Maybe Joe Biden just doesn’t remember his own words.
Among the numerous low points of Thursday’s news conference, the 46th president’s answer to a question about the Senate filibuster was close to the bottom.
In one exchange, he managed to insult the country, the political institution where he spent most his of adult life and he even managed to insult himself.
The moment came when CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Biden if he agreed with former President Barack Obama that the Senate filibuster was a “relic of the Jim Crow era.”
.@kaitlancollins: "Do you agree that the filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow era?"
BIDEN: "Yes."@kaitlancollins: "Why not abolish it if it's a relic of the Jim Crow era?"
BIDEN: "Successful electoral politics is the art of the possible." pic.twitter.com/MVCFoAHGZL
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 25, 2021
Biden’s agreement that the filibuster was racist was all but assured.
Any politician who owed his presidency to Obama and the country’s black voters would think twice before crossing its first black president. For a president as politically weak as Biden — with fingernail thin majorities in the House and Senate and widespread doubts about his cognitive abilities — it would have been impossible.
He then launched into a platitude about politics being “the art of the possible” (a phrase generally attributed to the 19th century Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck) and tried to revert to the reasonable Uncle Joe of his public image. But his answer made it clear that the foes of the filibuster have a friend in the White House.
In one sense it wasn’t a surprise. The Senate under Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York promises to be a blindly partisan vehicle for the progressive agenda — by whatever means necessary.
But in another sense it was, because Biden was not only betraying his country — he was betraying himself.
In allowing himself to be cornered by the current Democratic mania for absolute power at any cost, Biden showed himself to have been lying to the country in a lengthy, lengthy speech he gave on the Senate floor in 2005 — a time when his party was not only out of the White House, but held a minority in the Senate.
Then, Biden’s praise for the filibuster was effusive. The practice he now condemns as a vestige of the viciously racist, Democratic-imposed Jim Crow era was, but a decade-and-a-half ago, an integral part of the Senate’s role as a “bulwark against unilateral power.” (The speech can be found here. Using search terms like “Biden,” “filibuster” and “Byrd” will make it easier to find the now-president’s part in the proceedings.)
As part of the April 27, 2005, presentation, Biden had a speech entered into the record that was given earlier that week by then-Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia (maybe not so coincidentally, a man who got his political start as a ranking officer in a Ku Klux Klan chapter).
Here is how Byrd described what was then a maneuver still years in the future — the abolition of the filibuster in confirming federal judges. (It was another Democratic Senate Majority Leader, the truly loathsome Harry Reid, who eventually did away with the judicial filibuster for lower courts in 2013):
“There is nothing, then, except good sense, which seems to be in very short supply, to prevent majority cloture of any filibuster on any measure or matter, whether on the legislative or the executive calendar. Think of that!” Byrd said in the speech Biden introduced.
“Rules going back for over 200 years and beyond, with roots in the early British Parliament, can be swept away by a simple majority vote.
“Because of demagoguery, lack of leadership, raw ambition, hysteria, and a state of brutal political warfare that wants no truce and brooks no peacemakers, we may destroy the U.S. Senate, leaving in our wake a President able to select and intimidate the courts like a King, and a system of government finally and irretrievably lost in a last pathetic footnote to Ben Franklin’s rejoinder for the ages, ‘a Republic, if you can keep it.’ This is scary!”
Those were the words one of the Democratic Party’s preeminent senators of the 20th century used to describe attacks against the filibuster — the Senate practice Democrats now describe as a vestige of their own racist past.
So, is the president’s newfound distaste for the filibuster a matter of recognizing that he himself was a racist as recently as 2005? Is he admitting now that, only three years before his party’s first black presidential nominee chose him to be vice president, Joe Biden was a champion of the darkest days of racist injustice Democrats had ever foisted on the country?
Or maybe this attack on the filibuster is just one more cynical ploy in Biden’s long lifetime of cynical ploys — in politics and in his personal life.
Maybe it’s the logical step to take against the legislative institution that represents one of the few obstacles to absolute, unchecked power the Democratic Party still has to contend with.
Is Joe Biden finally recognizing and outing his own loathsome, racist individual past? Or is he doing his best to reduce the world’s oldest republic to the indignity of one-party despotism in the future?
At this stage of his life and his political career, when Biden’s cognitive abilities are clearly questionable, it’s an open question whether Biden remembers that 2005 speech.
But there’s no question that what he’s doing now — or allowing to be done by the political party that put him into the presidency — is going to blacken the Biden name in the history of the country.
Biden might not remember it. But Americans will.