Biden, Joe. Promises to keep: on life and politics. NY: Random House, 2007.
With my usual sense of timing I bought this early on the day that Biden dropped out of the presidential race. It has been sitting, unread, on my bookshelf. This past weekend, early Saturday morning in fact, it suddenly seemed a lot more interesting.
This review is organized in three parts, first as a description of it chapter by chapter (there is, for some unfathomable reason, no index) so those who want to find a specific topic or section can do so more easily. The second part is a note on Pennsylvania-related mentions; this is a Pennsylvania blog after all. The third part is just some personal observations. Numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers in the book; in the paperback edition page numbers may not match up.
Those looking for in-depth analysis, intellectual history of issues, academic discussions on political context, or brilliant writing should look elsewhere. If you want an outline of what’s in the book, sprinkled with quotes from it, this is the place for you.
Chapter by chapter description
The title is taken from a Robert Frost poem. While no co-author is listed at the end of the book Biden acknowledges the assistance of Mark Zwonitzer, who did editorial work, fact checked, and polished.
Prologue (xi – xxiii)
Biden provides a cultural background, talks about visiting his mother’s family in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and talking politics or listening to people talk politics. His grandfather Finnegan was a newspaper reporter there. He provides some family history and mentions that his father didn’t like his job at a car dealership. In a section on how politics, and the senate, has changed in his time there he mentions the election of Barack Obama and Carol Moseley Braun and alludes to Hillary Clinton in mentioning the sixteen women in the senate, “one of them has a ready shot at the presidency. (xviii). As a summation of his senatorial work he offers this:
I ran my own race for president and had to pick up the pieces after the train wreck … then nearly died from a cranial aneurysm. In the aftermath I had to remake my health, my reputation, and my career in the Senate. The years since then have been my most rewarding. I count my role in helping to end genocide in the Balkans and in securing the passage of the Violence Against Women Act as my proudest moments in public life. (xix)
He gives this description of the American people in reference to Sept. 11th:
But when I got home and put on the television, I saw that the American heart was still beating strong. Doctors and nurses were standing by at hospitals in New York City, ready to treat the wounded. Snaking through the streets and up the avenues were long lines of New Yorkers waiting to give their blood, even though word was being passed that no more blood was needed. I could see it in their faces: They were hungry to do something, anything. Nobody was talking about war footings or payback. They just wanted to do their part. That was the day that reminded me that even in a moment of almost total silence from their leaders in Washing, Americans would rise to the occasion. (xxii)
He considers the first principal of life to be Get up! When you’ve been knocked down or fail at something, just get up and keep going.
Biden’s childhood home was Scranton but when he was in elementary school the family moved further south to just across the Delaware line and then later into Delaware. He discusses his religious upbringing and education in Catholic schools. This is one example:
Wherever there were nuns, there was home. I’m as much a cultural Catholic as I am a theological Catholic. My idea of self, of family, of community, of the wider world comes straight from my religion. It’s not so much the Bible, the beatitudes, the Ten Commandments, the sacraments, or the prayers I learned. It’s the culture. The nuns are one of the reasons I’m still a practicing Catholic. Last summer in Dubuque, Iowa, a local political ally, Teri Goodmann, took me to the Saint Francis Convent – a beautiful old building that looked like it belonged on an Ivy League campus. On the way over we’d stopped by the Hy-Vee to buy some ice cream for the sisters, because Jean Finnegan Biden’s son does not visit nuns empty-handed. (7)
He had missed a lot of 3rd grade after having his tonsils and adenoids removed so when the family moved, he repeated the grade; he was a small child and even when oldest than his classmates he was still one of the smallest. As a child he had a stutter and worked hard to overcome it. For the record, he said he tried the Demosthenes method, putting pebbles in your mouth and practicing speaking; he said it didn’t work. One of his teachers, a nun, made fun of his stutter and mother went down to the school and said if the nun did it again she could “come back and rip that bonnet off your head” (11). You go, Mrs. Biden!
As a boy he lived near the private Archmere High School. His family couldn’t afford the tuition so he got in on work study and landscaped or washed windows over the summer to pay for it (18). His father had grown up with wealth but lost his money in bad business deals (16). He sometimes worked two jobs to keep the family going. One of his mother’s brothers, who had drinking problem, lived with them for awhile (21). Biden discusses the importance his family put on education and on him going to college. He also discusses his family’s values, such as never badmouth family in public (13).
