Joe Biden recently got himself in a bit of trouble by noting how well he worked with old segregationist Democrats when he was a Senator in congress. But Biden didn’t just play nice with Jim Crow-supporting pols, he was a key ally for them.
Biden praised his relationship with pro-segregationist senators James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia saying that with those old-fashioned racists, “At least there was some civility.”
It was the former vice president’s very clumsy way of saying that he was the sort who could work with “the other side.”
Of course, there was a major lie at the heart of Biden’s aborted attempt to sound reasonable. While he was trying to fool his audience into thinking he could work with opponents, the fact is Biden “accidentally” forgot to mention that the Senators he was working with back in the 70s were all Democrats. They weren’t “the opposition.” They were folks from his own party.
As they used to say on those late-night TV commercials, but wait, there’s more.
Biden didn’t just work with those segregationists. He was one of they key allies.
As The Federalist’s David Harsanyi reported. “Biden was far more than merely “civil” with segregationists,” Harsanyi noted.
Judging from the Senate transcripts and interviews of the time, it’s clear that Biden was an all-star opportunist. After watching the former Delaware senator shed 50 years of positions in the past few years, this should come as no surprise.
In 1973, Democratic Party leadership was teeming with unsavory Southern senators. If a freshman like Biden—who in a 1974 Time magazine profile admitted “to being compulsively ambitious”—wanted a plum committee position, he would be compelled to approach someone like J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, a segregationist and anti-Semite who would later become a mentor to the Clintons. (Bill awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 and Hillary still had her name on a shared fellowship in 2016—although no one seemed to mind very much).
With his ambitions in tow, Biden set his sights on becoming a big pal of Sen. James “Voice of the White South” Eastland.
“Biden, according Annis, showed Eastland “considerable deference” towards the Mississippi senator not because he was the key to freshman’s political ambitions but also an ally in the busing fight,” Harsanyi wrote.
It paid off. Along with Sen. William Fulbright — also a well-known opponent of civil rights — Eastland showered Biden with good fortune in the upper chamber.
But it went deeper. Biden was all over the issues that Eastland wanted pushed and was more than willing to help Eastland push his policies.
For more details, check out Harsanyi’s article.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.