- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2019

Sen. Cory Booker hit former Vice President Joe Biden for his record on race on Sunday, saying his fellow 2020 presidential contender can’t heal the country’s racial divides.

Mr. Booker took particular aim at language Mr. Biden used recently when making comments about law enforcement needing to take more care when engaging with African Americans.

“We’ve got to recognize that kid wearing a hoodie may very well be the next poet laureate and not a gangbanger,” Mr. Biden said Friday.

The New Jersey senator said it should obvious that “gangbanger” is offensive.

“Again this is just another example of lessons that Joe Biden shouldn’t have to learn,” Mr. Booker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”



Mr. Biden has come under fire several times the past few weeks for recent comments he’s made about his working relationship with segregationist senators, which several other 2020 candidates, including Mr. Booker, said was racially insensitive.

During the Democratic debate earlier this week, the former VP took a hit when Sen. Kamala Harris called out his past opposition to busing earlier in his career.

Mr. Booker said there is more in Mr. Biden’s record that discredits him on civil rights, like the 1994 Crime Bill.

“Because of a lot legislation that Joe Biden endorsed, this war on drugs, which has become a war on people,” he said. “There’s more African Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850.”

The problem, Mr. Booker argued, isn’t the record itself, but the fact that Mr. Biden can’t admit his own missteps.

“This is a bad culture where you can’t admit mistakes. Where you can’t speak to your vulnerabilities and your imperfections. We all have them,” Mr. Booker said.

“The vice president to me is not doing a good job at bringing people together,” he added.

Despite fumbling in the debate to defend his opposition to bussing, Mr. Biden still has the backing of the Democratic establishment in places such as South Carolina, where that goes a long way in shoring up African American support.

Gestures of support from civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest ranking African American in Congress, helped Mr. Biden weather a storm of criticism when at a recent fundraiser he spoke fondly of his good working relationships with staunch segregationist senators in the 1970s.

Keeping such prominent African American leaders in his camp will be key to Mr. Biden’s political survival.

“There are people who are going to want this issue to blow him apart but to this point, he’s been taking some criticism and keep up in the polls,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist in South Carolina. “When you have deep and wide support that sometimes overrides some of these in-the-moment things.”

Other Democratic Party operatives, however, have warned that at this early stage Mr. Biden’s support is more likely “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham defended Mr. Biden on Sunday, saying “there’s not a racist bone in his body.”

But he did offer some advice for the former VP to help him redeem himself on the next debate stage.

“The policy options being presented to the country by the leading contenders on the Democratic side are their biggest problem. Pretty liberal, pretty extreme,” Mr. Graham said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “But when it comes to Joe Biden, I think the next debate, he’s got to change the narrative.”

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