Biden went to the University of Delaware and then to law school at the University of Scranton. He wanted to go into public service and looking through the biographies of congressmen, he noted that those without wealth and/or connections, often had law degrees. His undergraduate years were not marked by studiousness, nor were his early years in law school. At one point he was accused of incorrectly citing a source in a paper:
About six weeks into my first term I botched a paper in a technical writing class so badly that one of my classmates accused me of lifting passages from a Fordham Law Review article; I had cited the article, but not properly. The truth was I hadn’t been to class enough to know how to do citations in a legal brief. The faculty put my case on the agenda of one of their regular meetings, and I had to go in and explain myself. The deans and the professors were satisfied that I had not intentionally cheated, but they told me I’d have to retake the course the next year. (36)
While at the University of Delaware he met his first wife, Neilia, who was from a wealthy family. They married while he was in law school. He found his first law job through a friend of his father. Note, he doesn’t drink alcohol (27) and didn’t drink coffee (37) until he was in law school.
Something That Will Last (40-56)
The first law job didn’t last long. He quit after watching his boss defend a corporation against a welder who had been injured on the job. His second job(s) were as a part-time public defender and a part-time lawyer at a firm doing contingency work. He and his wife dabbled a little in real estate, often asking relatives to stay in houses they later intended to sell. They themselves lived in a cottage rent-free provided they managed the private swimming pool nearby. Biden sometimes worked as a lifeguard on weekends. He ran for New Castle County Council and started his own law firm. To add further complexity to life, he and his wife had three children.
He also discusses events that helped form his view of civil rights. Wilmington, Delaware was under martial law for at least six months in 1968, with armed soldiers in the street. One summer in college, in 1962, he worked as a lifeguard at an inner city pool; he was the only white lifeguard there.
The Doors Swing Open (57-78)
In 1971 he was asked to run for Senate in the 1972 election against incumbent Republican J. Caleb Boggs, though no one expected him to win. In fact, he is almost ineligible to run. Senators have to be 30 years of age. Biden would be 29 at the election but have a birthday shortly afterwards, so he would just barely make the cutoff. He decided to try it. His sister, who had managed his county council campaign, managed this campaign as well, and one of his younger brothers was the chief fundraiser. At one point they were surprised by checks from developers in New Castle County as Biden had often opposed development plans. One developer said they would do anything to get him out of the county. There are some stories (70-72) of Biden’s intemperate words getting in the way of large campaign donations, but told in a way that makes him look good. He throws in other self-deprecating anecdotes, like the seagull droppings that land on his head two days before the election; he interprets it as a sign of coming success (73).
Biden won the race and Boggs called to concede:
And when he said it and I knew I’d won, it felt nothing like I thought it would. It was supposed to feel great. I was supposed to be elated. But when Senator Boggs started to talk, I could feel myself filling up, like I might cry. I didn’t think I’d be able to talk. So Boggs spoke again: “You ran a good race, Joe.”
“I’m sorry, Senator,” was all I could say, “I’m sorry.” (74)
He tells another “foot in mouth” story about meeting other senators after the election. When one elder statesman asks him what inspired him to run he answers “civil rights” before remembering the man had been a segregationist.
Give Me Six Months (79-82)
Kleenex alert! Have tissues nearby. Just before Christmas, after the election and before the swearing in ceremony, Biden’s wife and children are in a serious car accident. His wife and infant daughter are killed and both of his young sons are seriously injured. He considers resigning as “Delaware could always get another senator, I told people, but my boys couldn’t get another father” (80). But Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield and Sen. Hubert Humphrey kept calling and asking him to stay in the Senate. Biden decides he owes it to his late wife, who helped him get elected, and is told his sons would make full recoveries, so he agrees to stay for at least six months. However, he stays in the hospital with his sons instead of going to Washington to be sworn in.
