This video of Biden captures one aspect of the sheer absurdity of the idea of nominating him to oppose Trump in next year’s election.
A climate activist is trying to get answers to legitimate questions about why Biden’s climate advisors seem so cozy with the fossil fuel industry, and whether those relationships help explain Biden’s self-described “middle ground” stance on climate change.
When (not) answering her questions, Biden clasps both of her hands for several seconds, before patting one of them, and sarcastically (?) remarking to her “thank you for admiring me so much” while walking away.
Some people will semi-rationalize this with a sigh — good ‘ol Grandpa Joe is just a man from the 1950s, and doesn’t understand the world has changed. (Indeed Time editor Anand Giridharadas takes this tack in his tweet circulating the video, although he does say he considers the behavior unacceptable).
This is far too charitable. Biden isn’t literally demented (yet). He knows this behavior is now considered not OK. He’s been told over and over again that, in recent decades, women have made it clear that don’t like to be treated like children, and that being “handsy” with a women who is not an intimate is at best patronizing, in a way that people perceive to be sexist because it is sexist. (Would Biden touch a male journalist in this way? Almost certainly not). In addition, when a woman is young and conventionally attractive, such deeply inappropriate physical familiarity takes on a creepy psychosexual subtext, as it does here.
But Biden keeps doing it anyway, because he’s a stubborn old man who doesn’t like to be questioned, especially by his social inferiors.
This is a creepy dominance ritual by a man who is well aware of what he’s doing. The idea that Democratic voters would choose this man, of all people, to run against Donald Trump is truly one of the bizarre possibilities of this very bizarre time.