- 1. Joe Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.
- 2. Early life
- 3. Early political career
- 3.1. Family tragedy
- 4. Recovery, entering the Senate, and second marriage
- 5. Brain surgeries
- 6. U.S. Vice President
- 7. 2020 presidential campaign
- 8. President
- 9. Reputation
Joe Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.
The 46th president of the United States and the 47th vice president of the United States (2009-2017) in teh Democratic administration of president Barack Obama. He previously represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate (1973-2009).
Joe Biden came into the world on November 20, 1942, at St. Mary's Hospital in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is the eldest child in a Catholic family and has a sister, Valerie, and two brothers, Francis and James. His father, Joseph Robinette Biden Sr., had led an affluent lifestyle earlier, partly because of working as an executive for the Sheen Armor Company, a successful business making sealing compounds that one of a family member had founded and that prospered during World War II. But after the end of the war, the business suffered bankruptcy. Jean Biden, the mother, took her children back to Scranton in 1948, and Joe Sr. soon followed. For several years, the family had to live with Biden's maternal grandparents, the Finnegans.
In 1953, the Biden family moved into an apartment in Claymont, Delaware, where they lived for several years before again moving to Wilmington, Delaware. Joe Biden Sr. became a successful used car salesman, and the family's circumstances were middle class.
Joe Biden with his mother, his sister and two brothers
Biden went to St. Paul's Elementary School in Scranton. In 1955, when he was 13, the family moved to Mayfield, Delaware. There Biden attended the St. Helena School until he found acceptance into the prestigious Archmere Academy. Despite the fact he had to work in school to help his family afford tuition, Biden had long dreamed of attending the educational institution, which he called:
"The object of my deepest desire, my Oz".
At the academy, Biden was a solid student and, in spite of his small size, a standout receiver on the football team. In 1961, Biden graduated from the school.
Then Biden went to the University of Delaware, where he studied history and political science. He would later admit that he spent his first two years of college much more interested in football, girls and parties than academics. But he also developed a sharp interest in politics during these years, spurred in part by the inspiring inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961.
On a spring break trip to the Bahamas during his junior year, Biden met a Syracuse University student, Neilia Hunter and, according to him, he felt ass over tin cup in love — at first sight. Encouraged by his new love, he applied himself more fully to his studies and was accepted into the Syracuse University Law School upon his graduation from Delaware in 1965. Biden and Hunter married the next year, in 1966.
Biden was at best a mediocre law student. During his first year at Syracuse, he flunked a class for failing to properly cite a reference to a law review article. Although he claimed it was an accidental oversight that would haunt him later in his career.
Negative experiences of drinking alcohol in the Biden and Finnegan families led to Biden becoming a nondrinker. Having suffered from traulism through much of his childhood and into his twenties, he has said that he finally overcame it by spending many hours rehearsing poetry in front of a mirror.
Early political career
During 1968, Biden clerked for six months at a Wilmington law firm headed by prominent local Republican William Prickett and, as he later said, he thought of himself as a Republican.
In 1969, Biden resumed practicing law in Wilmington, first as a public defender. Biden's time as a public defender was short, but several of his cases attracted newspaper coverage, including his defenses of a fisherman accused of stealing a cow (sentenced to no jail time), and a 15-year-old charged with drug possession (acquitted). Biden later described the job in his memoir as "God's work", but also wrote that
"God's work wasn't full time work in 1969".
Then Biden joined a firm headed by Sid Balick, a locally active Democrat. Balick named him to the Democratic Forum, a group trying to reform and revitalize the state party, and Biden switched his registration to Democrat. He also started his own firm, Biden and Walsh. Corporate law, however, did not appeal to him and criminal law did not pay well. He supplemented his income by managing properties.
Later in 1969, Biden ran as a Democrat for the New Castle County Council on a liberal platform that included support for public housing in the suburban area. He won by a solid, two-thousand vote margin in the usually Republican district and in a bad year for Democrats in the state. Even before taking his seat, he was already talking about running for the U.S. Senate in a couple of years. He served on the County Council from 1970 to 1972 while continuing his private law practice. Biden represented the 4th district on the county council.
Due to Biden’s words about that time, everything was happening faster than he expected.
In 1972, the Delaware Democratic Party encouraged a 29-year-old Biden to run against the popular Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs for the United States Senate. Although few thought he had a good chance, Biden ran a tireless campaign organized mostly by family members. His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, served as his campaign manager, and both of his parents campaigned daily. That November, in a tight race with a large turnout, Biden won an upset victory to become the fifth-youngest U.S. senator elected in the nation's history.