A Start (83-101)
This covers his first few years in the Senate; because of his relatively young age he is sometimes mistaken for a staff member. Though he and his wife had intended to have a second home in Washington, instead he commutes home every night to see his children. His sister and her husband, and his mother, take care of them while he is gone. His staff is told to always put the boys through when they call, no matter where he is or who he is meeting with. He describes meeting other senators, including this memorable event:
Teddy [Kennedy] said it [the senate gym] would be a good place to get to know some of my colleagues, most of whom I still hadn’t met. “C’mon. I’m taking you to the gym.” So I went. And the minute we walked through the gym door, we ran smack into three legendary senators. I knew who they were. I’d seen their pictures. I’d read about them for years. And before I could speak, Teddy was saying, “Joe, I want you to meet some of the guys.” One was Jacob Javits, the New York Republican and a renowned expert on foreign policy; another was Stuart Symington, a Democrat of Missouri who had been mentioned for years as a possible presidential candidate; and the third one was – well, I really lost focus. They were standing there, two feet way, reaching out to shake my hand. And they were all naked as the day they were born. I tried hard to keep eye contact, but I didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to say. They were perfectly at ease, but for me it was like one of those dreams where you look down in class and realize you aren’t wearing any pants. (85-6)
As his sons become more secure he travels more to campaign for others. He comes out of his grief to some degree and focuses on work more, such as campaign finance reform. One of his brothers sets him up with the woman who would become his second wife.
Again there are references to his being outspoken, such as when Henry Kissinger mispronounces his name and in response Biden calls him Secretary Dulles (84).
The courtship continues in this chapter, and leads to marriage.
He continues to discuss his first senatorial term and provides his view on abortion:
”Well, my position is that I personally am opposed to abortion, but I don’t think I have the right to impost my view – on something I accept as a matter of faith, and my position probably doesn’t please anyone. I think the government should stay out completely.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he [Abe Ribicoff] asked as we headed toward the Capitol corridors.
“Well, I will not vote to overturn the Court’s decision. I will not vote to curtail a woman’s right to choose abortion. But I will also not vote to use federal funds to fund abortion.” (105)
Later on the page he elaborates a little more:
I’ve stuck to my middle-of-the-road position on abortion for more than thirty years. I still vote against partial birth abortion and federal funding, and I’d like to find ways to make it easier for scared young mothers to choose not to have an abortion, but I will also vote against a constitutional amendment that strips a woman of her right to make her own choice. That position has earned me the distrust of some women’s groups and the outright enmity of the Right to Life groups.
He also tells the story of being 20 years old and going on to the Senate floor when it was not in session. A capitol police officer stops him and sends him on his way. Ten years later when he came back as a Senator a policeman says “Do you remember me?” It was the same officer, who was retiring the next day. He welcomed Biden back (104).
Although it put him at odds with some senior senators, including Humphrey, Biden began to think more about fiscal responsibility:
I thought it was time to start watching the spending side of government. Good intentions had to be balanced with good finances. I told my staff that anytime they recommended I vote for a program, they had to write down how much it would cost and how we were going to pay for it. And I joined a bipartisan effort to force Congress to reauthorize federal programs every four years, so we would have to continually assess the real outcomes for real people. (108)
Joe and Jill get married and adjust to the new family arrangement. They have a daughter.
As a second term senator, Biden takes on issues such as busing (a good deal of the chapter is taken up with this topic) and mandatory sentences. Busing was especially contentious in Delaware and public meetings could be heated. Biden notes his role:
I think I instinctively understood that my most important duty was to be a target. People were desperate to vent their anger, and if they could yell at a United States senator, all the better. Part of being a public servant, I came to understand in 1978, was absorbing the anger of people who don’t know where to turn. If I couldn’t solve the problem for them, I had to at least be an outlet. (127)
Biden was the first elected official outside of Georgia to endorse Jimmy Carter for president (130), but was disappointed by the Carter presidency (130-131):
Jimmy Carter was a man of decency and a man of principle, but it wasn’t enough. That’s the first time I realized that on-the-job training for a president can be a dangerous thing. (133)
He gets a slot on the Foreign Relations Committee and on the permanent committee overseeing the U.S. intelligence agencies (120). He discusses world leaders, such as Helmut Schmidt, chancellor of Germany.
In closing he mentions in passing that he was asked about running for president in 1980 (135).
