What Joe Biden's Anita Hill apology tells us about his 2020 plans

The biggest tell to date of Joe Biden's 2020 plans came this week, when he apologized to Anita Hill."I wish I ...

Posted: Dec 15, 2017 3:43 PM
Updated: Dec 15, 2017 3:43 PM

The biggest tell to date of Joe Biden's 2020 plans came this week, when he apologized to Anita Hill.

"I wish I had been able to do more for Anita Hill," Biden told Teen Vogue in an interview. "I owe her an apology."

Hill, you will remember, worked for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas when they were both at the Department of Education. During Thomas' 1991 confirmation hearings, Hill alleged that he had sexually harassed her. She came under withering criticism from the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, which Biden chaired at the time.

Biden, as the years have passed, has been widely perceived as doing too little to defend Hill in that hearing. The optics of a committee of all white men questioning Hill, who is African-American, also aged poorly.

Amid the growing #metoo movement -- and the series of politicians who have either resigned or lost races while battling allegations of sexual harassment -- Biden's past with Hill was sure to grow as an issue in the coming weeks and months.

So he nipped it in the bud. For the second time in a month. (Last month, Biden was asked about the Thomas hearings and his role. "What I do feel badly about is the bad taste that got left in the mouth of some of the people around Anita Hill, and maybe even Anita, about whether or not the witnesses should have been called who were called and weren't called," he said.)

That is not an accident. Biden, a 75-year-old white man, understands how the treatment of Hill was perceived by many women and, in light of the cultural movement around women speaking out about harassment, he is working to clear up any sort of misunderstanding or hurt feelings around it. He is clearing the decks, purging his past of anything that could be seized on by, say, a future political opponent.

A future political opponent like, say, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has emerged as the leading voice of the #metoo movement on Capitol Hill. Gillibrand was the first senator to call for Sen. Al Franken's resignation in the wake of a series of allegations from women that he groped and forcibly kissed them. And she is very much looking at running for president in 2020.

So, too, is Biden. Witness this quote from his appearance on "The View" earlier this week:

"If I were offered the nomination by the Lord Almighty right now, today, I would say no because we're not ready, the family's not ready to do this. If, in a year from now, if we're ready, and nobody has moved in that I think can do it, then I may very well do it."

That's not a "no." Heck, it's not even a "maybe." It's basically a "yes ... probably." Biden's caveat -- "nobody has moved in that I think can do it" -- is the tell. He's a politician. Who was a senator at 30. A two-time presidential candidate. And a two-term vice president. Looking at that r-sum-, do you really think he is going to conclude that anyone who decides to run for the Democratic nomination in 2020 is really more qualified to do the job than he is?

None of that is to say that Biden is a lock for the race. He, more than almost anyone, knows the role that fate -- and unexpected events -- can play in a life, having lost his eldest son, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015.

"I'm a great respecter of fate, but who knows what the situation is going to be in a year and a half?," Biden told the "Today" show last month. "I don't have any idea. I'm in good health now, I'm in good shape ... but I just don't know. Honest to God, that's the truth."

What Biden is doing right now -- with the Hill apology as the leading edge -- is not (yet) running for president, but preparing to decide to run for president.

To undertake such a gargantuan endeavor -- and, remember that Biden's two past presidential bids make him uniquely able to understand the challenges of a national campaign -- is something that requires years' worth of planning, plotting and thinking.

Think of it this way: Running for president is like an iceberg. The part that you see above the water is the time from the announcement of the bid to its end -- whether in victory or defeat. But that visible part is only a tiny fraction of the entirety of the actual iceberg that is floating below the surface. What Biden is doing right now is well under the water line -- checking for cracks, shoring up weak spots and the like.

If he runs, Biden almost certainly is the race's Democratic front-runner -- given his universal name recognition, his close relationship with Barack Obama (and the Obama political and money networks) and his personal story.

But a Biden candidacy doesn't clear the Democratic field. Not even close. With President Donald Trump's approval ratings already in the mid-to-low 30s, there will be a loooooong line of ambitious Democrats who see the party nomination as a near sure-thing into the White House.

And almost everyone in that 2020 Democratic race will be a fresher -- and younger -- face than Biden. What he cannot do is allow himself to be defined as a voice from the past before the race even begins. He knows that -- hence the Hill apology.

Make no mistake: Joe Biden is getting ready. And, given that, the expectation should be that he will run in 2020.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30900

Reported Deaths: 1111
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds249840
DeSoto159416
Madison130034
Jones112449
Neshoba98871
Rankin93412
Harrison91211
Lauderdale90979
Forrest86942
Scott77115
Jackson62216
Copiah60215
Washington5849
Leake57819
Holmes55341
Lee54718
Wayne54513
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51518
Yazoo5096
Leflore48751
Grenada4835
Lowndes48313
Lincoln46034
Lamar4587
Pike43112
Monroe40130
Lafayette3914
Sunflower3727
Attala36023
Covington3565
Panola3506
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Simpson3173
Adams31118
Pontotoc2866
Tate28310
Marion28111
Chickasaw27718
Claiborne27410
Noxubee2638
Jasper2626
Winston2616
Pearl River25432
Clay25010
Marshall2323
Smith21811
Clarke20724
Union2079
Coahoma2016
Walthall1995
Kemper17914
Lawrence1772
Yalobusha1707
Carroll16511
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1322
Calhoun1304
Tippah13011
Hancock12813
Webster12710
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite912
George883
Tishomingo801
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn692
Perry664
Stone651
Franklin452
Sharkey370
Benton360
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
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