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RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR: Biden not right person to play race card against Trump

As the saying goes, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. In other words, those who have a particular flaw should avoid pointing out the same shortcoming in others.

For me, what I don’t appreciate is the ease with which President Joe Biden plays the race card against his likely 2024 opponent, former President Donald Trump. Biden should know better, given his own spotty history with racial controversies going back decades.

Several polls show Biden losing support among Black voters. A recent survey by The New York Times, Siena College and the Philadelphia Inquirer of six crucial battleground states (Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania) found Trump getting more than 20 percent of the Black vote. That would represent the highest level of Black support for any Republican presidential candidate in the past 60 years.

The White House is obviously worried, which is why the president has hit the road lately to try to win back some of that support.

Speaking recently at Girard College in Philadelphia, which has a predominantly Black student body, Biden touted what he considers his administration’s deliverables for Black Americans. The list includes giving record levels of funding to historically Black colleges and universities, wiping away federal student loan debt, creating economic gains, and lowering to 5.6 percent the Black unemployment rate. Biden also made history twice by nominating Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, where she is the first Black female justice, and by picking Kamala Harris to serve as his running mate, making her the first Black woman to be vice president.

That’s all well and good. But whenever Biden talks about race, he has a tough time keeping the message positive.

And so he warned a predominantly Black crowd that a second Trump presidency would worsen race relations and represent a setback for racial justice.

“This is the same guy who wanted to tear gas you as you peacefully protested George Floyd’s murder. The same guy who still calls the Central Park Five guilty, even though they were exonerated,” Biden said. “He’s that landlord who denies housing applications because of the color of your skin.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Trump apologist. Politics should be all about accountability. If someone wants to call Trump a racist, be my guest. At the very least, he is fluent in the code language of racism and thus able to converse easily with racists.

The problem is Biden is not the right person to make that case, given his own troubling record of awkward and cringe-inducing racial comments. Over the years, the liberal media have generously dismissed most of these verbal missteps as “gaffes.” But there is a disturbing pattern here.

To borrow a phrase, this is the same guy who as I’ve said before — during the 36 years he spent in the Senate — built his political career protecting white people from Black people.

In the 1970s, this meant fighting against forced busing of Black kids into white schools and being cozy with white segregationists. For both these things, Biden was essentially called a racist by a 2020 Democratic primary opponent who later became his vice president: Kamala Harris.

In the 1990s, it meant writing — with the help of largely white police unions — the 1994 crime bill, which many criminal justice experts have called “racist” because it encouraged mass incarceration of non-White offenders, especially young Black men. In a clumsy choice of words, Biden bragged at the time on the Senate floor that his bill did “everything but hang people for jaywalking.”

This is the same guy who condescendingly suggested during the primary race in 2019 that Black women didn’t know “how to raise their children” without white social workers who tell them to “make sure you have the record player on at night.”

This is the same guy who — as a lunch bucket Democrat with a knack for soothing white working-class voters — served in 2008 as the running mate for Barack Obama, whom he praised as “articulate” and “clean.”

This is the same guy who, at a rally in Danville, Va., in 2012, told a largely Black audience that, while freeing Wall Street from regulation, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s policies would “put y’all back in chains.”

And now Biden is offended by the off-color remarks Trump makes?

The candidates should either talk honestly and fairly about race, or avoid the subject altogether. I vote for the latter.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is crimscribe@icloud.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

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