Nancy Pelosi Tells Joe Biden To Hand Her No Lines & Keep His Hands To Himself
Nancy Pelosi, who is usually right about everything, addressed the controversy surrounding Joe Biden's history of what is euphemistically called "unwelcome contact." The House speaker on Tuesday advised the former vice president and possible presidential candidate to stop treating random women like he's Stevie Wonder reading a book.
PELOSI: [Biden] has to understand in the world that we're in now that people's space is important to them, and what's important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it.
Former Nevada state legislator Lucy Flores detailed in The Cut a frankly creepy encounter with Biden at a 2014 campaign event. She was the nominee for lieutenant governor in a year when Democrats weren't gonna win shit. Biden came up behind at her at some point, touched her shoulders, and kissed the back of her head. The experience made her feel "uneasy, gross, and confused." After some charming people accused Flores of being part of a socialist conspiracy to take down Biden, Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant on Monday that Biden "rubbed noses" with her at a 2009 fundraiser. This was Connecticut, for God's sake.
Biden's history of weird behavior around women is hardly a secret, but it was a given that after Al Franken's resignation and the #MeToo movement, Biden would have a lot of explaining to do. He didn't really do it that well. Instead, he issued the same sort of non-apology he plans to deliver personally to Anita Hill any day now.
"In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort," Biden said in a statement. "And not once - never - did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention."
Pelosi naturally wasn't having this. She sent Biden's half-baked apology back to the kitchen with extreme prejudice.
PELOSI: It is how it's received, so to say, "I'm sorry that you were offended" is not an apology. "I'm sorry I invaded your space," but not, "I'm sorry you were offended." What's that?
OK, we really want a Pelosi "What's that?" T-shirt. Pelosi wouldn't call Biden's actions "disqualifying," but she did invite him to join the "straight arm club" with her. We also want a "straight arm club" button.
PELOSI: I'm a member of the straight arm club ... just pretend you have a cold and I have a cold. He's an affectionate person, to children, to senior citizens, to everyone, but that's just not the way.
Pelosi is a couple years older than Biden but comes across here like his much younger colleague who's trying to help him navigate the modern world. "No, your assistant can't make your travel arrangements for you any more. There's an app for that."
Now's a good time to mention that Yr. Editrix is a warm, affectionate, inappropriate person. (She says she wouldn't care if Joe Biden frenched her on the neck, but also notes that she knows other women would be taken aback! And Joe Biden should know that!) The author of this piece, however, is not. I should've been born in the Victorian era, except I enjoy voting, owning property, and living with my white wife. The handshake is my greeting of choice, although I personally miss the slight bow. Hugs are a prison of the flesh.
My own experience is that smelling a woman's hair or rubbing noses with a woman in a professional setting would qualify as a major HR issue. Your company's employment lawyer would likely bill extra hours trying to figure out the nose rubbing thing.
David Brooks at the New York Times claims that Biden isn't just a good man who's socially awkward and has boundary issues. No, he's a political savant who "connects" with voters by touching women a lot. The Times even described this as "tactile politics," as if that's an actual thing. And for years, we've all laughed and guffawed as Old Handsome Joe got up in women's hair, and faces, and frenched their necks. Oh that Joe! Except ... some women didn't like it? So stop doing that?
If Biden's "tactile politics" aren't in any way sexual, then why are there no photos of him rubbing noses with a male bartender in Scranton or smelling the hair of a male factory worker in Youngstown?
Somewhat buried in the Times article is the story of Caitlyn Caruso, who claims Biden rested his hand on her thigh and hugged her "just a little bit too long" during an event all of three years ago at the University of Nevada. She was a 19-year-old college student at the time, and she'd just shared her own experience with sexual assault. The most benign reading is that Biden was being "nurturing" and showing "support," but honestly, how are you alive and conscious in the world and yet think that unsolicited physical contact is at all appropriate when speaking with a sexual assault survivor?
Caruso said she didn't say anything publicly at the time because she just assumed "that's how men act." Women should feel free to set boundaries for access to their own bodies. That won't happen if we glorify the men who cross those boundaries as masters of "tactile politics." Every man, whether in politics or not, should join Pelosi's "straight arm club."
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.