Just as all of Biden's wildest dreams seemed to be coming true, he was struck by a shocking tragedy. On December 18, 1972, a few weeks after the election, Biden's wife and one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while Christmas shopping in Hockessin, Delaware. The accident killed his wife and daughter and severely injured both of his sons, Beau and Hunter. Biden was disconsolate and even considered suicide.
"I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry".
Joe with Neilia, Hunter, and Beau in November of 1972
Few years after that, Biden commented that the truck driver was drunk during the accident, but these allegations have been denied by the driver's family and were never substantiated by the police
Nevertheless, at the encouragement of his family, Biden decided to honor his commitment to representing the people of Delaware in the Senate. He skipped the swearing-in ceremony for new senators in Washington and instead took the oath of office from his sons' hospital room. In order to spend as much time as possible with his sons, Biden decided to continue to live in Wilmington, commuting to and from Washington each day by Amtrak train, a practice he maintained through his entire long tenure in the Senate.
In remembrance of his wife and daughter, Biden still doesn’t work on December 18, the anniversary of the accident.
Recovery, entering the Senate, and second marriage
On January 5, 1973, Biden was sworn into office by Francis R. Valeo, the secretary of the Senate, in a small chapel at the Delaware Division of the Wilmington Medical Center. Beau was wheeled in with his leg still in traction; Hunter, who had already been released, was also there, as were other members of the extended family. Witnesses and television cameras were also present and the event received national attention.
At age 30 (the minimum age required to hold the office), Biden became the 6th youngest senator in U.S. history, and one of only 18 senators who took office before reaching the age of 31.
In 1975, Biden met Jill Tracy Jacobs, who grew up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and would become a teacher in Delaware. They had met on a blind date arranged by Biden's brother, although it turned out that Biden had already noticed a photograph of her in an advertisement for a local park in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden would credit her with renewing his interest in both politics and life. On June 17, 1977, Biden and Jacobs were married by a Catholic priest at the Chapel at the United Nations in New York. They have one daughter together, Ashley Blazer (born 1981), who became a social worker and staffer at the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families.
Biden and his second wife, Jill
Early Senate activities
From 1973 to 2009, Biden served an impeccable Senate career. During his time in the Senate, Biden earned respect as one of the body's leading foreign policy experts, serving as chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations for several years. His many foreign policy positions included advocating for strategic arms limitation with the Soviet Union, promoting peace and stability in the Balkans, expanding NATO to include former Soviet-bloc nations and opposing the First Gulf War. In later years, he called for American action to end the genocide in Darfur and spoke out against President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq War, particularly opposing the troop surge of 2007.
In addition to foreign policy, Biden was an outspoken proponent of tougher crime laws. In 1987, Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's failure to receive confirmation was largely attributed to harsh questioning by Biden, who was then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Biden shaking hands with President Ronald Reagan, 1984
1988 Presidential campaign
Biden ran for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination, technically declaring his candidacy at the Wilmington railway station on June 9, 1987. He was attempting to become the youngest president since John F. Kennedy. When the campaign began, he was considered an implicitly strong candidate because of his moderate image, his speaking ability on the stump, his appeal to Baby Boomers, his high-profile position as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the upcoming Robert Bork Supreme Court nomination hearings, and his fundraising appeal. He raised $1.7 million in the first quarter of 1987, more than any other candidate.
By August 1987, Biden's campaign had begun to lag behind those of Michael Dukakis and Dick Gephardt, though he had still raised more funds than any candidate but Dukakis, and was seeing an upturn in Iowa polls. In September 1987, the campaign ran into trouble when he was accused of plagiarizing a speech that had been made earlier that year by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock.
After Biden withdrew, it was revealed that the Dukakis campaign had secretly made a video highlighting the Biden–Kinnock comparison and distributed it to news outlets. Later in 1987, the Delaware Supreme Court's Board of Professional Responsibility cleared Biden of the law school plagiarism charges regarding his standing as a lawyer, saying Biden had "not violated any rules".
Biden at the White House in 1987
In 1988, Biden suffered two brain aneurysms. Each required surgery with high risk of long-term impact on brain functionality. In February 1988, after suffering from several episodes of increasingly severe neck pain, Biden was taken by long-distance ambulance to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and given lifesaving surgery to correct an intracranial berry aneurysm that had begun leaking. While recuperating, he suffered a pulmonary embolism, a major complication.
Another operation to repair a second aneurysm, which had caused no symptoms but was at risk of bursting, was performed in May 1988. The hospitalization and recovery kept Biden from his duties in the Senate for several months. Biden has had no recurrences or effects from the aneurysms since then.
In 2019, the neurosurgeon who operated on Biden in 1988 said he felt Biden was fit to run for president, and even joked about it.
"Biden is the only politician in Washington who has a brain for sure, because I have seen it".
