But as he moves from a campaign for power to actually exercising power, Biden will soon enough need to show that just because he isn’t a bully, doesn’t mean he can be bullied.
It won't happen, though he doesn't recognize the genesis of Biden's problem. However, he does note
During the transition, Biden has often seemed as if someone affixed a “kick me” sign to the back of his suit jacket. The transition, which has seen prominent Democrats openly carping about Biden’s process and several of his decisions, risks creating a dangerous dynamic for the incoming president. In the Washington context, Biden’s peril is that he is sending the message that there is not a penalty for publicly pressuring him, and is likely a benefit. In the national context, any president should wish to project a leadership vision that transcends party and clamoring constituencies.
That ship has sailed. It left port on August 11, 2020 once presumptive presidential nominee Biden had
chosen Kamala Harris, the prominent senator from California whose political career has included many barrier-breaking moments, as his running mate, his campaign announced on Tuesday.
The decision comes more than a year after Harris, who was also a 2020 Democratic candidate, clashed with Biden over racial issues during the first primary debate...
Because of their friendship, Harris' attack on Biden during the first Democratic primary debate for his record on busing and working with segregationists came as a shock to the Biden campaign, his family and the candidate himself.
"I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn't prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me. She knew Beau, she knows me," Biden said in an interview later that summer. He said Harris had "mischaracterized" his position.
The surprise and backlash of that debate moment in Miami was still top of mind for Biden's wife, Jill, as recently as March. Jill Biden said in a virtual fundraiser, "Our son Beau spoke so highly of her and, you know, and how great she was. And not that she isn't. I'm not saying that. But it was just like a punch to the gut. It was a little unexpected."
"A little unexpected" does a lot of work here. Harris slammed Biden in a late June, 2019 debate for his perspective on busing, then immediately raised millions of dollars from her calculated, racially-focused attack. When Biden thereafter was interviewed by CNN, Chris
Cuomo responded that Harris had begun her criticism of Biden by saying she does not believe he is racist.
“I know, but as soon as I heard those words, I thought, ‘uh oh, what’s coming next,’” Jill Biden said.
She added: “The American people know Joe Biden. They know his values. They know what he stands for. And they didn’t buy it.”
After saying that she did not believe her opponent is racist, Harris began the next sentence with "But I also believe, and it’s personal....", obviously implying that Biden's criticism of busing as a means of achieving integration was motivated by race.
A moment later she would emphasize that a difference of opinion is unacceptable because "on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats." She could not have been clearer had she actually said "you personally attacked me as a black girl."
A friend of Joe’s late son Beau, with whom Harris had a favorable professional relationship, remarked “I don’t pretend to know what’s in the vice president’s head- I wasn’t surprised that someone came after him. But I turned to my wife and said “Beau’s flipping his grave.’” Further, Jill Biden believed that Kamala Harris had accused her husband of being a racist which, in the Democratic Party, is a criticism second only to being accused of being a pedophile. And it's a close second.
Little more than thirteen months later, Biden would select as his running-mate and heir apparent to leadership of the Democratic Party the woman who had humiliated him in front of a national audience. Everyone noticed.
John Harris recognizes (italics his)
But it seems likely Biden will soon enough have to send the message something like this: The way to influence the Democratic Party is to talk to the leader of the Democratic Party. And if you want to be heard, you need to call me — not the New York Times.
If they are smart, they will call him something- not a racist, because Vice-President Harris may give him cover on that. However, Joe Biden's willingness to be easily, effectively bullied is not a reality lost on anyone but the most naive.