‘I doubt he would have picked me if these accusations about my being wrong on civil rights is correct…’
(Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times) Glossing over his history of racially insensitive remarks, Democrat presidential contender Joe Biden on Wednesday pointed to his experience as President Barack Obama‘s vice president to push back on criticism over positions he took during the civil rights era.
Obama “did a significant background check on me for months with 10 people. I doubt he would have picked me if these accusations about my being wrong on civil rights is correct,” Biden told thousands of NAACP delegates gathered here for their annual convention.
Biden was criticized during his primary campaign against Obama in the 2008 race for comments about the then-Illinois senator that many perceived to be racially offensive.
“I mean, you got the first mainstream African–American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden told the New York Observer. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
Obama was, at the time, the only black person serving in the U.S. Senate.
On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden continued to respond to an attack launched last month by his now-Democratic rival Kamala Harris, who also identifies as African–American based on her Jamaican and Indian lineage.
The California senator at last month’s debate confronted Biden over his opposition to certain forms of busing four decades ago, as well his recent words about being able to work civilly with segregationist senators with whom he disagreed.
Biden remains the front-runner in the race, but Harris and others have gained ground in recent polls.
The two received the warmest response from the crowd, with delegates jumping to their feet and holding up phones to snap pictures of the candidates as they spoke.
Some voters said they were not bothered by Biden’s positions from four decades ago.
“I understand Biden made a lot of decisions in the past that would hurt him today,” said George Mintz, a 72-year-old delegate from Bridgeport, Conn. “But I’m looking at where he’s coming from overall, and I think he’s coming from the right place.”
The convention of the nation’s oldest civil rights group takes place as issues of race are roiling the nation’s politics because of President Donald Trump’s ongoing criticisms of Democratic congresswomen of color who have criticized him and his policies.
Trump urged the freshmen members of the House of Representatives to “go back” to the countries with which they identified culturally, despite the fact that all are U.S. citizens, with three born in the United States and one a naturalized citizen who came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia.
When Trump attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota at one of his recent rallies, he paused and looked around at the crowd as supporters chanted, “Send her back!”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, one of the targets of the president’s criticisms, spoke at the convention Tuesday, welcoming delegates and taunting Trump.
“I’m not going nowhere, not until I impeach this president,” she said on the same day the delegates unanimously voted in support of a resolution calling for Trump’s impeachment.
Ten presidential candidates, including Trump’s Republican challenger William Weld, addressed the gathering Wednesday.
Trump was invited to address the convention, as all sitting presidents are. He declined, telling reporters on Thursday, “I very much wanted to go, but we had a date; the date got changed. And unfortunately, they wanted to do it in the form of a question and answer.”
(c)2019 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.