Joe Biden clearly had a target on his back at Thursday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate as he was attacked in major ways by other candidates multiple times.
One heated exchange was between the former vice president and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and it was on the matter of race, an issue that got Biden into hot water recently when he recalled working with two segregationist politicians back when he was a senator.
“I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground,” Harris said to Biden. “But… it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two U.S. senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
The crowd cheered on Harris and Biden was eventually given a chance to respond to the senator.
“I did not praise racists,” Biden said of his recent comments. “That is not true, number one. Number two, if we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights and whether I did or not, I’m happy to do that.”
The former vice president then launched into a defense of his record as a public servant.
“I was a public defender. I didn’t become a prosecutor [Harris was a prosecutor]. I came out and I left a good law firm to become a public defender when in fact my city was enflamed because of the assassination of Dr. [Martin Luther] King.”
Biden also said he and Barack Obama worked hard on race issues while serving as vice president and president together.
Harris also called out Biden on the issue of busing during the Civil Rights era.
Busing, also known as desegregation busing, was the act of busing black students to school in an effort to integrate desegregation.
“Do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America?” Harris asked Biden during the debate.
“I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed was busing ordered by the Department of Education,” Biden shot back at the senator.
“There was a failure of states to integrate public schools in America,” Harris replied.
She later added, “That’s when the federal government must step in. That’s why we have the Voting Rights Act! The Civil Rights Act!”
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) June 28, 2019
The two then began yelling over each other arguing about Harris’ personal history with busing, as well as Biden’s opinion about state government power versus federal government power.
Given a chance to respond, Biden defended his civil rights record more, but seemed uninterested in taking too much time on the issue as he cut himself short saying, “My time’s up, I’m sorry.”
He then literally threw his hands up in frustration, which probably means this is an issue the other candidates are going to hit him on again and again going forward.
Biden was also called out for being too old — he is 76 years old — by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA). The 38-year-old congressman told the former vice president to “pass the torch” to the younger candidates, which led to some of the more chaotic moments in the debate.
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