Vice President Joe Biden left some observers in and out of Washington aghast with his whisper-in-ear embrace of new Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter's wife Stephanie at Carter's swearing-in Tuesday. As Carter was delivering his first speech as Pentagon chief, Biden, standing in the background, put his arms on Stephanie Carter's shoulders and his face to her ear, apparently telling her something in what could reasonably be interpreted as an intimate embrace. A still image of the gesture shot around the social media world:
Biden's behavior at the Carter ceremony follows his hands-on performance at the swearing-in of new senators in January. The vice president's performance on that day brought comment from around the world, ranging from "Biden being Biden" to "handsy Joe" to "creepy."
The Senate swearing-in followed various times in the past in which Biden has been particularly affectionate with women in business and social situations, like the 2013 Christmas party at which he embraced reporter Amie Parnes.
And then there were other miscellanous circumstances:
Do the incidents add up to anything? Assume that all of Biden's gestures were entirely innocent, just Joe being Joe. Still, in today's society, sexual harassment complaints have been lodged for less. Biden's behavior gives critics plenty of ammunition and puts supporters in a difficult position. Why is that kind of stuff OK when the vice president does it and cringe-making when it's the overly-friendly guy in the office?