Recently, a series of clips appeared on social media showing a young Joe Biden making some interesting comments.
— M3thods (@M2Madness) January 1, 2020
The clips are edited together from a 1974 episode of the PBS show “The Advocates,” which began airing in 1969, and featured “a series of debates with a moderator facilitating the discussion of national and international issues,” reports WGBH’s Open Vault. The proponents of particular issues “would introduce witnesses to support their point of view,” and the opponent would get to cross-examine.
The 1974 episode in which then-Senator Joe Biden appeared was titled “Should the Federal Government Subsidize Political Campaigns and Limit Individual Contributions?”
First up, Biden was asked about corruption, and he stated that “implicit in the system is corruption.”
Former congressman and member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Allard Lowenstein asked Biden, “As the youngest member of the Senate, the one therefore who may expect the longest career there, I wonder if you’d say to us, since it’s clear that you’re not corrupt and you got elected, why should people think that the system produces corrupt results when there you are?”
I’m not sure you should assume I’m not corrupt, but thank you for that though. The system does produce corruption, and I think implicit in the system is corruption when in fact, whether or not you can run for public office, and it costs a great deal of money to run for the United States Senate, even for a small state like Delaware, you have to go to those people who have money, and they always want something.
Lowenstein pressed Biden, asking him about the nature and process of raising money.
Biden noted that “it’s the most degrading experience in the world to have to go out and ask for money because you know that unless you accidentally agree with the position taken by the person or group that has the money that you run the risk of deciding whether or not you’re going to prostitute yourself to give the answer you know they want to hear in order to get funded to run for that office.”
Biden added that although “it’s coincidental in many instances” when one happens to land in the same position as one’s donors ideologically, “you run the risk … of rationalizing, of saying, ‘Well, if I compromise on this one, give him one, I get 90% of what I want, and I don’t have to give in too much.’”
When asked about the “temptation” of the situation when it comes to raising money, Biden said the “American public … rips off we politicians”:
Well, you know, we were told that we politicians, as the young kids say, rip off the American public. I think the American public, in a way, rips off we politicians by forcing us to run the way they do. To raise $300,000 is no mean feat, and unless you happen to be some sort of anomaly like myself, being a 29-year-old candidate and can attract some attention beyond your own state, it’s very difficult to raise that money from a large group of people.
Later in the exchange, attorney Thomas Bordeaux noted that Biden had “experience” with money in politics due to his 1972 election campaign, during which he raised approximately $276,000 from “public contributions.”
Biden then stated that he was allegedly ready to “prostitute” himself for big donors, but was rebuffed.
BORDEAUX: You raised that money by public contributions, did you not?
BIDEN: That’s correct.
BORDEAUX: And you raised that money in a race against an incumbent, did you not?
BIDEN: That’s correct.
BORDEAUX: And senator, I’m sure that you would agree that your service in the Senate up to this point has not reflected any particular concern for the larger contributors.
BIDEN: Well, the fortunate thing is, I didn’t have many larger contributors, and the only reason, see, I went to the big guys for the money. I was ready to prostitute myself in the manner in which I talk about it, but what happened was, they said, “Come back when you’re 40, son.” And so I had to go out; I had to go to a number of small contributors.
When Bordeaux later pointed out that Biden had seemingly broken into the D.C. club, Biden stated that he had an advantage because of tokenism.
BORDEAUX: Do you think in the long run that the American people are gonna put up with their money being squandered on all sorts of wild political notions?
After Biden responded, Bordeaux said, “But Senator, aren’t you a living example?”
Biden cut him off, saying:
I am an anachronism. I’m a 29-year-old oddball. The only reason I was able to raise the money is I was able to have a national constituency to run for office because I was 29. I’m like the token black or the token woman. I was the token young person.
The pertinent portion of the video begins at the 5:20 mark: