Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, by Joe Biden

Nine stars

Having read a number of great political books a few months ago while the US election approached, I took a little time to get to know the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. After the race and the formal acceptance of the results by the majority of the electorate, Electoral College, and congressional members (even with an attempted coup by the Whiner-in-Chief), I wanted to hear more from the man himself. I remembered that he had penned a memoir of sorts ahead of his 2008 run for president and thought it would be great to take some time hearing Biden talk about his life.

With President’s Day just around the corner, I chose three men who have ascended to the position. Reading their biographies/memoirs, I felt it would let me know a bit more about them. This book is the second of three and I could not wait to sink my teeth in the story of Joe Biden as told by the man himself. With great vignettes and a frank admission to not being perfect, Biden shares his highs and lows over a storied career as a little guy from Delaware who saw a chance to make a difference in Washington. Biden’s time as a senator, where this book ends, was electrifying, and those who have followed him up to the present will know the difference he made post-2008 as well. So, let’s get to the heart of the matter and learn about a man who knows the hard work needed to keep America on track and watch as he cleans up the mess left to him. America has always been great, even if it took a four year hiatus and handed the reins of power to a man drunk on power and fuelled by 280 character decrees.

Biden opens the discussion about his birth in 1942, the eldest son of two great parents. Living those years in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. developed strong connections to others while solidifying an Irish Catholicism like no other. When the family was forced to relocate to Delaware for the elder Biden’s work, young Joey had to reinvent himself.

As the narrative advances, Biden touches on his adolescent and young adulthood, where a strong social life and penchant for girls became the core items on the agenda, though he never forgot his family. Joe Biden was the first to attend college, which brought great pride and some trepidation to the family, though they supported him along the way. Having overcome a strong stutter, Biden knew the importance of overcoming adversity and looked a challenge in the eye whenever it crossed his path.

Biden recounts a short holiday he took while in college where he met the woman who be his wife, making it clear that was the woman of his dreams. Biden and Neilia Hunter were inseparable after that jaunt to the Caribbean, so much so that Joe chose Syracuse (New York) for his legal studies. While never at the top of his class, Biden remembers his happiness with Neilia and how they grew closer throughout that time.

After Biden and Neilia returned to Delaware, they began to set up some roots. Biden was fresh out of law school, but still trying to define himself. He soon discovered that politics ran through the state and the law was no exception. While he was an ardent Democrat, some of those who supported the GOP had their own agenda. This did not jive with the Biden view of helping the ‘little guy’, so Joe Biden hung out his own shingle and found a niche in local politics when time allowed. The Bidens started their family around this time and Joe made repeated mention of the importance of his own roots. The Bidens had two boys in quick succession, Beau and Hunter, as Joe eyed the next hurdle to overcome, national office.

While Delaware had pockets of support for both parties, Biden knew that the long-serving US Senator Cale Boggs was a Goliath who could not be stopped. A favourite within the GOP, both at the state and national level, Boggs seemed unstoppable. This did not deter Biden from deciding that he would do all he could in 1972 to create a name for himself. After a number of coffee events, Biden toured the state, speaking about how he could make a difference for Delaware in DC. Biden offers a great build up in the narrative and shows how grit can lead to success, beating Boggs in that race and became a US senator at age twenty-nine. While not yet the constitutional age to serve, Biden would come of age later in November and became the second youngest man ever to win a Senate seat.

Preparing to serve, Biden made arrangements to relocate for his next big life experience. News came one December night of a tragic accident, in which Neilia and their new baby, Naomi, were killed. Biden spends some time describing this horrible moment in his life, now a widower and single father. There was no waffling, Biden would quit the Senate before he’d even served and tend to his family. Biden struggled greatly with the loss, though he received some sage advice and the support he needed, from family and Senate colleagues alike. With some sacrifices by everyone, Joe Biden eventually agreed to represent Delaware in Congress, citing his sons as a mitigating factor.

Biden used his first term in the Senate not only to learn, but also to shape policy. Some in the Chamber did not appreciate this approach, but they respected the feisty side of the man who knew no other way of living. Biden honed his passion for civil rights to challenge Senate stalwarts and soon endorsed the Georgia governor, Jimmy Carter, as the 1976 Democratic candidate for president. Biden was making a national name for himself, but also found himself drawn to former model Jill Jacobs, a woman with no love of politics. Their long and drawn-out courtship led to marriage in 1977, at the insistence of Beau and Hunter.

Biden compacts much of his early Senate years into some short vignettes, though there was no lack of national spotlight shone on him. Biden was often talked about as a potential presidential candidate, but declined in 1980 and ‘84, citing his young family. However, he thought that 1988 might be his year. Biden tossed his hat into the ring and began the arduous task of campaigning during the spring of 1987. Biden soon found himself in the ‘big leagues’, where nothing was off limits. Biden admitted that he was spread too thin, serving on a controversial Senate Judiciary Committee as its chairman, while also forced to defend a plagiarism gaffe that would plague him throughout the campaign.

Biden admits that he was not prepared for either the Bork Supreme Court fight or the battle to clear his name as a free-spirited academic in law school. Both weighed him down and the narrative explores not only the intensity that both situations caused, but also the strain on his body. Biden made national headlines for less than glamorous reasons and ended up having a stroke, which debilitated him for months. Without the support of his family, Biden may not have made it.

Biden spent the early 1990s focussed on his work with the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He sought to help make America a role model on the world scene, working with both Presidents Bush (41) and Clinton to carve out a niche for the sole superpower to lead the path towards freedom and democracy. Biden took countless trips to war-torn areas and had meetings with some world leaders who could not espouse similar values, all in an effort to bring about change. While Biden does not outrightly say it, this helped develop his skills as a statesman. The book solidifies a foundation for this at length and shows how Biden added to his already long resume for another run for the White House.

