He almost had me.
For a moment last Wednesday I actually felt a twinge of sympathy for Joe Biden. Why not? I used to like him. Biden was the kind of common-sense Democrat I voted for before he became a they-want-to-put-y’all-back-in-chains kind of veep.
I watched the video Biden made last week to apologize for pawing and sniffing women, children and even some men over the past several decades.
And it was pathetic.
There he sat, snowy-haired and tieless, the guy with nothing but participant ribbons to show for jumping into presidential primary after primary, looking for one last hurrah. How irritating must it be to see that old commie, Bernie Sanders – a year older at 77 – getting all the love while you’re being accused of being a serial groper.
In the video Joe assured voters that he wasn’t a creepy dude. Just a warm, affectionate man whose real crime was that he cared too much. A guy who was operating under an old set of rules.
“Social norms have begun to change,” Biden explained. “They’ve shifted, and boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset — and I get it.”
Yep, for a moment I felt for poor old Joe. Then I thought about the older men I’ve known in my life – my father, my uncles and their friends. Shoot, Biden’s 76. If my dad and his pals were alive they’d be in their 90s. But most of them weren’t space invaders and militant cuddlers.
Wait. There was one. My dad had a friend who was a widower with no children. This guy – we’ll call him John Baxter – used to come for holiday dinners.
I dreaded the moment he’d shuffle in the front door because I knew what was coming: a wet kiss. I silently envied my brother who got only a handshake. I loathed sitting next to this man because he moved in just a little too close when he talked. When I complained to my mother she said he was a lonely old man who thought I was cute. Besides, he was hard of hearing.
I knew I should feel sorry for the octogenarian with nowhere to go on Thanksgiving. But I couldn’t stand him.
It wasn’t assault. Or sexual harassment. It was just annoying, icky behavior.
If you look at the montage that’s floating around social media of Biden fondling folks, it’s striking how many young girls seem to be recoiling from his touch. They were captives, in a way. This was the VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES stroking their hair or nuzzling their necks. They couldn’t smack him in the face or pull away.
Yet he never noticed their discomfort.
What a knucklehead. Or narcissist. Take your pick.
The New York Times explained on Monday why most humans instinctively respect personal space:
“The dynamics of both social space and touching have been well explored by scientists. In the 1960s, American anthropologist Edward Hall laid out the basics of social space, based on field work in Europe, Asia and elsewhere.”
“We each reserve around us a zone of about 18 inches — “intimate space,” he called it — for close friends and family. “Personal space,” from 18 inches to about 4 feet, is open to acquaintances and colleagues. And “social space,” from 4 feet to 12 feet, is the appropriate orbit for strangers or new colleagues.”
This has been known since the 1960s. It’s probably been in our DNA for centuries.
So Biden’s relentless touching isn’t a case of changing mores. This is a politician glad-handing his way through life, oblivious to the discomfort of others.
It doesn’t mean Joe Biden would be a bad president. It means that in this #MeToo world he’ll never have a chance.
To read more of Kerry’s thoughts, visit her blog at: www.kerrydougherty.com