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Fact-Checking Joe Biden Before the Iowa Caucuses

The former vice president has made inaccurate claims this month about his record on Social Security, race and foreign policy.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. remains atop most national polls before the first votes are cast next month in the Democratic presidential primary. Before the Iowa caucuses, The New York Times reviewed recent statements he made defending his decades-long career, stressing his standing in the black community and highlighting his perceived strength on foreign policy. Here’s a fact check.


Mr. Biden tried to defend his record on Social Security and birth control with questionable claims.

Antonia Hylton, a reporter for Vice News: “Do you think, though, that it’s fair for voters to question your commitment to Social Security when in the past you’ve proposed a freeze to it?”

Mr. Biden: “No, I didn’t propose a freeze.”
— at the Brown & Black Democratic Presidential Forum last week in Iowa

False. In 1984, faced with budget deficits under the Reagan administration, Mr. Biden was a co-sponsor of an amendment with two Republican senators that froze for one year nearly all military and domestic spending, including cost-of-living adjustments to Social Security benefits.


Much more at link.

Mrs. Clinton, You Already Beat Bernie Sanders. Trump Is the Opponent Now.

Listen, I get it. It must be hard, after a bitter defeat that kept her from being the country’s first female president, to see her former rival rise in the polls, beloved by his supporters.
But considering the stakes, it’d be best if Mrs. Clinton worked through all that on her own.

It wasn’t so long ago that Mrs. Clinton made similarly pointless comments suggesting that another Democrat in the race, Representative Tulsi Gabbard, was the favored candidate of the Russians. All that did was help Tulsi Gabbard, who some have feared might wage an independent campaign in November. Her relevance was briefly inflated by being the object of Mrs. Clinton’s public ire.

If interest in Mrs. Clinton is high enough to warrant a documentary, fine. But in the middle of a presidential campaign, does she need to be so distracting?

And, as a reminder, after the 2016 Democratic convention, Mr. Sanders campaigned vigorously for Mrs. Clinton. “We have to do everything that we can to elect Secretary Clinton!” he roared to crowds while stumping for her in North Carolina days before the election. “Sanders has been one of the real champions of this campaign,” The New Yorker reported at the time.

It’s really not too much to ask Mrs. Clinton to return the favor, or if that’s too hard, to stay out of the primary contest entirely. That’s not because it’s the gracious thing to do, though it is the gracious thing to do. It’s because an electoral victory by Mr. Trump, as Mr. Sanders made clear when he campaigned for Mrs. Clinton, would be too much for the country to bear.
Democratic voters know that. Does Hillary Clinton?


Opinion: Democrats looked ready to unify. And then Hillary Clinton had to go and raise her hand


JAN. 21, 2020 12:21 PM
On Monday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates — who have run a pretty chill primary, all things considered — linked arms at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally in South Carolina. Their message was clear: Even as the race narrows and the Iowa caucuses loom, the field is joined in common purpose. Or enough common purpose to keep things civil.

It was a nice twenty-something hours. Because this morning, former candidate Hillary Clinton popped up to zing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — even demurring on whether she’d support him were he to win the nomination. In an upcoming Hulu series, Clinton says Sanders “was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done.” When asked if that assessment still holds, Clinton told the Hollywood Reporter, in an interview published this morning, “Yes, it does.”

It’s mind-boggling to see a woman against whom “likability” was so ably weaponized argue that Sanders is unlikable. It’s particularly absurd for Clinton, who was so frustrated by Sanders’ late support of her as the Democratic presidential nominee, to say that she’s unsure if she would support him should he get the nomination. (I’d vote for a sentient sock should it win the Democratic nomination, or even former Vice President Joe Biden, should it come to that, which is to repeat myself.) It’s wild to accuse a competitor’s campaign of relentless negativity while being relentlessly negative three years later about that same campaign.

Meanwhile, the current candidates, including Sanders, have largely kept their messages to the issues. When Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign circulated the rumor that Sanders had said a woman could not win the presidency, Sanders denied the exchange, all while praising Warren as a candidate and a person — an exceptionally difficult line to walk. When a prominent Sanders supporter published an op-ed last week saying that Biden represented Washington, D.C., corruption, Sanders immediately went on television and said, “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared.”

Krugman's tweet on disliking Sanders.


Biden, Sanders, Social Security and Smears


So, about the element of truth in the criticism of Biden: Once upon a time, there was a peculiar consensus among media figures and would-be centrists that the long-run cost of entitlement programs was America’s biggest problem, that Social Security in particular was in crisis and that something had to be done, with the solution including benefit cuts.

This consensus wasn’t based on hard thinking; it was about the attitude politicians were expected to display. As I wrote way back in 2007, proclaiming a Social Security crisis requiring cuts was seen as a “badge of seriousness,” a way of showing how statesmanlike and tough-minded you were.

The candidate I was criticizing, by the way — the guy I said had been “played for a sucker” — was a politician named Barack Obama. But Biden was certainly pulled in by that conventional wisdom, too, so it’s not hard to find old quotes in which he suggested possible Social Security cuts in the name of fiscal responsibility.

But that was then. These days, Biden, like many Democrats, is calling for an expansion of Social Security benefits. That doesn’t make his previous statements irrelevant; he should acknowledge that he has changed his position, and his history on the issue is one reason progressives worry that, if elected, he might fritter away his political capital in vain attempts to reach bipartisan compromise. (His role in passing the draconian 2005 bankruptcy bill, which got Elizabeth Warren involved in politics, is another.)

It's a good read.

Klobuchar Pushes For Bill To Lift Protections For Wolves

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Senators from three states have introduced legislation to lift federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and return responsibility for managing those populations to the states.

The bill introduced Tuesday comes from senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, John Barrasso and Enzi of Wyoming, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.


The Interior Department has tried several times to take wolves in the four states off the endangered list but has been blocked by the courts. Both the Senate bill and one introduced in the House last week would prevent the courts from overruling the decision.

Similar proposals stalled out last year, partly due to White House opposition. But farm and rancher groups and other wolf hunting supporters hope that changes under the Trump administration.


Biden seeks to cast Warren as an elitist who believes people lack courage or wisdom

unless they agree with her.


Joseph R. Biden Jr. escalated the war of words between the two leading Democratic candidates, painting Elizabeth Warren as unwilling to accept criticism of her plans.


Joseph R. Biden Jr. unfurled sharply personal new lines of attack against Senator Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday, questioning her contributions to the Democratic Party and seeking to cast her as an elitist who believes people lack courage or wisdom unless they agree with her.

“Some call it the ‘my way or the highway’ approach to politics,” Mr. Biden, the former vice president, wrote in a Medium post. “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.’ This is no way to get anything done.”

Mr. Biden repeated similar arguments in a fund-raising email and at a fund-raiser in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, escalating tensions between the two top-polling contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination. He did not mention his rival by name, but the message was unmistakably aimed at Ms. Warren, whose Republican critics have for years sought to paint her as an out-of-touch liberal who worked as a Harvard professor

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