My enthusiasm for Biden surprises even me, because, like a lot of political observers, I have long been skeptical of “Uncle Joe.” He always seemed a little too garrulous, too insecure, too unanalytical, too undisciplined. And when he began his latest presidential campaign — his third — I feared he was also a little too old.
But I have been greatly impressed by how Biden has handled himself. Trump’s chaotic 2016 campaign presaged a chaotic presidency. Biden’s effective and disciplined campaign might portend an effective and disciplined presidency. I now believe he is the right man to lead the United States at one of the most perilous moments in our history. Reading “Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now,” a slim but comprehensive and compelling book by the New Yorker writer Evan Osnos, has only strengthened my positive impression of the Democratic nominee. Here are eight reasons I’m backing Biden.
Biden has been tested and strengthened by adversity. As a boy, he stuttered. As a newly elected senator, he had to endure the death of his wife and infant daughter in a car crash. As a more senior senator, he suffered two cranial aneurysms in 1988 that almost killed him. As vice president he had to watch his beloved son Beau die of brain cancer — and his younger son Hunter battle drug addiction. He has emerged from these trials with empathy and resilience. You can watch a clip of Biden hugging the son of a shooting victim or listen to a grieving covid-19 widow describe how he called to comfort her. That kind of compassion is something we desperately need as the pandemic death count mounts. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R.-S.C.) got it right in 2015: “If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem. … He’s as good a man as God ever created.”
Biden comes from humble origins (his dad cleaned boilers and sold cars), and he hasn’t forgotten his roots. He spent decades commuting home from D.C. to Delaware on Amtrak. As now-White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in 2015, he is “a man of the people” who can “really can speak to the average, everyday American.”
Biden is no radical — and no tool of radicals. He rejects leftist ideas such as defunding the police, the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all, and he hasn’t committed to abolishing the filibuster or expanding the Supreme Court. It’s true that he is now promoting a more liberal agenda than past Democratic nominees, including phasing out carbon emissions by 2050, expanding Medicare and trillions of dollars in economic stimulus. But that is not because he has suddenly shifted to the left. It’s because much of the country has moved left as a result of three crises — systemic racism, covid-19 and global warming. Biden’s views reflect the new center.
Biden believes in compromise and bipartisanship. As Osnos notes, he is the only person who spoke at the funerals of three very different senators — John McCain, Strom Thurmond and Frank Lautenberg. Biden is not as cool or inspirational as Barack Obama, but, like Lyndon Johnson following John F. Kennedy, he might actually get more done.
Biden has a deep background in foreign policy and understands the importance of cultivating relationships with foreign leaders. As one of Biden’s former staffers told Osnos: “You can drop him into Kazakhstan or Bahrain, it doesn’t matter — he’s gonna find some Joe Blow that he met thirty years ago who’s now running the place.” That’s a welcome contrast to a president so ignorant and hungry for praise that he is easily manipulated by wily despots.
Biden can admit he’s wrong and change course. He said of his failed 1988 race for president: “I made a mistake, and it was born out of my arrogance. I didn’t deserve to be president.” When was the last time you heard Trump admit a mistake?
Biden listens to experts — including physicians and scientists — and surrounds himself with experienced and competent aides of centrist sensibilities. He won’t appoint grifters and misfits to high office, and he will pay attention to his intelligence briefings.
Finally, Biden is a bit boring and doesn’t spend a lot of time on social media. With him in the White House, we won’t have to wake up every morning wondering what damn-fool thing the president just tweeted. Cable-news ratings might suffer, but America will be vastly better off with quiet competence instead of noisy chaos.