had enough between them to confer the nomination on one or the other of them. So - who would give way? And why wouldn't the Sanders people, having gained a plurality but not a majority and then had the nomination taken from them, simply walk away from either corporate Democrat? Of course, as DWT reminds us, losing to a corporate Republican is vastly preferable to winning with a Roosevelt Democrat for most of the Poohbahs of the Democratic Party.

The simple fact is that a plurality - and maybe a majority - in both parties are sick of having to choose between candidates who offer slight variations of the same old shit while trying to "reform" - i.e. gut - Social Security and Medicare and leaving Wall Street in charge. They have pushed that same product way past its sell-by date.

BTW, why is the PCCC still referring to us as the "Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democratic Party?" Why aren't we the Bernie Wing? Warren was begged to run for months, but only old Bernie stepped up and took on the job.

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a member of the Bernie wing, I have two words for Mr. Biden-Clarence Thomas

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't believe for a minute Senator Warren would back Biden over Sanders. Window dressing on Biden's part, imo. When the vice-president calls you can't say no thanks. But you can say no thanks to an endorsement.

I look forward to the day Warren campaigns side by side with Bernie.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a woman who still wants to see a woman president in my lifetime. I thought at one time it was Hillary, but when she voted to support the invasion of Iraq, she lost my confidence. To me, Joe Biden seems like a phony. I can't put the correct words on it, but I have read enough about him to know that he does not have my best interest at heart, but that of Joe Biden. I hate to feel that way, since he has obviously been through a lot of tragedy in his life. However, politics is politics, and the one who has my best interest at heart, and that of my children and grandchildren, seems to be Bernie. I know his record has not been perfect, but name someone who has had a perfect record as a progressive. Can't think of anyone except Elizabeth and she won't run.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Ralph Spitzvona said...


At 7:03 AM, Blogger Roger said...

Anonymous @11:21 (#1) I've never met Mr. Biden. I have the impression that everybody likes him. Despite that, he's well to the right of Hillary. Do you really think a lot of Bernie supporters will go for the guy who wrote the 1994 Violent Crimes Control Act and pushed hard to make discharge in bankruptcy harder for credit card debtors (impossible for student loan recipients) in the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act? He also, back in the 1980s wrote the kernel of what has since become the Patriot Act. I just can't see a lot of Democrats forgiving him for those stances or the others which I suspect will surface if he tries to run. Has Biden, like Hillary (and Bill), admitted publicly, that the 1994 law was "a terrible mistake?"

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff from GP and commenters.

I've been saying all along that hilbillary and biden are politically identical. I sincerely believe that if hilbillary had been in the senate as long as joe, she'd have co-sponsored and shilled for all the same regressive lege that is mentioned above as being joe's fault.

Further, I've noted that an alliance between joe and Warren would be insignificant for joe but DAMNING for Warren. It would prove that Warren had been bought lock, stock and barrel. And that would be a damn shame, for sure.

I agree that the "meeting" was probably a hack's attempt to fabricate distance between hilbillary and joe when there is none.

But... why has Warren stayed mute???


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