Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Joe Biden borrows from Republicans as he accuses Elizabeth Warren of being an "elitist"

Biden accused Warren of taking a problematic "my way or the highway" approach to health care in a new essay

Shira Tarlo
November 6, 2019 7:48PM (UTC)

Former Vice President Joe Biden directed fresh attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., casting doubt on her contributions to the Democratic Party and painting her as an "elitist" who believes people lack courage and intelligence unless they agree with her.

"Some call it the 'my way or the highway' approach to politics," Biden wrote in an essay shared to Medium on Tuesday. "But it's worse than that. It's condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view. It's representative of an elitism that working and middle-class people do not share: 'We know best; you know nothing.' 'If you were only as smart as I am you would agree with me.'"


"This is no way to get anything done," Biden declared. "This is no way to bring the country together. This is no way for this party to beat Donald Trump."

Biden made similar remarks in a fundraising email and at a fundraiser in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, deepening tensions between the two presumed front-runners in the Democratic primary race. Though Biden did not name Warren in his remarks, his criticisms were unquestionably directed at the senator, a former Harvard Law professor whose Republican critics have for years derided her as "Professor Warren" in an effort to portray her as an out of touch liberal.

Though the pair have frequently clashed throughout the primary race, their war-of-words appeared to escalate last week after Warren released her "Medicare for All" fundraising plan. Biden's campaign dismissed her plan as "mathematical gymnastics,"to which Warren responded by defending key figures in her plan as having been authenticated by experts, some of whom led health care policy for the Obama administration.


"So if Joe Biden doesn't like that, I'm just not sure where he's going," she said Friday. "Democrats are not gonna win by repeating Republican talking points . . . If anyone wants to defend keeping those high profits for insurance companies and those high profits for drug companies, and not making the top 1 percent pay a fair share in taxes and not making corporations pay a fair share in taxes, then I think they're running in the wrong presidential primary."

In his essay, Biden emphasized his years-long career as a Democrat, a potential jab at Warren, a former registered Republican who switched parties in the 1990s. He also zeroed in on his rival's comments that he was "running in the wrong presidential primary" and "repeating Republican talking points" by criticizing her health care proposal.

"The other day I was accused by one of my opponents of running in the wrong primary. Pretty amazing. On one level, it is kind of funny," he wrote. "I have fought for the Democratic Party my whole career. I know what we stand for, who we stand with and what we believe. And it's not just policies or issues. It's in my bones. That's not something everyone in this primary can say."


"But at another level these kinds of attacks are a serious problem," he continued. "They reflect an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics. If someone doesn't agree with you — it's not just that you disagree — that person must be a coward or corrupt or a small thinker."

Biden, who has pitched himself as a moderate who can peel of voters in crucial swing states, pointed out throughout the piece that Warren's remark "is no way to bring the country together. This is no way for this party to beat Donald Trump" in 2020.


The former vice president continued to lob attacks against Warren when asked about his criticisms of her in an interview Wednesday morning.

"If you don't agree with Elizabeth Warren, you must somehow be not a Democrat. You must somehow be corrupt. You must somehow not be as smart as she is," he told Joe Madison on SiriusXM's Urban View. "It's just something we don't do in our party. It's not who we are."

"She has things in her plan that are just not realistic, but if you question it, she says you don't understand or you're talking like a Republican," he continued. "It's just an elitist attitude that it's either my way or the highway."


Health care has emerged as one of the most divisive issues in the Democratic primary. The division among the candidates has played out on the debate stage and the campaign trail, as candidates like Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have offered full-throated support for completely overhauling the nation's health care system in favor of a single-payer system, while candidates like Biden and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg have served up more moderate proposals that would build gradually on the public-private model of coverage currently in place.

Biden and Warren are set to face off over health care and other issues at the fifth primary debate on Nov. 20. The event will feature at least seven other candidates.

Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at Follow @shiratarlo.

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