U.S. Vice President
Biden speaks at the August 23, 2008, vice presidential announcement at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois
In 2007, 20 years after his first unsuccessful presidential bid, Biden once again decided to run for the U.S. presidency. Despite his years of experience in the Senate, however, Biden's campaign failed to generate much momentum in a field dominated by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Biden dropped out after receiving less than one percent of the vote in the crucial Iowa caucuses.
Several months later, though, Obama selected Biden as his running mate. On November 2, 2008, Barack Obama and Joe Biden convincingly defeated the Republican ticket of Arizona Senator John McCain and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. On January 20, 2009, Obama was sworn in as the 44th U.S. president.
While Biden mostly served in the role of behind-the-scenes adviser to the president, he took particularly active roles in formulating federal policies relating to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, the vice president used his well-established Senate connections to help secure passage of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation.
Biden campaigns at a house party in Creston, Iowa, July 2007
In October 2010, Biden said Obama had asked him to remain as his running mate for the 2012 presidential election, but with Obama's popularity on the decline, White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley conducted some secret polling and focus group research in late 2011 on the idea of replacing Biden on the ticket with Hillary Clinton. The notion was dropped when the results showed no appreciable improvement for Obama, and White House officials later said Obama had never entertained the idea.
Biden's May 2012 statement that he was "absolutely comfortable" with same-sex marriage gained considerable public attention in comparison to Obama's position, which had been described as "progressive". Biden made his statement without administration consent, and Obama and his aides were quite tormented, since Obama had planned to shift position few months later, in the build-up to the party convention, and since Biden had previously counseled the president to avoid the issue lest key Catholic voters be offended. Gay rights advocates seized upon Biden's statement, and within days, Obama announced that he too supported same-sex marriage, an action in part forced by Biden's remarks. Biden apologized to Obama in private for having spoken out, while Obama acknowledged publicly it had been done from the heart.
The Obama campaign nevertheless valued Biden as a retail-level politician who could connect with disaffected blue-collar workers and rural residents, and he had a heavy schedule of appearances in swing states as the reelection campaign began in earnest in spring 2012. Biden was nominated for a second term as vice president at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in September.
Biden and Obama, July 2012
Second term (2013–2017)
Biden was inaugurated to a second term on January 20, 2013, at a small ceremony at Number One Observatory Circle, his official residence, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor presiding.
Biden played little part in discussions that led to the October 2013 passage of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014, which resolved the federal government shutdown of 2013 and the debt-ceiling crisis of 2013. That was because Senate majority leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders put him down on any talks with Congress, feeling Biden had given too much away during previous negotiations.
Biden's Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized again in 2013. The act led to related developments, such as the White House Council on Women and Girls, begun in the first term, as well as the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, begun in January 2014 with Biden and Valerie Jarrett as co-chairs.
In 2015, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress without notifying the Obama administration. This defiance of protocol led Biden and more than 50 congressional Democrats to skip Netanyahu's speech. In August 2016, Biden visited Serbia, where he met with Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić and expressed his condolences for civilian victims of the bombing campaign during the Kosovo War. In Kosovo, he attended a ceremony renaming a highway after his son Beau, in honor of Beau's service to Kosovo in training its judges and prosecutors.
Biden never cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, making him the longest-serving vice president with this distinction.
Biden with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 9, 2016
Subsequent activities (2017–2019)
After completing his second term as vice president in 2017, Biden became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, while continuing to lead efforts to find treatments for cancer.
Biden remained in the public eye, endorsing candidates while continuing to comment on politics, climate change, and the presidency of Donald Trump. He also continued to speak out in support of LGBT rights, continuing advocacy on an issue he had become more closely associated with during his vice presidency. In 2019, Biden criticized Brunei for its intention to implement Islamic laws that would allow death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality.
Biden with Barack Obama and Donald Trump, at the latter's inauguration on January 20, 2017
2020 presidential campaign
On April 25, 2019, Biden delivered the expected news that he was running for president in 2020.
Although he easily led most Democratic polls at the time he entered the race, Biden's candidacy soon became a litmus test for a party with an increasingly progressive base. Underscoring the challenges of presenting himself as a moderate, Biden drew criticism for affirming his support of the Hyde Amendment, a 43-year-old measure that banned federal funding for abortions, before reversing his position shortly afterward.
Meanwhile, a new issue surfaced in September 2019 with the revelation that President Trump had pressured the Ukrainian government into investigating Biden and his son Hunter. This stemmed from Hunter's former involvement with a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, and Biden's efforts to have the country's prosecutor general at the time fired. Biden called Trump's actions an "abuse of power" and said he would support impeachment if the president did not cooperate with Congress, a topic that took on additional urgency when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ignited impeachment proceedings that same day.
After Trump's impeachment trial ended with his acquittal on February 5, 2020, Biden finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses and then fifth in the New Hampshire primary. But he rebounded with a resounding win in South Carolina at the end of the month, and continued his momentum by claiming the majority of delegates from Super Tuesday voting in early March, his surge driving most of his top competitors from the race.
During a one-on-one debate with Sanders in mid-March, Biden committed to nominating a woman to serve as his vice president. He became the presumptive Democratic nominee when Sanders ended his campaign in early April, though he also found himself facing new allegations of sexual assault, this time from a former aide named Tara Reade.
On August 11, 2020, Biden announced Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate.
In August, Biden officially became the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.
Biden at his presidential kickoff rally in Philadelphia, May 2019
On November 7, 2020, four days after polling day, Biden was declared as the 46th president-elect after winning Pennsylvania. Along with earning a record 81 million-plus votes, the soon to be 78-year-old was set to become the oldest president in the nation's history.
On December 14, 2020, all 538 electors in the Electoral College cast their vote, formalizing Biden’s victory over President Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Biden received 306 votes and Trump received 232. Although he moved forward with the selection of Cabinet members and other staffers, Biden initially found his transition efforts thwarted by Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, who refused to release federal funds for the process until November 23.
On January 6, 2021, after the start of a congressional session to formalize the Electoral College results, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building and overwhelmed the police, forcing lawmakers to evacuate for their safety. Biden soon delivered a speech in which he pleaded for Trump to help put an end to the chaos.
Following the violence that resulted in more than 80 arrests and five deaths, the congressional session resumed and continued well past midnight, with Vice President Mike Pence formally announcing Biden's presidential win just after 3:40 a.m. on January 7.
Biden was sworn in as the president of the United States on January 20, 2021. Quickly getting to work, President Biden signed a flurry of executive orders over his first few days in office. Among those that reversed the policies of his predecessor, he re-committed the United States to the Paris Agreement, overturned the ban that targeted travelers from Muslim-majority nations, pulled funding for the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and allowed transgender people to again serve in the military.
Biden takes the oath of office administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. at the Capitol, January 20, 2021
With the country still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, the president enacted an expanded enrollment period for the federal health insurance marketplace and urged Congress to act on a coronavirus relief package. This came to fruition with the March passage of the American Rescue Plan, which gave the green light for another round of stimulus payments and extended unemployment benefits.
After announcing that all Americans above the age of 18 would be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by April 19, Biden celebrated the administering of 200 million doses two days later, ahead of his target date of May 1. Meanwhile, he sought to tie the nation's economic recovery to proposals for a $2 trillion American Jobs Plan, which aimed for long-overdue infrastructure investments, and the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which promised to establish publicly-funded preschools and a comprehensive family and medical leave program.
On the foreign policy front, the president in mid-April announced that the American military presence in Afghanistan would be withdrawn by September 11, 2021. Shortly afterward, he hit Russia with extensive sanctions for a hacking operation that breached multiple U.S. federal agencies.
When it came to border control, however, the president saw fewer positive results. Although he launched a task force to reunite displaced children with their parents and pledged to end the "metering" that limited the number of asylum seekers, a record surge of migrants thwarted attempts to ease the overcrowded detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. Additionally, Biden initially reneged on a promise to raise the Trump-era cap of 15,000 refugees for the year, before political pushback forced him to reconsider his stance.
Biden with his Cabinet, April 2021
Biden was consistently ranked one of the least wealthy members of the Senate, which he attributed to his having been elected young. Feeling that less-wealthy public officials may be tempted to accept contributions in exchange for political favors, he proposed campaign finance reform measures during his first term. As of November 2009, Biden's net worth was $27,012. By November 2020, the Bidens were worth $9 million, largely due to sales of Biden's books and speaking fees after his vice presidency.
The political writer Howard Fineman has written:
"Biden is not an academic, he's not a theoretical thinker, he's a great street pol. He comes from a long line of working people in Scranton — auto salesmen, car dealers, people who know how to make a sale. He has that great Irish gift".
Journalist James Traub has written about Biden:
"He is the kind of fundamentally happy person who can be as generous toward others as he is to himself".
In recent years, especially after the 2015 death of his elder son Beau, Biden has been discussed for his empathetic nature and ability to communicate about woe. CNN wrote in 2020 that his presidential campaign aimed to make him "healer-in-chief", while the New York Times described his extensive history of being called upon to give eulogies.
Journalist and TV anchor Wolf Blitzer has described Biden as loquacious. He often deviates from prepared remarks and sometimes "puts his foot in his mouth". The New York Times wrote:
"Biden's weak filters make him capable of blurting out pretty much anything".
In 2018, Biden called himself a "gaffe machine".