Thirty-eight-year-old Eric Swalwell clearly had a set-piece ready for Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate with the intent of highlighting Joe Biden’s age and his own youth.
“I was six-years-old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said, ‘It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans.’ That candidate was then-Sen. Joe Biden,” Swalwell said. “Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago. He’s still right today.”
The problem, though, is Swalwell took Biden’s words, uttered at the 1987 California Democratic Convention, out of context, USA Today reported.
“It sounds corny, but remember how you used to feel? Remember how you felt when you heard, ‘Let the word go forth from this time and place’ that ‘the torch has been passed,’ passed ‘to a new generation of Americans’?” Biden said 32 years ago.
Biden’s remarks were actually based on a quote from President Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration address and not a call by Biden for older leaders, at the time, to relinquish power to a younger generation, as Swalwell suggested during Thursday’s debate.
The exchange, along with another particularly devastating give-and-take between Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, reveals the inherent issues a candidate with such a lengthy and varying political record like Biden’s, faces when forced to confront votes and positions made in another era and within a different context.