Biden’s principal problem is ego

Rich Lowry, syndicated columnist

Joe Biden wants us to believe that all his touching speaks to how deeply he cares about other people.

It’s really a testament to how much regard he has for himself.

As everyone has always known, Biden is prone to weird and wildly overfamiliar interactions with women, which are extensively on the record and have been the subject of jocular commentary over the years.

The #MeToo era has put his grabby style in a different light, and now he’s had to tweet out a video saying he gets it.

Biden’s conduct is obviously different and less blameworthy than the men caught up in #MeToo: It’s not furtive, but out in the open; not sexual, but affectionate. He doesn’t stand accused of cruelly manipulating anyone or creating a hostile workplace.

No, his fundamental offense is not realizing that some people might not be as into Joe Biden as Joe Biden is into Joe Biden. He has an ego, not a libido, problem.

Biden lost all self-awareness somewhere in the Senate chamber about 40 years ago.

It’s not just that Biden’s a figure from a different era; he’s been in the bubble, deferred to and adored as a matter of course, for decades. He won his first Senate race at age 29. He served with Barry Goldwater, William Fulbright, Adlai Stevenson and Sam Ervin. He was in the Senate for 36 years before moving to the even more rarified air of the vice presidency.

So, he’s clueless in the way that old Washington hands who refer to themselves in the third person and consider themselves living legends always are — only more so.

To use Biden’s own term, he believes his own malarkey.

He really thinks that he’s the most charming man in the room and a master at human interaction. In his view, he’s doing everyone a favor by giving them a warm bath of Biden.

It’s truly never occurred to him that some women might not want to be grabbed, smelled, held, nuzzled, Eskimo-kissed, whispered to and generally handled by their great champion and defender, Joe Biden.

We’re hearing new stories almost every other day because Biden has done this hundreds and hundreds of times — it was part of his shtick.

The former vice president always assumed that he and his adoring fans had the same dynamic going for them as Willie Brown described in his line about his affair with Kamala Harris: “She loved me, I loved me. It was the perfect relationship.”

Very often Biden was probably right, but not all the time. His indiscriminate touchiness — just like his indiscriminate talking — shows a fundamental lack of consideration for others and of self-control.

In his video, Biden noted how he has helped people get through tragedies, but that wasn’t the circumstance of most of the women who have complained about his behavior. Biden was in the habit of squeezing and smelling people he randomly encountered out on the campaign trail.

In our era, we are finding new ways to work around to old concepts like common courtesy and propriety. In pledging to respect people’s personal space, Biden is promising to be more gentlemanly, although he could never use that term. The use of a handshake as a greeting is a good place to start.

With Donald Trump in the White House, no one can say lack of manners is a bar to high office, and Biden’s grabbiness shouldn’t be disqualifying.

The controversy is a symptom of something else that should give Biden pause, though: The peril of being at the center of politics in Washington is that your political instincts aren’t sharpened, they are worn down. This is why we tend to elect newcomers rather than experienced Washington politicians, let alone people who have been around for 40 years.

If Biden’s going to run, he should do it fully aware that it’s a new party — and his effect on people isn’t necessarily what he thinks.

Editor’s note: Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail at comments.lowry@nationalreview.com.