Comment Of The Day: “KABOOM! Biden Takes A Bribe”

Well, yes, he took the 30 pieces of silver, but Judas genuinely supported what the Romans had done, in a spirit of bi-partisanship…

Side-issue: Is it proper to give out a Comment of the Day when it is almost entirely a quote from another source? In this case, I’m doing it, in part because the commenter, Michael, is perfectly capable of writing the same sentiment just as articulately, if not better, and second, because I want his argument on the record, because it is so wrong.

I must admit, I never expected anyone to disagree with the post regarding Joe Biden’s betrayal of his party in exchange for $200,000. Such speaking fees are per se ethically dubious, as the Clinton Foundation experience should have taught us, especially when the speaker is a blathering fool like Joe Biden. I’d pay something to hear Hillary, Bill or Obama speak. But giving Biden six figures for his usual gaffes reminds me of Gerald Ford’s speaking fees after he left the Presidency. Gerald Ford never gave a non-soporific, inciteful speech in his life. He was selling influence, just like the Clintons, and just like Biden. It’s not illegal if you’re not holding office, but it is always unethical.

What Biden did was especially unethical. Both Michael and his authority call what Biden did bi-partisanship. It was not. Bi-partisanship is when partisan elected officials work across the aisle toward legislation and policies that their had-core party base might oppose, in the best interests of the nation and the public. That’s ethical, because an elected official’s duties, which all swear tom are bipartisan. Joe Biden, however, is not an elected official. He is a leader of the Democratic Party. His duty is to the party and the party’s legitimate interests. If he does not support those interests, then he should stop calling himself a Democrat, or at very least abstain from leadership.

Biden’s duty was to try to make sure his party won the House. Losing the House would have been a disaster. For all he knew, that single race might have been the difference between a House majority and a Democratic loss. He could not ethically choose his own interests over the party, and that’s what he did. The endorsement was based on Biden’s personal interests—cancer research, because of his son—and not the party’s. This is a serious conflict of interest. Now, since Joe is a dolt, this might not have occurred to him. Still, based on his personal agenda, he saw fit to harm the prospects of his own party’s candidate. Betrayal, by definition. Frankly (to quote from Miachel’s quoted source), I don’t care whether “most Americans” don’t recognize what’s wrong here. Most Americans, indeed most politicians, don’t comprehend what conflicts of interest are. I do. It’s my job.

Biden’s conduct was unethical, placing his personal agenda above hos party’s, even before we get to the ugly fact that he was paid to do it—by a foundation run by the family of the GOP candidate he was praising. Note that the piece ahead doesn’t mention this little detail at all.  It’s hilarious, really. “This is what we’ve come to: partisans attacking a lifelong public servant because he has the nerve to show active support for a member of another party who played a key role in the passage of legislation that vastly improves efforts to fight a disease that took the life of his child.” Yes, and all he need to work up that “nerve” was a check for $200,000. 

Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day on the post, KABOOM! Biden Takes A Bribe:

My “feeling” (perhaps naive, or perhaps you infer more than I do) are almost captured by this from The Hill:

“Recently, the New York Times breathlessly reported that former Vice President Joe Biden had the temerity to praise a long-serving Republican member of Congress during a speech to a Midwest audience in the run-up to the 2018 election. This member—Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan—went on to win re-election by a relatively narrow margin. And now that Biden is signaling that he may very well run for president in 2020, the partisan knives are out—and it’s members of his own party who are holding them. This sad little vignette exemplifies exactly what is wrong with American politics today.

“Mr. Biden stunned Democrats and elated Republicans by praising Mr. Upton while the lawmaker looked on from the audience,” the Times reports. “Alluding to Mr. Upton’s support for a landmark medical-research law, Mr. Biden called him a champion in the fight against cancer—and ‘one of the finest guys I’ve ever worked with.’” As the Times also notes, Upton had nothing to do with Biden giving the speech, and there is “no evidence Mr. Biden was motivated to praise the lawmaker by anything other than sincere admiration, stemming from Mr. Upton’s role in crafting the 21st Century Cures Act after the death of Mr. Biden’s elder son, Beau, from cancer in 2015.”

This is what we’ve come to: partisans attacking a lifelong public servant because he has the nerve to show active support for a member of another party who played a key role in the passage of legislation that vastly improves efforts to fight a disease that took the life of his child. It’s shameful, self-serving—and frankly bad politics. Most Americans would look at Biden’s praise for Upton for what it is: a genuine expression of humanity, respect, and gratitude. Upton responded in turn: “Being in the audience with my family and hearing Vice President Biden reference our work together was an immense honor…He was warmly received by everyone in attendance who were thrilled to have him there, including myself.”

