- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Joe Biden took the stage of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference in the nation’s capital, flashed his signature folksy, regular guy smile — and joked, “I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie.”

Lonnie, being IBEW International’s male president, Lonnie Stephenson.

Poor timing. Poor taste.

The audience chuckled. The seven women who’ve come forward to accuse Biden of inappropriate touching no doubt groaned. As for the rest of the politically watching world?

Why, Biden, why?

It’s not just that the joke comes at a politically tenuous time for Biden, who’s largely expected to launch a presidential bid post-Easter. And toward that, the sitting president pretty much yawned.

“I don’t see Joe Biden as a threat” in 2020, said President Donald Trump, in a recent televised chat. “I only see him as a threat to himself.”

Yes, it’s shaping that way, that’s for sure.

But it’s also that Biden’s joke rings a bit high on the arrogance scale, coming as it does on his widely watched, apology-free video of explanation, and widely read, apology-free tweet that chalked up all this womanly accusatory nonsense to changing “social norms.”

Biden tweeted: “Social norms are changing. I understand that, and I’ve heard what these women are saying. Politics to me has always been about making connections, but I will be more mindful about respecting personal space in the future. That’s my responsibility, and I will meet it.”

How nice.

But changing the narrative of the issue doesn’t make the problematic issue disappear.

The issue to Biden’s accusers and to long-time Biden watchers who have stuck him with the tag “creepy” is not one of “making connections.” It’s not about “hugs,” either.

The issue with Biden is about too-long touches, too-familiar hand placements on the bodies of women who are not named Jill Biden, too-close-for-comfort hair nuzzles, too-intimate strokes of little girls’ shoulders and heads and chins. The issue with Biden is about too many years of these uncomfortable moments — and now, his inability to outright apologize.

He may be setting the stage for a run at the presidency.

But joking about hugging a man, as if anyone has ever had a problem with him hugging a man, does not exactly set the stage for truth — or redemption.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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