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WSJ: Joe Biden’s Long Career of Conformity All politicians adjust their views, but the president’s malleability is the most notable thing about him.

  |   By Polling+ Staff

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Joe Biden’s Long Career of Conformity

All politicians adjust their views, but the president’s malleability is the most notable thing about him.

Joe Biden, conformist, so posits the Wall Street Journal’s Barton Swaim.  He writes:

“If you’re surprised that Joe Biden called last week for an “immediate cease-fire” in Gaza, allow me to suggest that you are unfamiliar with the career and character of Joe Biden. The one thing the 46th president can be counted on to do is conform to the conventional wisdom of left-liberal opinion.

Six months ago, Mr. Biden heartened supporters of Israel by condemning the Oct. 7 attacks in vivid terms and without qualification. He contemplated the savage murder of Israeli citizens and rightly saw no ambiguity. “Children slaughtered. Babies slaughtered. Entire families massacred,” he said on Oct. 18. “Rape, beheadings, bodies burned alive. Hamas committed atrocities that recall the worst ravages of ISIS, unleashing pure unadulterated evil upon the world. There is no rationalizing it, no excusing it. Period.”

What the president evidently didn’t anticipate—although this, too, was as predictable as the sunrise—was how quickly liberal opinion would move from sympathy for Israel to condemnation of its response. By the new year what’s nonsensically termed the “international community” had begun, again, to hold Israel to impossible standards. The call for a cease-fire—in essence meaning Hamas can kill, rape and maim Israelis and remain a legitimate political entity—was everywhere in the West. Foreign-policy VIPs even revived talk of a “two-state solution,” as if the Oct. 7 attacks were grounds for rewarding Gazans with a state from which to launch further attacks.

Last week it was clear Mr. Biden was on the verge of conforming again. His United Nations ambassador had abstained from a March 25 resolution calling for an “immediate cease-fire” not conditioned on the return of hostages from Gaza (including, let’s remember, American ones). On Thursday Mr. Biden, in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for a cease-fire. Ostensibly this was in response to the Israeli military’s erroneous killing of seven aid workers, but it’s plain Mr. Biden was searching for a way to ingratiate himself with his party’s left.

He puts one in mind of Earl Haig’s remark about the Earl of Derby: “A very weak-minded fellow I am afraid, and, like the feather pillow, bears the marks of the last person who sat on him!”

Mr. Biden bears the marks of many a backside. For most of his career he supported the Hyde Amendment barring the use of federal funds for abortion. Running for president in 2020, Mr. Biden announced he favored repealing the amendment. In 2019, during an early Democratic primary debate, Sen. Kamala Harris lashed Mr. Biden for opposing forced busing in the 1970s. He had taken that position a half-century before for the excellent reason that the public overwhelmingly hated busing, but in 2019 he felt obliged to sound as if he half-supported it.

In 1986, after Democrats took the Senate, Mr. Biden was in line to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, he said he would be likely to support Robert Bork’s appointment to the Supreme Court: “Say the administration sends up Bork and, after our investigation, he looks a lot like another Scalia,” Mr. Biden told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I’d have to vote for him. And if the groups tear me apart, that’s the medicine I’ll have to take. I’m not Teddy Kennedy.” In 1987 President Reagan nominated Bork, liberal groups denounced the choice, and Mr. Biden happily allied himself with Kennedy’s savage vilification of the jurist.

Four years later Mr. Biden presided over Judge Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings. Law professor Anita Hill claimed that Judge Thomas had made inappropriate sexual comments in the workplace years before. The situation put Mr. Biden in a difficult position. A large majority of the public—58%—thought Ms. Hill was lying, but nearly 100% of the mainstream press and purveyors of liberal opinion wanted Judge Thomas defeated by any means available. Mr. Biden tried to have it both ways. He questioned Ms. Hill sharply during her testimony but voted against Judge Thomas. Years later Mr. Biden admitted to Sen. Arlen Specter that he believed Ms. Hill was lying, according to Specter. But as a presidential candidate in 2019 Biden phoned Ms. Hill to express, as a campaign aide put it, “regret for what she endured” and “admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country.”

Mr. Biden, in common with many Democrats, voted for the Iraq war but followed the liberal commentariat in turning against it; and he was against same-sex marriage until enlightened opinion equated that view with bigotry. All politicians adjust their views and alter their commitments, but Mr. Biden’s pliability is his most notable quality.

For many years he boasted of his role in passing the 1994 crime bill. In 2019, his party having decided tough-on-crime policies to be racist, he began either apologizing for the bill (“I haven’t always been right . . . but I’ve always tried”) or meekly claiming it didn’t cause “mass incarceration.”

In 2020 he won his party’s nomination without, as this newspaper’s editorial board pointed out at the time, offering a single distinctive idea or policy. He became what the Democrats’ ascendant left flank, particularly Sen. Bernie Sanders and his socialist allies, wanted him to be. Beginning with the Democratic convention that year, Mr. Biden has embraced every position suggested to him by the party’s noisemakers on the left. He is now a proponent of free college tuition, student-loan forgiveness, the repeal of right-to-work laws, a $15 federal minimum wage, an imminent ban on gasoline-powered vehicles, dramatic expansions of Medicare and Medicaid, mass decarceration and the federal takeover of elections. 

Taken together these data points forcefully rebut the “asymmetric polarization” thesis so popular among smart-set liberals. This view holds that the parties have moved apart mainly because Republicans keep moving to the right. But the GOP, as I like to point out regularly in these pages, has become extremist on tactics (government shutdowns, idiotic rhetoric) while remaining largely static on policy. Today’s Democrats, on the other hand, advance a host of positions neither they nor almost anybody else had thought of a quarter-century ago. Mr. Biden goes along with all of it.

You can’t make more than a few sensible guesses about what a second term for Donald Trump would involve (he will be impeached, but will it happen during the first or second month?). The outlines of a second Biden term, by contrast, seem clear. Having denounced the killing and mutilation of Israeli children and adults in October, Mr. Biden signaled his support for Palestinian statehood in January. What will he demand next—a so-called right of return, enabling the descendants of Arabs displaced in 1948 to resettle in Israel, effectively abolishing the Jewish state? And if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can be bullied by activists into calling Israel’s defense against Hamas “genocide,” as she was last month, you would be foolish to bet against Mr. Biden calling it that, too.

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If the left’s avant-garde wants a 32-hour workweek today—Mr. Sanders is pushing it—you’re safe to assume that a second-term Biden administration will make that demand, too. Racial reparations? The criminalization of “misgendering” and other forms of “hate speech”? Denuclearization? Nationalization of industries? Mr. Biden isn’t there yet, but give him time. It’ll only take the right people to sit on him.”

Swaim hits the nail on the head. Biden has a very long career of doing exactly all of this. Change is not at hand.