On Tuesday, while sneaking in some last-minute campaigning in Detroit on the day of the critical Michigan primary, Joe Biden got into an extended confrontation with an autoworker who took issue with the former vice president’s stance on guns.
Here’s the key section of the back-and-forth, in which Biden seems to shush someone else in the crowd in order to speak directly to the autoworker.
And here’s what was said:
Man: “You are actively trying to end our Second Amendment right and take away our guns.”
Biden: “You’re full of shit. I did not—no, no, shush. Shush. I support the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment – just like right now if you yelled fire, that’s not free speech. And from the very beginning, I have a shotgun, I have a 20-gauge, a 12-gauge. My sons hunt, guess what? You’re not allowed to own any weapon, I’m not taking your gun away at all. You need 100 rounds?”
Man: “You and Beto say you’re going to take our guns –”
Biden: “I did not say that. That’s not true. I did not say that.”
Man: “It’s a viral video.”
Biden: “It’s a viral video like the other ones you’re putting out that are simply a lie. Wait, wait wait, wait, take your AR, your AR-14, Don’t tell me anything about (inaudible)”
Man: “You’re working for me, man.”
Biden: “I’m not working for – gimme a break man. Don’t be such a horse’s ass.”
It went on like that for another few seconds before Biden walked away. (Biden corrected his reference to an “AR-14” to the proper “AR-15” later.)
The insinuation was obvious. Biden, the front-runner to be the Democratic presidential nominee, had lost it when an autoworker had confronted him about his too-liberal gun policies. (Wolking also shared video on Twitter of some of the autoworkers chanting “Trump!” as Biden toured the facility.) This was a bad moment – in the mind of the Trump team – for Biden.
I’m not so sure.
The knock on Biden – certainly among Democrats who support Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and even among many Democrats who back the former vice president – is that he lacks passion on the campaign trail. That his promises to return things to normal and pledges to work with Republicans aren’t the sort of stuff that Democrats want to hear right now.
Democrats are deeply angry at the ways in which Trump and his enablers within the GOP have steered the country. In exit polling in California’s primary last week, almost 3 in 4 voters (73%) described themselves as “angry” about the Trump administration. In Texas, more than 6 in 10 (62%) said the same. And in Virginia, 58% described themselves as angry at the Trump administration.
(After the exchange was criticized by both Sanders and Trump’s campaigns, Biden said Tuesday, “I’m surprised that Sanders is joining Trump. It’s surprising.”)
A video recently circulated by conservative outlets falsely suggested Biden supports widespread confiscation of guns, according to FactCheck.org.
Given that mood, it’s hard to see how Biden getting in a shouting match with a guy saying that Biden wants to take away peoples’ guns (fact check: not true) and using a few expletives to make his point is a negative (if it has any impact at all) for him.
There’s also a deeply rich irony here in the Trump campaign trying to suggest that confrontations, generally speaking, and a politician using a few curse words is a bad thing. After all, this President loves confrontation! And cussing! Often in public! And dismissing those who say that he isn’t acting presidential as wimps and whiners!
Yes, this is a huge double standard. When Trump tells people where they can stick it, his fans say he’s being tough and standing up for America. When Biden does the same, he’s unhinged.
Look. I’m not sure this one incident changes many – or any – voters’ minds. But to the extent it does have an impact, it’s hard for me to see this as anything but good for Biden as he seeks to put away Sanders in the primary and pivot to taking on Trump in the general.