This Can’t Hurt Us (137-162)
This chapter addresses his 1988 run for presidency. On the day he announced his candidacy the Scranton Tribune put the story on the front page. They also had one of those “passing of the torch” photos:
But the centerpiece of the section about me was a fuzzy photograph dug out of the dead files by one of Grandpop Finnegan’s old friends, Tommy Phillips, the longtime political reporter for the paper. It was a picture of a long-ago Saint Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Scranton, and the focus was on that day’s grand marshal, the recently retired president, Harry Truman, gliding by in a big convertible with the top down. In the bottom of the frame, among the crowd lining the parade route, was the fuzzy figure of a school kid named Joe Biden. (137)
The same people who approached him around running in 1980 asked him to think about running in 1984, but again, he declined (139). Of the 1988 run he says:
If somebody had hooked me up to a lie detector in 1986 and asked if I was going to be a fully announced candidate or 1988, I would have said, “No.” If they had asked me if I was building a base to run for president in 1992 or 1996, I would have said “Absolutely.” (146)
He discusses foreign policy experiences, such as meeting with Golda Meir, Alexei Kosygin, and others.
Just as his presidential campaign was taking off he became chair of the Judiciary Committee and worried that a possible Supreme Court nomination process would conflict with campaigning.
Biden’s relationship with the press was not a particularly good one. His first view of the national press had been after the death of his wife and infant daughter, and he felt they were ghoulish, asking specifics about his sons’ injuries. The urgency to get back to Wilmington every evening meant there was no time for cultivating reporters. So when he was running for president he didn’t have the kind of familiar relationship with them that other candidates might have. A 1974 interview with Kitty Kelley led to an article that he felt did not paint him in a balanced or accurate way (152).
He starts to mention having serious headaches (foreshadowing of his cranial aneurysm?). At one point he had to leave the podium in the middle of a talk to wait for the pain to subside (157). He mentions that he had another headache at a campaign event in New Hampshire when he felt someone was questioning his intelligence. He responded by saying he thought he had a higher IQ than the questioner and went on to list his degrees and awards, without realizing he has exaggerating his academic record (158). He makes some efforts to repair the rift with the press but with little success and he admits he did not do well in making his views known.
Intellectual Combat (163-187)
While Biden was in Washington chairing the Judiciary Committee meetings on the nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, his wife campaigned in his place. One of the key issues in the Bork hearings is the right to privacy, with the sample issue being whether or not married couples have a right to access to birth control.
He also addresses the Kinnock controversy:
And on a few trips I made to Iowa and New Hampshire that August, I started quoting from the ad in my stump, always with a nod to Neil Kinnock. (184)
He is discussing a speech used in an ad for British politician Neil Kinnock. At the Iowa State Fair debate on August 23rd he didn’t have the time to prepare that he would have liked. In his closing statement he used Kinnock’s words without attribution. One of his staff told him he had forgotten to attribute the speech. Biden admits he should have gone to the press gathered there and corrected the error (186).
You Have to Win This (188-207)
More on the Bork hearings. Worried that the campaign gaffes will distract from the Bork hearings, Biden offers to step aside as chair of the Judiciary Committee, but the offer was declined (200).
The lack of attribution of the Kinnock quote continued to get more bad press. The Dukakis campaign sent around a video of the event. The press found other examples of unattributed quotes, some put into speeches by speechwriters without his knowledge. His continuing poor relationship with the press did not help matters. Another reporter found the old law school charge of plagiarism. A tape surfaced of his “IQ” comments earlier in the campaign. He comes to this conclusion:
And it was my fault. When I stopped trying to explain to everybody and thought it through, the blame fell totally on me. Maybe the reporters traveling with me had seen me credit Kinnock over and over, but it was Joe Biden who forgot to credit Kinnock at the State Fair debate. I had been immature and skipped class and blown the Legal Methods paper. I was the one who thought it was good enough to just get by in law school. I lost my temper in New Hampshire. What I’d said about my academic achievements was just faulty memory or lack of knowledge. I hadn’t remembered where I finished in my law school class. I hadn’t cared. But to say “Wanna compare IQs?” was so stupid. All of it was my fault, and I didn’t want to compound the mistakes. (203)
He drops out of the race soon after.
The Kind of Man I Wanted to Be (208-223)
Biden suspects that the White House encouraged some of the bad press during his presidential campaign.
Robert Bork nomination’s for the Supreme Court is defeated. Anthony Kennedy is appointed.
Journalists and the public react well to him; he has worried that his reputation was permanently damaged.
Shortly after ending his presidential bid, Biden is rushed to the hospital with a cranial aneurysm. When his wife gets to the hospital she finds a priest giving him last rites. He is moved in an ambulance to a different hospital during a snowstorm, where he has brain surgery.
