Ten candidates for the Democratic Party’s 2020 nomination for President of the United States met in Atlanta, Georgia on November 20. Former Vice President Joe Biden had two ‘moments’ — one impressive and one extremely awkward.
The First of Two Moments:
In the middle of the debate, one of the moderators asked the Vice President whether he would sanction Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses. He said that he would, and that there is “little social redeeming value” in the present government of Saudi Arabia. Then he pivoted to other human rights issues that concerned him, included the confinement of masses of Uighurs [Turkic Muslims] in the west of China.
The plight of the Uighurs is not much discussed in US politics. It is less accessible and photogenic than, for example, the protests and threats of a crack-down in Hong Kong. Even the pronunciation is unfamiliar (on twitter, some people expressed surprise that Biden was discussing “Whiggers”.) But this was not a weakness of Biden and within hours it came to be seen as a strength. Biden has been in public life for a long time and has a grasp of a wide range of issues, whether they are on everybody else’s radar or not.
The Thing to Know:
The second defining moment came a bit later. Biden boasted of his support from Carol Moseley Braun who was the first black woman ever elected to the US Senate. He is of course entitled to tout that fact — that’s what big-name endorsements are for. BUT .. he is not entitled to call this what he did, an endorsement by the ONLY black woman ever elected to the Senate, especially when Senator Kamala Harris is standing in plain sight a few feet away. That was a very awkward error and one that may have undone whatever good his focused performance earlier in the debate had done him.