It's not exactly news that the vice president of the United States is something of a folksy gaffe machine. You can peruse any number of round-ups of his greatest hits here, here, and here. His facepalm-inducing transgressions have inspired a long-running, epic parody in The Onion — to the point where there are even roundups of the best Onion parodies of Joe Biden.
So it should come as no surprise that during swearing-in ceremonies earlier this week for incoming senators, Biden gently teased some attractive young daughters (and granddaughters) of senators, joking, "I hope you have a big fence around your house." He additionally became what some described as "handsy."
Some observers laughed this off (to wit: the "Joe Biden Random Compliment Generator"), while others cried foul.
These debates about Biden's off-the-cuff comments, too-personal physicality, and lack of decorum are as long running as they are pointless. Because in the end, Biden is pretty much harmless, and the negative reactions from his critics have more to do with political correctness run amok and tu quoque than anything else.
Joe Biden is an old man, and this is his shtick. He wasn't hitting on these young women. They will not receive text messages from him later. Biden merely engages in innocent attempts at humor and flattery — it's what charming gentlemen of a certain era used to do all the time. Surely, sometimes Biden goes a little too far. But the outrage (to the extent that it exists) is illustrative of our anxious political correctness and oversensitivity to the most trivial slights. America didn't used to be this prickly. And it's a shame that we are today.
Look, sexual harassment is a horrible and serious problem. But that's not what Biden was doing here. This was innocent — and sure, mildly flirtatious — teasing from an old man. We are wrong to suggest that is something truly inappropriate.
Conservatives are right when they say that had a conservative engaged in this sort of behavior, he would have been pilloried by feminists and the mainstream media. There is indeed a double standard at play. But instead of equally punishing every avuncular codger who employs this form of mildly flirtatious teasing, why not be consistent in calling BS on all the "pearl-clutching" criticism — regardless of party or ideology?