Joe Biden—who somehow continues to be the frontrunner in the Democratic primary despite repeatedly lying about his opposition to the war in Iraq and evincing a decades-long passion for cutting Social Security—also continues to be on his bullshit about everything from his support for the Hyde Amendment to his attempts to gut contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act.
In his interview with the New York Times as part of its exhausting rollout of its endorsement for the Democratic nominee, Biden was asked repeatedly about his record on issues of reproductive rights—all very good and important questions, as his record sucks. “There are a lot of people who question whether you will go on the offensive for reproductive rights as much as is going to be necessary with Roe v. Wade under threat, given the fact that, while you are pro-choice certainly, you switched your position on Hyde only just recently,” the Times’ Lauren Kelley said, before bringing up the fact that in 2012, Biden had pushed for a broad religious-based exemption in the ACA that would have left millions without contraception coverage.
Biden’s response was to lie about his well-documented record. “No, I didn’t, by the way,” he said, before adding, “I was on the opposite side of that.”
But of course, as news reporting from the time shows, he wasn’t “on the opposite side of that.” Far from it—Biden, as ABC reported in 2012, for months “argued internally against the rule” because he and then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley “didn’t think the rule was right on either the policy or the politics.” As Politico noted in 2012, Biden was less concerned with the need to provide free contraception to millions of people and more concerned with his belief that “the policy would sink the president with Catholic voters.”
While I would have personally called this out as an outright lie during the interview, Kelley followed up her question by asking if it’s “not correct” that his opposition was a “political strategy” and that he believed it “might be read as trampling on religious freedom.”
Here’s how Biden responded, and I honestly don’t know what point he’s trying to make before he was cut off:
No. What is not correct is the idea that — the argument was what the president put out initially was different than what ended up being finally the final position on. And the question was, would I defend the president? I don’t want to get into —
Kelley moved on to asking him about his, again, very well-documented history of support for the Hyde Amendment.
He justified his support for Hyde by first noting that “everybody’s voted for Hyde,” which is technically true, as it’s attached to government spending bills. The difference between him and many of his opponents is that they have vocally opposed the Hyde Amendment, while he has consistently supported it on principle until last June, an abrupt switch after weeks of hedging and waffling as he faced mounting pressure on the question.
“Look, let me answer the question directly,” Biden said to Kelley in the Times endorsement interview, before doing the exact opposite of answering the question directly. Instead, he offered a rambling defense that I frankly cannot even pretend to begin to understand:
I thought that when there were reasonable alternatives and funding mechanisms that did not deny women the opportunity to take advantage of their constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, as amended by Casey, that in fact it was O.K. to not make other people who had strong views different than that pay for it. But — let me finish, please.
But when in fact we decided that we were going to move to, which I wanted to do a long time ago and everybody has, is to have basically universal health care. That option is eliminated. It’s not available if it’s basically universal health care. You cannot say that the poor women are now going to be covered by Medicaid and/or, and my plan, a Medicare option in to Obamacare and then expect that there’s going to be mechanisms by which they could still get the kind of help they got through private contributions and Planned Parenthood, which rated me 100 percent, by the way, during this period and the rest.
And so that’s why I changed the position.
He continued to ramble incoherently, making comments such as “there was vehicles by which there were organizations that provided the procedure for free” and “they didn’t need to pay for it” and “when you make it all a federal program, that makes it impossible.”
Help me understand! Is he saying... abortion wouldn’t be covered if we have a government-funded universal healthcare plan? That he thought Hyde was fine for decades because groups paid for people’s abortions, a possible reference to abortion funds that exist but whose resources are extremely limited and stretched thin?
Regardless of what Biden was trying to say, it’s clear that when it comes to issues of reproductive rights, we know all we need to know about him.