As Biden spokesman Bill Russo says in response, “Vice President Biden believes to his core that you can disagree politically on a lot and still work together in good faith on issues of common cause—like funding cancer research.” Biden himself responded similarly and with good humor: “I read in New York Times today…that one of my problems is if I ever run for president, I like Republicans,” Biden told the Conference of Mayors. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” He added: “But, you know, from where I come from, I don’t know how you get anything done…unless we start talking to one another again.”

Exactly. Only in the fun-house mirror politics of 2019 would these sentiments be considered anything but commonplace and laudable. These two public servants worked together on an issue that is important to them personally and to the American people in general. In doing so, they forged a mutual respect that transcends party affiliation—and as a result, they speak well of each other in public. While partisans—especially, one must suspect, Biden’s potential rivals for the Democratic nomination—cynically try to exploit this moment for political gain, it will be the rest of us who will lose if they are successful in their attempts to stymie bipartisanship and national unity.

We should be praising, not pillorying Biden (and Upton) for their approach to public service. Throughout our history, it has been exactly the kind of human connection made by Biden and Upton that have allowed us to move beyond parochial disputes, find common ground, and craft the kind of bipartisan solutions that enjoy true majority support and stand the test of time. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill. George Mitchell and Bob Dole. Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy. John Kerry and John McCain. Lyndon Johnson and Everett Dirksen. It was these friendships that forged the basis of compromise on issue after issue in the 20th Century.

Biden’s speech, and both his and Upton’s response demonstrates the kind of basic decency and bipartisan spirit that most Americans long for—and which could pay off handsomely at the ballot box if either party can stop being the ideological purity police and return to a focus on commonsense governance.

Nancy Jacobson is co-founder and CEO of No Labels.



11 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “KABOOM! Biden Takes A Bribe”

  1. And “what if” games are irrelevant to this question. Biden threw his party under the bus. I suspect he will do so again. He is, in this instance, unethical.

  2. This is the most startling and unexpected opinion I’ve ever seen from you. You didn’t ‘kaboom’ my head but I did spill my porridge. Loyalty to ‘party’ is generally a lefty idea, and part of the traditional call to “man the barricades.”. The ‘right’ normally lauds its respect for the freedom of members to act as they see fit, as opposed to being a loyal servant just following instructions from the politburo.

    I have long recognised a cultural chasm between us when you talk about a ‘duty to win’. (Biden’s duty was to try to make sure his party won the House.). Soft sloppy liberals like me (my son’s description) strongly favour dialogue, compromise and consensus over ‘winning’ ( ‘shock and awe’ etc.)

    If there is an ethical problem here it is solely around the money. Surely, surely Jo Biden has every right to put his interest in curing cancer above any ‘duty to party’ if that is his honest viewpoint? If he’d done it all for free, there could to my mind be no valid cause for criticism, only perhaps for some cause for disappointment.

    You will know better than I do the worries the Founders had over political parties. I like the Washington quote which is for me quite widely applicable :

    “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion”.’

    • I agree with this, bipartisanship can still exist when one is outside of elected office.

      I would define the term differently than Jack did however (if one accepts his definition of the phrase then he is correct).

      • A professional politician and party leader is never “out of party” even if he or she is out of office. if he or she is no longer in politics, then he or she is not being bipartisan.

    • Ugh. Come on Andrew, catch up. Of course he has the right to be disloyal, harm his own party because it suits his narrow interests, and take obscene amounts of money to do it. I never suggested otherwise.

  3. Hm. Another interesting priority sort-order ethical problem. Unpacking the concepts…

    Biden having a job as a leader and then helping the competition for money? definitely unethical. I think what’s tripping people up is the occasion.

    Let us think about an extreme hypothetical: If Biden came across someone in a life or death situation (say, they were drowning in an icy lake). That person is a republican and it’s an election year where they are up for office. Would it be unethical then for Biden to save that person’s life? After all it would be in his party’s best interest to let them drown and leave the election uncontested.

    Hopefully we would all agree that is wrong – in this case the ethics of saving someone’s life overrides the the ethics of loyalty or contracts or however you want to put it.

    That seems to be the confusion. People see the bit about cancer and their minds drift into the direction of the hypothetical: that what Joe did is in the interest of lives. Whereas the more accurate direction would be imaging Coke’s CEO doing a commercial for Pepsi. Biden is in charge of an organization and he did an advertisement for the competitor. The life issue doesn’t seem to be as pressing as people are wanting to assume.

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