Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now, by Evan Osnos

Eight stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #33 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

As the time for the US Presidential Election creeps closer, I wanted to take some time to learn a little more about Joe Biden. I have spent much of my time exploring the dismantling of America from the perspective of the Trump Administration, but looked at the Democrats’ candidate only in passing.

Evan Osnos, who has written extensively for the New Yorker, took the time to hash out a concise political biography of the man for those who may be interested, dropping it on newsstands a short time before the election. Osnos uses his primer to give the reader a taste of what the Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has done and where he stands, but leaves those who hunger for more (such as me) with an appetite to use this as a launching point. A decent piece that opens the door a crack, but does not (nor did it ever seek to) provide the complete story.

Biden was born between the Great Depression and the end of the Second World War, fitting into a time when he was too young to have remembered the struggles of severe limitations, yet too old to have become a practical advocate for the counter-culture. Osnos explores this briefly and provides the reader with some insight into how important work and staying the course could be for the Biden household.

With an upset victory in Delaware’s US Senate race in 1972, Biden headed to Washington as a young father with a great deal of ambition. Even before he’d been sworn in, tragedy struck when his wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident, thrusting him into being a single parent. He struggled and grief overtook him, but Biden was able to prevail with help from many around him. Osnos explores this a little, but chooses not to use the tragedy as a crutch, nor did Biden appear to do so.

In a Senate career that was filled with ups and downs, Biden rose to prominence, even though he was from one of America’s smallest states, travelling into DC daily on Amtrak trains. Many will remember him on the Foreign Relations Committee, but his most notable role was as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hashing out some of the country’s most conservative judges at the time. While discussion on this topic is minimal, mere mention of Anita Hill will leave many with chills down their spine and how Chairman Biden failed to heed to requests to fully explore the antics of Clarence Thomas in 1991.

After a failed run for the presidency in 1987 and again in 2008, Biden was sure he would end his days as a US senator. However, a young Democrat came knocking in 2008 and asked him to be his running mate in a presidential campaign that made a difference. The Obama-Biden partnership proved highly successful and Osnos looks at how these men complemented one another so well. While Biden was known for his long-winded speeches, he learned to button his lip and listen, serving as the Administration mouthpiece when asked and remaining active in battling many of the concerns that faced the country at the time. This service was not a dead-end for Biden politically, but served to educate him for what might be a final run for the presidency.

Osnos takes time in the latter portion of the book to look at Biden the candidate, seeking to see where he stands on numerous issues of policy, as well as some of the accusations tossed in his direction. Biden bluntly admits that had Donald Trump not been president, he would not have sought the Democratic nomination, happy to allow a younger person battle it out. However, as Trump continues to attack and dismantle everything from the Obama Era, Biden felt he owed it to the country and his former running mate to return to the fray, even as the country battles its worst health crisis in a century. Armed with formidable ideas and his own powerful running mate in Senator Kamala Harris, Biden is ready for whatever happens, knowing that the campaign and Election Night will be anything but peaceful. However, he’s made many a promise to others to do all he can to help.

While I have read a number of books in my challenge to date, this piece by Evan Osnos offered me some hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. While rumours continue to circulate about Hunter Biden, this book does not tackle them, so ever-Trumpers are out of luck. However, Osnos seeks to offer a foundation for the curious to learn a little more about the man who seeks to remove the first authoritarian leader the country has faced.

The research that went into this book proves to be quite thorough, trying to cram a great deal into a short period. Osnos never tries to sell this as a comprehensive piece, but it is both a penetrating and captivating snapshot of the man and his values. Part biography and part policy document, Osnos prepares the voter for what they can expect, using his years of research and article writing, rather than the empty rhetoric of a man who feasts on conspiracy theories and has babies for dessert. Told over eight decent-length chapters, Evan Osnos provides something of a primer for the curious reader, offering breadcrumbs that permit the dedicated individuals to explore more on their own. I may just do that, for myself, as well as those who read these reviews, as November 3rd is fast approaching!

Kudos, Mr. Osnos, for penning this piece. It’s nice to see that there can be something positive that comes from political reporting these days

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: