Home > Finance > us elections 2020: View: Biden’s ability to reach out to those in distress and comfort them sets him apart

us elections 2020: View: Biden’s ability to reach out to those in distress and comfort them sets him apart


Empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person) is the one quality a President Biden will have

and which President Trump was often accused of lacking not just by political opponents but by members of his own family, like his niece Mary Trump who even wrote a book titled.” Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man”.

Suffering is something Biden has been no stranger to. At the age of 30, he was one of the youngest US Senators after being elected from Delaware in November 1972, the year the Republican president Nxon was reelected. Despite trailing his highly experienced Republican opponent J Caleb Boggs by 30 percentage points, Biden managed to win by a narrow margin of just over 3,000 votes. A month later, In December, 1972, Biden and his sister Valerie (who had managed his successful campaign) went to Washington to recruit staffers for his senatorial office while his wife Neilia stayed back home with the three children, the one-year-old Naomi, four-year-old Beau, and the two-year-old Hunter. On the evening of December 18, 1972, Neilia was driving with the children in her car for Christmas shopping when the vehicle was hit by a truck. Neilia and Naomi died in the accident and the two little boys were admitted to hospital with multiple fractures.. Biden and his sister Valerie rushed back to Delaware.

At that stage Biden was wondering whether he should resign as US Senator. As he saw it, the country could always get another US Senator but the little boys needed their father. It was then that his senior colleagues in the US Senate, not just the Democrats like Mike Mansfield but the Republicans, asked him to serve for at least a few months and then decide . The then US Senate Majority Leader Mansfield told Biden that his position as US Senator was something Neilia had been so keen on and had worked so hard for during the campaign. At that time the US Senate and American politics was far less polarised than it is today. Biden’s senior Republican colleagues in the US Senate assured him that they would not take advantage of his absence during voting on any crucial bill if there was a sudden emergency and he had to rush back home to be with his two little boys who had still not recovered from the dreadful accident. Which is why Biden has always been grateful to his colleagues in the US Senate (both Democrats and Republicans) even if some of them were from the deep south and had been criticized for being pro-segregationist in the 1960s.

The Catholic Biden, who keeps counting the beads on his rosary, has always been very religious. According to his colleagues who were interviewed for a CNN programme called “The Road to the White House,” in the first few months after the accident, the young US Senator would keep wondering why he had been punished like this. Even when the US Senate was in session, he would take the train back every evening to be with his little boys at home in Delaware. The daily journey to Washington and back would take a total of three hours and the Senator from Delaware took the train so regularly that he was known as Amtrak Biden. There were times, as Biden admitted in an interview with CNN, that he was so depressed that he would wonder whether he should end it all by jumping out of the train. And then he would remember the two little boys waiting for him at home. The railway journeys became such an integral part of his life that he even announced his first presidential bid in 1988 from the railway station.

By then he had met an English teacher called Jill and married her on June 17, 1977, and they had a daughter named Ashley. Jill has continued teaching English in Northern Virginia Community College college till this day and plans to do so even after Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the USA. When her husband was Obama’s vice-president, the secret service personnel in her detail would keep an eye on her while dressing up as students and attending her class. For the classes she took as the vice-president’s wife from January 2009 to January 2017, she was simply described as “staff”. Jill Biden has four degrees and a doctorate which she got under her maiden name Jacobs.

By the second decade of the 21st century, Biden had become Barack Obama‘s vice-president. Biden was very proud of his elder son Beau who had been elected as the Attorney General of Delaware. Even during his tenure as AG, Beau had served for a year with the US Army in Iraq and had been awarded the Bronze Medal for valour. On his return, Beau continued serving as Delaware’s AG and was considering contesting for the position of governor of the state. Beau had made it clear that he would make his way in politics on his own and without any help from his dad. It was then that tragedy struck again. Beau was diagnosed and treated for brain cancer. For some months, it seemed as if the cancer had gone into remission. Then the cancer returned and Beau died in hospital on May 3, 2015. In an interview with CNN, Biden remembers a final conversation with Beau in hospital. “He looked into my eyes and kept saying, `Promise me Dad that you will be okay’,”.

Beau wanted his father to contest for the presidency. After Beau’s death, Biden was too shattered and by then Hillary Clinton had already staked her position for the 2016 presidential nomination. When Trump won, Biden returned home with Jill and his memories. And then Charlottesville happened. After white supremacists clashed with protesters who wanted the statue of the Confederate Army general Robert Lee removed and a young woman protester was killed on August 12, 2017, when a car was deliberately driven into the crowd, Biden was shocked. It was not just the sight of white supremacists shouting slogans like “Jews will not replace us” but the response of President Trump who went on live television to say “There are fine people on both sides.” It was at that moment, Biden says, that he decided to contest for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in the hope that he could bring people together and fulfill Beau’s wish.

Biden’s forte is working in a spirit of bipartisanship with people across the aisle. “They (the Republicans) are our opponents, not our enemies,” he keeps saying. When the Democrats lost control of Congress during the Obama Administration, the then vice-president Biden managed to get key bills passed because of his excellent relationship with Republican Senators like John McCain and Mitch McConnell, now the US Senate Majority leader. At the Vietnam war hero McCain’s funeral on August 30, 2018, Biden said, “My name is Joe Biden. I am a Democrat. And I loved John McCain.” Which was in stark contrast to what President Trump had said when McCain was suffering from the brain tumour which would take his life. Trump maintained that he did not consider McCain a war hero because he had not been killed but captured. It did not seem to matter to Trump (who had avoided being drafted to serve in the Vietnam war because of a family doctor certifying that he had bone spurs in the ankle) that McCain, despite being brutally tortured as a POW in Hanoi, had refused to be returned to the USA ahead of his turn when the enemy offered to do so once they learnt that their prisoner was the son of a US Admiral. It is not surprising that the Republican Senator McCain’s widow Cindy endorsed Biden and not the Republican Trump during the 2020 race to the White House.

As Biden stated during his farewell speech in the US Senate, “Every good thing I have seen happen here, every bold step taken in the 36-plus years I have been here, came not from the application by interest groups but through the mutation of personal relationships.”

The rest is history as America waits for its 46th president Joseph Robinette Biden Jr to be sworn in.on January 20, 2021.

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