BOSTON (CBS) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her first public comments concerning complaints about former Vice President Joe Biden’s handsy personal style, offered her old friend a lesson in modern-day political reality.
“I’m a member of the straight arm club, I’m a straight armer,” she said, demonstrating her arms-length handshaking technique. “Just pretend you have a cold and I have a cold.”
Pelosi is just one member of a bipartisan parade of politicians making it clear that Biden’s penchant for touching people is a bad fit with the expectations of the #MeToo age.
“Do I consider it inappropriate to smell someone’s hair?” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana), a reference to the claim of Democratic activist Lucy Flores that Biden unnerved her by doing so at a political event. “Yes! I mean – duh!”
Added Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “I believe Lucy Flores, and Joe Biden needs to give an answer.”
Which he has, saying in part: “Not once, never, did I believe I acted inappropriately… We have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences, and men should pay attention. And I will.”
Some Biden defenders have cast these complaints as a political hatchet job, or at best, a generational misunderstanding.
But if we’ve learned one thing from the #MeToo movement, it’s that women of all ages have harbored resentment over unwanted male intimacies for years.
Says Pelosi: “He has to understand in the world that we’re in now that people’s space is important to them and what’s important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it.”
Will all this be enough to keep Biden out of the race? The next few rounds of polling will be telling, but Biden will also have to consider how hard it might be to run if he can’t be his usual touchy-feely self.