Biden from the Beginning

Frontpage mag

Lloyd Billingsley

White House resident Joe Biden was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972, at the age of 29. Two years later, in 1974, the Delaware Democrat was the subject of a 4,000-plus-word Washingtonian profile, but not for anything he had accomplished in office.

“I have no illusions about why I am such a hot commodity,” Biden told Kitty Kelley.  “I am the youngest man in the Senate and I am also the victim of a tragic fate which makes me very newsworthy.” Biden’s wife Neilia and the couple’s infant daughter were killed in a car accident shortly after Biden’s election in 1972. Biden wanted to resign, but Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield promised him prestigious committee assignments. The grieving newcomer had higher goals in mind.

“I know I can be a good Senator, and I know I can be a good President,” Biden told Kelley. “I know I could have easily made the White House with Neilia. And my family still expects me to be there one of these days. With them behind me anything can happen.” As Biden’s sister Valerie explained, “Joey is going to be president someday. He was made to be in the White House. Just you wait and see.”

Biden proclaimed “there is no other walk of life which can do more good for mankind than politics,” but money was also part of it. “I am worth a lot more than my salary of $42,500 a year in this body,” Biden explained in the Senate. “It seems to me that we should flat out tell the American people we are worth our salt.” That brought a response from William Loeb, editor of the “right wing”  Manchester Union Leader.

“Can you imagine the conceit and stupidity of a young man of 30 who would say that? The voters of Delaware who elected this stupid, conceited jackass to the Senate should kick him in the rear to knock some sense into him, and then kick themselves for voting for such an idiot.”

As Kelley noted, Biden framed Loeb’s editorial and hung it in his office. “When you get a blast like that you really know you’re worth something.” Kelley had reason for doubt.

In the course of the interview, Biden leaned over his desk, shook his finger and said,  “And whether you like it or not, young lady, us cruddy politicians can take away that First Amendment of yours if we want to.”  Kelley took the threat as confirmation that Joe Biden “defines politics as power.”

In 2010, Mark Bowen cited Kelley’s “notoriously revealing” profile in his 9,000-plus word Atlantic piece on the Delaware Democrat. As Bowden recalled, when Biden ran for president in 1988 he was “discovered passing off as his own passages from a speech by a British Labour politician.” In 2008, Biden finished the Iowa caucuses with less than one percent of the vote, and Bowden wondered if the Delaware Democrat might be seeking something else.

“I would not be anybody’s secretary of state in any circumstance I could think of,” Biden said at the time, “and I absolutely can say with certainty I would not be anybody’s vice president. Period. End of story. Guaranteed. Will not do it.” Biden did do it, and Bowden recalled his statement to Kelley that he would be a good president. Bowden wasn’t sure.

“Though plenty smart, Biden is not an intellectual,” Bowden explained. Biden was an “indifferent student” in college and law school, and “he makes few references to books and learned influences in his speeches and autobiography.” Bowden named no books that someone aspiring to be president of the United States might want to read, perhaps landmark works by Solzhenitsyn, Orwell, F.A. Hayek and many others. As Mark Twain said, the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.

In a 1987 campaign speech, Joe Biden “borrowed liberally, and without attribution, from the British Labour politician Neil Kinnock.” At the time Kinnock and his party were heavily embedded with the Soviets, so Kinnock was perhaps the worst choice Biden could have made. On the other hand, Biden credits his humiliating plagiarism with “saving his life.” If he had stayed in the campaign, “he likely would have ignored the warning signs that sent him to the doctor.” What, exactly, the doctor needed to treat is not explained, but it is possible to guess.

Mark Bowden is the author of Black Hawk DownHuế 1968, and The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden. With Joe Biden the serious writer took a softer approach.

“Joe Biden doesn’t just meet you, he engulfs you. There’s the direct contact with his blue eyes, the firm handshake while his other hand grasps your arm, the flash of those famously perfect white teeth, and an immediate frontal assault on your personal space. He shoulders right through the aura of fame and high office. Forget the Secret Service, the ever-present battery of aides and advisers, the photographers clicking away: the vice president of the United States moves in like an old pal with something urgent to tell you—just you. If he’s in a chair, he’ll scoot it closer; when the furniture’s not portable, he’ll lean forward, planting his elbows on his knees, gesturing with both hands while he speaks, occasionally reaching over to touch your arm or leg for emphasis.”

Joe Biden is also a “virtuoso talker. That fluency is not a gift but an accomplishment.” Biden’s “occasional well-publicized gaffes have served to humanize a leadership team that all too often seems aloof, cerebral, and elitist.” Readers might think Biden’s gaffes are a positive accomplishment, and his politics largely a matter of style.

Contrast this highly promotional account with Kitty Kelley, known for unauthorized biographies of Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra and the Bush Family. Biden’s threats to take away First Amendment rights convinced Kelley that the Delaware Democrat “defines politics as power.”

Jump ahead to 2021 and the First Amendment is under attack as Joe Biden seems determined to take away the Second Amendment rights of every American. In the White House, Victor Davis Hanson notes, Biden is “as he always was,” as incompetent as Jimmy Carter, as corrupt as Bill Clinton and “a greater racial divider than Barack Obama.”

This is what happens when a cruddy politician taps the “most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.” 

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