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Biden invokes segregationists in recalling Senate civility

Former vice president Joe Biden invoked the names of two Senate segregationists as examples of past civility.
Former vice president Joe Biden invoked the names of two Senate segregationists as examples of past civility.(Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

NEW YORK — Joe Biden, defending himself Tuesday night against suggestions that he is too “old fashioned” for today’s Democratic Party, invoked two Southern segregationist senators by name as he fondly recalled the “civility” of the Senate in the 1970s and 1980s.

Speaking at a fund-raiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden, 76, stressed the need to “be able to reach consensus under our system,” and cast his decades in the Senate as a time of relative comity. His remarks come as some in his party say that Biden is too focused on overtures to the right as he seeks the Democratic presidential nomination.

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At the event, Biden noted that he served with the late Senators James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both Democrats who were staunch opponents of desegregation. Eastland was the powerful chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden entered the chamber in 1973.

“I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said, slipping briefly into a Southern accent, according to a pool report from the fund-raiser. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’ ”

He called Talmadge “one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys.”

“Well guess what?” Biden continued. “At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”

On Wednesday, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of two black candidates running for president, said Biden was “wrong” to use segregationists as examples for bringing the country together.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,’ ” Booker said in a statement. “I’m disappointed that he hasn’t issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should.”

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Another presidential candidate, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, posted a photo of his multiracial family on Twitter and cited a racial epithet that Eastland used.

“It’s 2019 & @JoeBiden is longing for the good old days of ‘civility’ typified by James Eastland,” de Blasio wrote. “It’s past time for apologies or evolution from @JoeBiden. He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party.”

Eastland, a plantation owner, was known as a vociferous opponent of integration efforts and a staunch critic of the civil rights movement, which he sometimes dismissed as the work of “communists.” Throughout his career he referred to African-Americans as members of an “inferior race” and used the racist term “mongrelization.”

Talmadge was also a critic of the civil rights movement and opposed the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, that declared racially segregated public schools unconstitutional.

Biden has long discussed his personal commitment to civil rights, and he has many strong relationships in the black community. He has also previously pointed to his dealings with segregationists like Eastland as an example of a time when Senate colleagues could disagree but still find ways to reach common ground.

But Biden is also now seeking the nomination of a party that is increasingly young and diverse — and skeptical of his emphasis on compromise, especially on issues that touch on matters of racial justice. His campaign declined to provide additional comment for this story.

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New York Times

Cash rolls in after Trump reelection launch

President Trump raised $24.8 million in less than 24 hours as he officially launched his reelection, GOP officials said Wednesday, underscoring the huge fund-raising lead the president has over a divided and crowded Democratic primary field.

The Wednesday announcement by Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, confirmed by campaign officials, indicates that the Trump campaign is on track to report its best fund-raising quarter since he became president.

The one-day haul as Trump held a kickoff rally in Orlando included $14 million for Trump’s reelection committee and $10 million that went to Trump Victory, a joint fund-raising committee between his campaign and the RNC that can accept large donations.

The president is scheduled to headline a high-dollar fund-raising luncheon at the Trump National Doral hotel in Florida Wednesday that is set to bring in $5 million, officials said.

The president’s fund-raising bonanza this week far eclipsed the $6.3 million that former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign said it pulled in on the day of his late April campaign announcement — the largest 24-hour amount raised by any of the Democratic campaigns this year.

Washington Post

Plans readied for Fourth of July celebration in D.C.

President Trump’s participation in the nation’s annual Fourth of July celebration will include a Trump speech honoring America’s armed forces, along with music, military demonstrations, and flyovers, the administration announced Wednesday, about two weeks before the patriotic holiday.

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Federal lawmakers, local officials, and others have voiced concerns that Trump could alter the tone of what traditionally is a nonpartisan celebration of America’s founding by delivering an overtly political speech after he added himself to an event that typically has not included the president.

After losing out on his wish for a military parade in Washington, Trump tweeted in February for people to ‘‘HOLD THE DATE!’’ for the ‘‘Salute to America’’ event, which he said would be held at the Lincoln Memorial and feature a major fireworks display, entertainment, ‘‘and an address by your favorite President, me!’’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Wednesday that Trump will use the speech, which the president promised in a February tweet, to honor the military.

Some groups are organizing anti-Trump protests.

Associated Press