Smile more? Some critics see sexism in debate over Biden VP

Yahoo reports she’s too ambitious. She’s not apologetic enough. She should smile more.

The debate over Joe Biden’s running mate has recently ticked through a familiar list of stereotypes about women in politics as the Democratic presidential candidate and his allies stumble through a search they had hoped would stand out for its inclusion and diversity.

Instead, the vice presidential vetting has resurfaced internal party divisions between the old-guard establishment and a younger generation that’s more attuned to gender and racial biases and willing to speak out. Some contend it’s just more evidence of why Biden needs a woman on his ticket.

“The fact is that although we’ve come really far in the last 100 years, we haven’t come far enough for women candidates to be treated with the same level of decency as the male candidates are,” said Donna Brazile, a former Democratic National Committee chair.

Biden, the presumptive nominee, has said he will pick a woman as his number two and he would probably reach a decision this week, though a formal announcement could come later.

The scrutiny of his choices has intensified in recent weeks, while allies have weighed in, sometimes in ways that feed the tensions.

On Monday, Ed Rendell, a former Democratic Party chair and a Biden ally, was quoted in The Washington Post noting that there has been recent buzz about former national security adviser Susan Rice. He observed that Rice was smiling during a TV appearance, “something that she doesn’t do all that readily,” and that she was “actually somewhat charming.”

Rendell, 76, has commented on another candidate’s demeanor, too, telling CNN last week that California Sen. Kamala Harris can “rub people the wrong way.”

Some see that sort of commentary — docking women for being aggressive and rewarding them for intangibles such as likability — as the sort of bias they say has dogged women in politics for decades.

Rendell said in a phone interview Monday that any suggestions his comment about Rice was sexist were “ludicrous.” He said it was a compliment, a description of a good candidate, no different from when people commented on Richard Nixon smiling more on the comeback trail.

“This country is so nuts,” he said of criticism of his choice of words, blaming it partly on the media. “We’re going crazy.”

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