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Biden stands in stark contrast to Democrats confronted by pro-Palestinian protesters

Democrats met with pro-Palestinian protesters have had an array of responses to the interruptions — from yelling back to attempting to connect them to Russia. 

But President Biden, who has faced a host of cease-fire supporters across the country, has been markedly more sympathetic. Even though they wholly disagree with his Israel policy, he often sides with the protesters’ sentiments, urging event security to let them be before being escorted away.

That’s in sharp contrast to many other Democrats who have sometimes lost their patience with the confrontations.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) accused some protesters who confronted her at a theater of lying about her stance. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), who has had protesters outside her San Francisco home, once accused them on television of being puppeting a message by Russian President Vladimir Putin and then called for the FBI to investigate.

It marks another example of the divide among the Democratic Party about how to deal with addressing the Israel-Hamas war as it drags into its sixth month.

Some Democrats also say the president’s reaction is authentically him.

“Campaigning is, in many ways, stagecraft and theatre — and the toughest kind of theatre is improv. Rather than running for the exits, the ability of elected leaders and candidates to be nimble and respond in real-time to protestors, as long as they don’t allow those disruptions to hijack entire events, almost always demonstrates authenticity,” said John LaBombard, former communications director to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

LaBombard, a senior vice president at ROKK Solutions, added, “And for President Biden in particular, it helps neutralize some of the lingering questions about his age.”

Others say it’s part of a balancing act.

“President Biden has been mirroring the frustration felt by both sides. He has deep empathy for the humanitarian crisis, yet also understands Israel’s desire for security,” said former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), a Biden ally.

The president has been under increasing pressure to back a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and has been followed around by protesters on nearly every trip he’s taken since the war began in October, whether on the streets or inside of a venue. And, he often has had something to say back.

“That’s all right, let them go. There’s a lot of people who are very, very — there are too many innocent victims, Israeli and Palestinian,” Biden said when responding to protesters that interrupted a major New York City fundraiser last month.

The contrast in Democratic reactions was reflected in that moment by former President Obama, who, sitting next to Biden, replied: “No, no, listen. You can’t just talk and not listen… That’s what the other side does.”

During another recent campaign event in Raleigh, N.C. where he was delivering a speech about healthcare, Biden was interrupted with yells of “What about the healthcare in Gaza?”  

“Everybody deserves healthcare,” he replied and stopped to listen to what the demonstrators were yelling. “Be patient with them. They have a point. We need to get a lot more care into Gaza.”

When Ocasio-Cortez however was confronted with protesters who were following and filming her at a theater in New York in March, they accused her at the time of not calling the war a “genocide.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded, “I need you to understand that this is not OK.” When the protester shot back “not OK that there’s a genocide happening and you’re not actively against it” she said they were “lying.”

The New York Democrat, who has called for a cease-fire in Gaza, then accused the protesters of planning to edit the video to make it look like she said something she did not, adding “It’s fucked up, man. You’re not helping your people.”

Pelosi for her part told CNN in January that the protesters were mimicking a message by Putin and then called for the FBI to investigate some of them. 

“For them to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message, Mr. Putin’s message. Make no mistake. This is directly connected to what he would like to see. Same thing with Ukraine. It’s about Putin’s message,” Pelosi said in January. 

When it came to Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) victory speech after the California Senate primary in March, he was interrupted by protesters and ended up rushing through his remarks. His response was that Americans are “lucky to live in a democracy where we all have the right to protest.”

One of the first times protesters made it inside a venue where Biden was holding an event was in Virginia in January. At that time he replied, “They feel deeply.” When he was met with protesters in a Charleston, S.C. church also in January, he replied, “I understand their passion.” 

The president will sometimes pause his remarks and let the interruptions continue, which can include personal chants toward him like, “Genocide Joe has got to go.”

A Biden campaign spokesman said the strategy is in “stark contrast” with the way former President Trump, Biden’s likely political opponent for the White House in November, has notoriously treated his own protesters on the campaign trail.

“President Biden treats protestors with respect and dignity because he believes making your voice heard and participating in our democracy is fundamental to who we are as Americans,” Seth Schuster, a Biden campaign spokesman said. “That stands in stark contrast with Donald Trump who mocks, demeans, and threatens violence toward Americans whenever they exercise their First Amendment right to disagree with him.”

To be sure, Trump handles protesters much differently than Biden. When the former president was interrupted by climate protesters during a rally in Iowa in January, Trump replied, “go home to mommy.” He added that protests during rallies “always adds excitement.” 

In previous campaigns, Trump has yelled “get out of here” to protesters and called them “nasty people.” He also frequently targets the press covering him, calling them “enemy of the people.”

The White House’s stance when asked about protesters following Biden across the country has been that people have the right to peacefully express themselves. Top officials have held a handful of meetings with Arab and Muslim American community leaders in places like Michigan and Illinois and invited some leaders to the White House for a recent meeting around Ramadan, during which a Palestinian-American doctor walked out on the president.

“Biden invited critics of his Israel policy into his house to meet with him and deliver criticism to his face. He’s is working hard to end the fighting and get more aid into Gaza. And he isn’t afraid of criticism or a tough conversation about his efforts,” one Biden ally told The Hill.

Biden has in the past been defensive about being confronted on a host of other issues, like in November 2022 when he said that protesters gathering outside of an Illinois venue where he was speaking were “idiots” for calling Democrats socialists.

He hasn’t, though, reacted negatively over demonstrations about Gaza as pressure] continues to mount from Democrats to start considering conditions on military aid in an effort to put parameters on Israel’s response.  

Some who have worked at the Biden White House say it’s his empathy that leads to such a response to the pro-Palestine protesters in recent months.

And, his decades of experience help him to know when and how to react.

“President Biden understands that his words matter, and what he says or doesn’t say could trigger an even larger regional war. He’s trying to prevent the flashpoint of October 7th from igniting the Middle East,” said Carney, a senior policy adviser at Nossaman LLP. 

“Politicians can be relied upon to freely express their opinions. Leaders are more disciplined,” he added.

Source: The Hill

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