Time Will Tell (224-236)
Biden would eventually need two surgeries to repair two aneurysms, with treatment for a blood clot in his lungs in between. He was treated at Walter Reed:
The nurses at Walter Reed were the embodiment of absolute comfort and unquestioning love; they brushed my teeth, washed me, were familiar with me in ways I could never have imagined allowing another human being to be – and in a way that never shamed me. (226)
While at home friends and family (and his favorite sub shop in Delaware) helped his wife keep the household going, the same was happening in Washington:
I found out later that [Ted] Kennedy and his staff had taken up the slack on the Judiciary Committee for me, and although it’s rare in the Senate, they had generously deferred to the wishes of my staff members while I was gone. This gesture of friendship made me fell less guilty about my seven-month absence. (232)
This chapter concerns the influence of his religion on his political beliefs and action, his work on the Violence Against Women Act, the war in Yugoslavia, and his growing frustration with the administration.
He explains the role of his faith here:
As I worked on that Georgetown speech, I saw that the lessons I had learned growing up had alwaysbeen the guiding principles of my career in politics and that the issues that captured my attention had always all related to the abuse of power. From civil rights and voting rights to my interesting in putting police on the streets to protect people from violent criminals in their own neighborhoods, to stopping banks from redlining practices that made it nearly impossible for people living in black neighborhoods to get loans, to pushing for federal guidelines that made criminal sentencing more fair and uniform, to fighting violence against children, to the disgust I felt at watching Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover abuse their high offices (I was one of the few senators who voted against naming the FBI building after Hoover), to the fight against the drug cartels of the 1980s, there was a single common thread. As I looked back on my career, it was obvious that what had always animated me was the belief that we should stand up to those who abuse power, whether it was political, economic, or physical. (238)
His work on the Violence Against Women Act was inspired when he noticed, in 1990, that violent crimes against men had fallen while violent crimes against women had increased (239). He assigned a woman on his staff to work on this issue full-time. There was a great deal of resistance and ignorance, in the Senate and the populace generally, or, as he says “The stupidity was infuriating” (244). This section is a good description of how a legislator gets interested in an issue, especially one where there is an ambiguity of popular opinion, such as where date rape or marital rape are concerned, and develops meaningful legislation to try and correct the problem. At this point there were very few women in the Senate and Biden is to be credited for taking on the problem in a male-dominated venue.
The problems in Yugoslavia came to his attention when a young Croatian monk visited his office. Biden also discusses his friendship with Averill Harriman who, early in Biden’s senatorial career, sometimes invited him to dinner parties attended by people like Henry Kissinger. Harriman also took Biden with him to a meeting with Josip Tito, who ruled Yugoslavia for many years. In the early 1990’s Biden chaired the Subcommittee on European Affairs of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Yugoslavia was included in his area. His descriptions of some of what he learned was happening in the region under the leadership of Milosevic is not for the squeamish. Biden held Senate hearings on Yugoslavia in 1991 and was frustrated by the lack of action, or seeming interest, in the Bush administration.
Effort Pays (258-289)
Biden continues his work on the Violence Against Women Act, which passes with help from Orrin Hatch (!) and Phil Gramm (!). He is eventually able to persuade Pres. Bill Clinton to bomb Kosovo.
On the situation in Yugoslavia, he says:
The truth is, in 1992 it was up to the United States to lead. As long as there is one good actor in the world, every other nation can play at the margins. Every other nation can act out of realpolitik and the basic decency of the work won’t collapse. But when every country is acting with nothing but self-interest in mind, it’s a much more dangerous world. It was up to the United States to stand up to the abuses of the power where we saw them. (260)
His work on this issue changed his view of the military and he speaks highly of the generals and other high ranking military personnel he met with; he specifically mentions Mike Boorda (who later killed himself) and Wes Clark.
He discusses his views of newly elected Bill Clinton, but doesn’t go into a lot of depth. Sen. John McCain rates a positive (285) and negative (275) mention in this chapter.
New Opportunities (290-310)
Biden chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and writes about conversations he has with Pres. Bush on Europe.
This chapter covers the 9/11 attacks. Biden mentions his serious doubts about Bush’s leadership, although he thinks the military action in Afghanistan following 9/11 was the correct thing to do.
One interesting tidbit, on page 308, Biden says he heard rumors in 2001 that Bush was planning to “take out” Saddam Hussein.
The Dark (311-325)
Biden’s 2002 trip to Afghanistan is detailed here. Their accommodations were sparse and he did not invoke senatorial privilege, sleeping on cots and showering with a bucket like everyone else.
The Informed Consent of the American People (326-341)
Biden worries about the growing influence of neoconservatives and the Bush buildup to war. He tries to pass the Biden-Lugar resolution limiting the reasons for going to work but many Democrats wouldn’t support it. Biden votes for the less restrictive resolution that passes.
I am not going to attempt to summarize or pick out representative quotes. This is a thoughtful chapter with a lot of depth and detail. You should read it yourself.
My Mistake (342-353)
This chapter is all on Iraq, Colin Powell’s influence wanes as that of Cheney and Rumsfeld grows. Biden says:
Of course, a small percentage of American families were asked to sacrifice. The burden of the war was falling on the middle-class and poor Americans who make up the overwhelming bulk of the fighting forces in Iraq. The soldiers I met in the Middle East went to Iraq gladly and performed heroically in a deteriorating and frustrating situation. They were sent to Iraq ill-equipped, undertrained for the mission, and undermanned to counter an insurgency that the Defense Department bosses had dismissed. (350)
He makes passing mention of trips to Iraq.
In the 2004 elections, John Kerry talked of making Biden his Secretary of State.
Biden details his fourth trip to Iraq.
His family asks him to run for the presidency again.
Promises to Keep (360-365)
Biden discusses the beginnings of his presidential run and some of his political philosophy. One of my favorite passages:
And it struck me in that moment that sometimes we in American don’t understand how important we are to the rest of the world – not just because of our military power and our foreign aid, but because of the values we hold dear: compassion, honesty, integrity of thought, generosity, freedom, and hope. We sometimes forget that the United States of America stands as a reminder to billions and billions of people that there is a better place in the world. We sometimes forget that America is the one country in the world that still shimmers, like that “shining city on the hill” as a promise of a brighter tomorrow. (362-363)
Pages 363 and 364 are an outline of his priorities and domestic policies.
In addition to the references mentioned above (memories of Scranton, etc), there are some other Pennsylvania references in the book. His law school buddy, Jack Owens, worked on Peter Flaherty’s Pittsburgh mayoral race, and Milton Shapp’s gubernatorial race. Biden hired Owens for his first senate campaign but Owens clashed so much with Biden’s sister / campaign manager that he left (62). The relationship warmed, however, and Owens later became Biden’s brother-in-law.
In 1974 among the places he visits to campaign for other candidates, are several Pennsylvania cities, Johnstown, Philadelphia, Scranton, and Harrisburg. The only Pennsylvania candidate he mentions by name is congressional challenger John Murtha (95).
His first date with his second wife was to a movie in Philadelphia. She claims he held a grudge against the Philadelphia Flower Show for years because it was the last date she had with someone else (100-102).
When Biden tried to set up a meeting for the PA AFL-CIO with the Carter White House he was told that since the AFL-CIO had backed Humphrey, the Pennsylvania state council would get nothing (131).
Mentions of Sen. Arlen Specter: on Bork hearings (175, 191,198, 209), on his presidential campaign (204)
Son Beau went to Penn.
Biden gave a speech on the INF Treaty at the University of Scranton (216).
On Sept. 11th, Congressman Bob Brady gives Biden a ride home to Wilmington (302).
Biden writes well. This is clearly a campaign autobiography, designed to present him in a good light and allow him to clarify some of his particular issues and interests and areas where he has done well. He doesn’t gloss over his weaknesses, though, and while trying to explain why he might have said or done some things, he takes responsibility for his actions.
Reading the book gave me a better idea of who Biden is and what he stands for, which means the book fulfilled its purpose. Better yet, it led me to develop a fuller appreciation of who he is and where his values are from, warts and all. He is wordy. He doesn’t schmooze well, at least from his description of himself. But he has used his senatorial powers to try and improve some areas. Working on what he describes as his signature issues, passing the Violence Against Women Act and trying to stop genocide in the Balkans, took many years of persistent patience and constant effort. These are not necessarily flashy issues and many people don’t understand them. They aren’t instant gratification, quick fix problems. It speaks well of him that he is highlighting them.
So I am left with a good impression of Biden. I don’t know that I would want to sit next to him at dinner but I think he would make a good vice president.