News Release

Biden’s Record: Segregationists, Wall Street, War

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn is in Ireland and available for a limited number of interviews. He wrote the extensive cover story “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy” earlier this year. It highlighted several issues that have become more widely noted since; for example by the noted writer Jonathan Kozol “Biden Opposed School Desegregation, Refuses to Disown, It Wasn’t About ‘Civility’” and just this week in the New York Times: “‘Lock the S.O.B.s Up’: Joe Biden and the Era of Mass Incarceration.”

Cockburn wrote: “By tapping into these popular tropes — ‘The system is broken,’ ‘Why can’t Congress just get along?’ — the practitioners of bipartisanship conveniently gloss over the more evident reality: that the system is under sustained assault by an ideology bent on destroying the remnants of the New Deal to the benefit of a greed-driven oligarchy. It was bipartisan accord, after all, that brought us the permanent war economy, the war on drugs, the mass incarceration of black people, 1990s welfare ‘reform,’ Wall Street deregulation and the consequent $16 trillion in bank bailouts, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and other atrocities too numerous to mention. If the system is indeed broken, it is because interested parties are doing their best to break it. …

“It fell to Biden to highlight some redeeming qualities when called on, inevitably, to deliver [segregationist Sen. Strom] Thurmond’s eulogy following the latter’s death in 2003 at the age of one hundred. … [They had a] shared opposition to federally mandated busing in the effort to integrate schools … ‘The black community justifiably is jittery,’ Biden admitted to the Washington Post in 1975 with regard to his position. ‘I’ve made it — if not respectable — I’ve made it reasonable for longstanding liberals to begin to raise the questions I’ve been the first to raise in the liberal community here on the [Senate] floor.’ … Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, then the sole African-American senator, called Biden’s measure ‘the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.’ …

“The pair [Biden and Thurmond] sponsored the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which, among other repressive measures, abolished parole for federal prisoners and cut the amount of time by which sentences could be reduced for good behavior. The bipartisan duo also joined hands to cheerlead the passage of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act and its 1988 follow-on, which cumulatively introduced mandatory sentences for drug possession. Biden later took pride in reminding audiences that ‘through the leadership of Senator Thurmond, and myself, and others,’ Congress had passed a law mandating a five-year sentence, with no parole, for anyone caught with a piece of crack cocaine ‘no bigger than [a] quarter.’ …

“Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools. …

“Biden not only allowed fellow committee members to mount a sustained barrage of vicious attacks on [Anita] Hill: he wrapped up the hearings without calling at least two potential witnesses who could have convincingly corroborated Hill’s testimony and, by extension, indicated that the nominee had perjured himself on a sustained basis throughout the hearings. …

“Presumably in deference to this record, Obama entrusted his vice president with a number of foreign policy tasks over the years, beginning with ‘quarterbacking,’ as Biden put it, U.S. relations with Iraq. ‘Joe will do Iraq,’ the president told his foreign policy team a few weeks after being sworn in. ‘He knows it, he knows the players.’ It proved to be an unfortunate choice, at least for Iraqis. In 2006, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had selected Nouri al-Maliki, a relatively obscure Shiite politician, to be the country’s prime minister. ‘Are you serious?’ exclaimed a startled Maliki when Khalilzad informed him of the decision. But Maliki proved to be a determinedly sectarian ruler, persecuting the Sunni tribes that had switched sides to aid US forces during the so-called surge of 2007–08. In addition, he sparked widespread allegations of corruption. According to the Iraqi Commission of Integrity set up after his departure, as much as $500 billion was siphoned off from government coffers during Maliki’s eight years in power.”

On foreign policy, see accuracy.org news releases:

From 2019: “Biden’s Deceitful Record on Iraq Invasion” which debunks Biden’s false claims in 2002, and rationalizations since, that Saddam Hussein “possesses chemical and biological weapons” and “is seeking nuclear weapons” and “for years he has prevented the UN inspectors from uncovering those weapons.”

From 2008: “Anti-War Candidate, Pro-War Cabinet?