Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on Aug. 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pa.
Photo by Mark Makela/Getty

Biden, Trump, and the kind of rhetoric we’d never hear from Obama

Joe Biden has made clear on many occasions that he isn’t fond of Donald Trump. In fact, the former vice president has mentioned more than once than he’d like to beat up the current president over Trump’s treatment of women.

It came up again this week when Biden, who may be eyeing the 2020 race, appeared in Miami and referenced Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape. “A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, ‘I can grab a woman anywhere, and she likes it,’ ” Biden said. “They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said ‘no.’ I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’ “

The former vice president added, “I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life. I’m a pretty [darn] good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room.”

Because Trump is Trump, he returned fire this morning through his favorite medium.

President Donald Trump took a jab at Joe Biden on Thursday, blasting the former vice president on Twitter as “weak, both mentally and physically” and vowing that if they actually fought he “would go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”

In a scathing early-morning tweet, Trump responded to earlier insults from Biden and wrote that “Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy.”

“Don’t threaten people Joe!” the president added.

If we put aside chatter about who might win such a fight – or how much money might be generated in a pay-per-view event – what we see are two septuagenarians arguing at great distances about who would beat up whom. One is a 71-year-old president, the other is a 75-year-old former vice president.

I’ll go out on a limb here at say no one benefits from these hollow, chest-thumping displays of machismo. Biden needs to understand that addressing the societal scourge of mistreatment of women requires more than fistfights with abusive men, and Trump should understand that he’s supposed to be the president of the United States.

Watching the back and forth, Vox’s Ezra Klein raised a good point this morning: “Imagine a black man as president, tweeting about who they’d like to beat the hell out of, and what would result…. When Obama was president, the pressure on him for emotional restraint created an ongoing comedy series about his ‘anger translator’ Luther.”

(If you haven’t seen Key & Peele’s series of “anger translator” sketches, this was the first-ever installment. Please note, the language in the clip isn’t even close to being safe for work.)

It’s a case study in privilege. Trump apparently doesn’t think twice about his antics, boasting not only about being able to beat up rivals, but also about his ability to beat up mad gunmen. It was just last month when the president said, in reference to the mass shooting in Parkland, “I really believe I’d run in there – even if I didn’t have a weapon.”

Barack Obama never had the luxury of saying nonsense like this.

Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden

Biden, Trump, and the kind of rhetoric we'd never hear from Obama