Joe Biden’s hearing Elizabeth Warren’s footsteps, and his team has decided to stomp her in return. CNN reports from “a campaign source close to Biden” that they plan to start attacking Warren on character, not just highlighting policy differences. The new message coming from Team Biden in the weeks approaching the Iowa caucuses will be — don’t vote for the “smarty britches”?
The former vice president has sharply escalated his attacks on Warren in recent days, shifting from dismissing Warren’s policy ideas as unrealistic to a more personal attack on the former Harvard professor. Three months from the Iowa caucuses, Biden’s new approach reflects a new phase in the 2020 primary, with Democratic candidates sharpening their criticism of their foes and drawing more distinctions.
The campaign is reframing its critiques of Warren, a source close to Biden’s campaign told CNN. It is no longer that “she is a liar,” the source said.
“It’s ‘Warren is a smarty britches who thinks if you don’t agree with her, you’re an idiot,’” the source said in describing Biden’s new approach.
Nothing says hep cat to all the cool droogies like the phrase “smarty britches,” I bet. Grandpa Joe, what are “britches”? Well, son, that’s what we used to call dungarees back in my day …
Biden’s team says Warren started the personal attacks this week and that they are just responding in kind. Last Friday, Warren had lashed out at Biden’s criticisms of her Medicare for All plan, claiming that Biden might want to run in the other primary if he’s not on board with socialized medicine:
Elizabeth Warren swatted back at Joe Biden’s criticism of her $21 trillion Medicare-for-All plan Friday, accusing him of “running in the wrong presidential primary.”
“Democrats are not going to win by repeating Republican talking points,” the Massachusetts senator said in Des Moines, Iowa. “So, if Biden doesn’t like that, I’m just not sure where he’s going.”
Warren’s unusually direct attack on her campaign rival came after she released a long-awaited explanation of how she to planned to pay for her $20.5 trillion proposal to create a government-run health care system. The Biden campaign called that plan “mathematical gymnastics” intended to hide the fact that it would result in tax increases on middle-class workers.
That created an angry riposte from Biden himself on Medium. Biden pushed his new “elitist” argument against Warren by reminding her that he’s, er, been in the Beltway one hell of a long time:
I have fought for the Democratic party my whole career. I know what we stand for, who we stand with and what we believe. And it’s not just policies or issues. It’s in my bones. That’s not something everyone in this primary can say.
But at another level these kinds of attacks are a serious problem. They reflect an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics. If someone doesn’t agree with you — it’s not just that you disagree — that person must be a coward or corrupt or a small thinker.
Some call it the “my way or the highway” approach to politics. But it’s worse than that. It’s condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view.
It’s representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share: “We know best; you know nothing”. “If you were only as smart as I am you would agree with me.”
The “in my bones” comment is a slap at Warren’s long-ago registration as a Republican, but it might just as well have been a claim of seniority. Furthermore, Biden himself has occasionally argued that he’s the smartest guy in the room as a rebuttal to criticism; his 1987 presidential campaign had already begun to founder over his own elitism prior to his plagiarism getting exposed. How else does one explain Biden’s rebuttal to a voter’s criticism at that time: ”I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.”
NARRATOR: He didn’t.
By the way, it’s tough to make this argument with a straight face when stepping out of a big-ticket donor event, isn’t it? Dave Weigel wonders:
I still can’t figure out why Biden is making the “Warren’s an elitist” attack at high-dollar fundraisers. How hard is it to rustle up some fire-fighters and “folks” the bejesus out of this line in some swing county?
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) November 7, 2019
So does the Washington Post, which notes that Warren has the more populist agenda and fundraising policies of the two:
Warren — who is indeed a Harvard professor after all, albeit one who grew up poor in Oklahoma — has a policy program that is far more aggressively populist than Biden’s. Not only that, she loudly proclaimed that she would do no big-dollar fundraisers with rich people.
By contrast, Biden, like most traditional candidates, is heavily reliant on those events for fundraising and has raised more money from lobbyists than another Democrat. She has been criticizing him about this from the beginning; her campaign once hit him for holding “a swanky private fundraiser for wealthy donors at the home of the guy who runs Comcast’s lobbying shop.”
That criticism may be valid, but Biden thinks of himself as anything but swanky. So what may have him feeling really defensive is the accusation that he — Middle Class Joe! — might be the candidate of the wealthy establishment.
After nearly fifty years in Washington? Get. Out.
The Daily Beast also wonders why Biden is parroting talking points about Warren from Trump and the GOP:
Allies in Trump’s circle and the Republican Party have said privately for months that they view Warren as elitist and intend to add that branding to their arsenal of attacks. And with the general election now less than one year out, those attacks could take on a new relevancy when promoted by Biden, one of the Democratic Party’s own leading presidential candidates.
“Warren’s time as a corporate legal consultant and Harvard professor were bound to become fodder in this election,” one GOP operative told The Daily Beast. “Having Democrats start to define her as misleading and inauthentic only helps President Trump’s ability to provide a clear contrast if she makes it to the general.”
That’s an easy question to answer. It’s because the attack is easy to make, and because Biden’s starting to become very, very worried about Warren’s momentum among everyone else but the britches demographic. Between that and record players, Joe better hope that only the fogeys can remember the correct primary and caucus dates next year.