With the election of Bush 43 came a new America, emerging in a post-September 11th world. Biden was forced to stand firm and develop a friendship with a president who surrounded himself with two diametrically opposed camps, one wanting to instil peace and the other trying to exert authority. Biden discusses actors from both camps and offers his opinions on their insights. This is surely to prepare a plank for his 2008 run, while also being open about his sentiments, both as an American and a statesman. Biden and many of his Senate colleagues found themselves led down the garden path by the George W. Bush Administration, finding Afghanistan and Iraq wars as yokes around their necks. This was the basis for Biden’s choice to run again, as he had promises to keep with his family, as well as America.

I entered this piece after having seen the end result of the 2020 campaign, one where new highs and lows made themselves known. Those reading this review long after I penned it may need to look to the history books to see what I mean, but many will never forget January 6, 2021 and the culmination of a four year period of political and social darkness. Earlier in 2020, I read a stunning biography of Joe Biden and hoped that some of those stories would be hashed out in this piece as well. I needed another meaty and educational piece about Joe Biden. I got that and more as Biden placed me in the middle of his life, highlighting much of what he had accomplished. While the journey was significant, the book makes it flow while remaining comprehensive and detailed. The stories provide the reader with needed insight to understand the politics and passion of the man. I have no doubt that Joe Biden loves his country and his family.

This is no fluff piece, though it is surely something published to help pave the way for the 2008 campaign. Whether Biden wrote it or someone else took the reins is irrelevant, as it gets to the core issues. While detailed exploration of the man and how he sought to grow over his more than forty years of public service proves to be the undertone, it is presented in well-paced chapters and is relatable for the layperson to understand, enjoying the tangents along the way. I cannot say enough about Joe Biden, his views, and his passions, particularly as I look at the writing in 2021. America has a lot of healing to do and Joe Biden is here to help, even in the face of adversity and the residue of authoritarian pig-headedness.

Kudos, Mr. Biden, for this wonderful piece that elucidates your views, your life, and your visions. Your sentiments in 2007 could not have prepared you for your time as president, but let’s hope you are up to the task.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption, by Jules Witcover

Nine 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 #35 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

Close to formal Election Day, I was finally able to locate and read a thoroughly engaging biography on the Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden. The work that Jules Witcover puts into this piece offered me the well-rounded view I sought and explores Biden’s personal backstory, mixed with the political experiences the candidate has had. This provides me with a better understanding and stronger ability to stand behind the man, even though I do not have a vote. While likely too late for many to read ahead of casting their ballot, this is a biography that many can enjoy no matter the time, and one that I recommended without hesitation.

Born in 1942, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was the eldest son of a hard-working father and a doting mother. His early years in Scranton, Pennsylvania proved to be fortuitous for Joey Biden, allowing him to develop strong friendships and hone his Irish Catholicism. When work required the Bidens to move to Delaware, Joey struggled, but knew his father, Joe Sr., did not make the decision lightly.

Witcover explores the formative years of Joe Biden’s life, including his passion for socialising, sports, and girls. While Biden was saddled with a stutter, it did not impede his abilities to form life-long friendships, nor did it appear to stop the young man from speaking at length to anyone who would listen, a trait that would become a Biden trademark in the decades to come.

While on a holiday from college, Biden met the woman who would become his wife, assuring everyone that this was the woman of his dreams. Biden’s decision to marry Neilia Hunter also helped him decide to choose Syracuse for law school, a decision he never regretted. While never at the top of his class, Witcover discusses the Biden love of learning, even though there were a few foibles along the way.

His passion for helping the ‘little guy’ led Biden to begin his professional career in Wilmington, Delaware. He hung out his shingle and began dabbling in local politics when time allowed. This was also the time that Joe and Neilia started their family. Biden would refer back to the importance of his own family throughout his life, echoed by Witcover as the narrative progresses. The Bidens had two boys in quick succession, Beau and Hunter, as Joe’s eyes locked onto his next challenge, national office.

With the upcoming US Senate race in Delaware, Biden wanted to put his name in the ring to run against long-time senator Cale Boggs. A respected man who had served the state for the Republicans, Boggs was a guarantee. However, Biden did all he could in 1972 to create a dent in the GOP campaign and toured the state, making speeches and showing how he could make a difference. In a miraculous outcome, something Witcover deemed a David defeating Goliath moment, Joe Biden won the race and became a US senator at age twenty-nine, not yet the constitutional age to serve, though he would celebrate a birthday later in November, ahead of being sworn-in.

Preparing to serve, Biden began preparing his office in Washington late in 1972. News came in mid-December that there had been an accident, in which Neilia and their new baby, Naomi, were killed in an automobile accident, with the boys injured. Witcover describes how this was a seminal moment in Biden’s life, a widower and single father who contemplated packing it all in before he had even spent a day in the Senate. However, he received the support he needed, from family and Senate colleagues alike, and chose to do this for his sons.

Biden’s first term in the Senate was one of eye-opening moments. While many newcomers to the Upper House of the United States would sit silently and learn, Biden was happy to speak out and use his gift of the gab to shape policy. This did not endear him to some in the Chamber, but Biden knew no other way of living. His passion for civil rights served him well and an early endorsement of 1976 Democratic candidate for president, Jimmy Carter, helped propel Biden onto the national scene. It was at this time that Biden also began dating former model Jill Jacobs, a woman with no love of politics. Their long and drawn-out courtship led to marriage in 1977, at the insistence of Beau and Hunter.

Witcover explores some of Biden’s political passions, including a less than orthodox view on civil rights. Biden’s passions came from a strong admiration for the Kennedys, another pair of Catholic politicians, and a desire to ensure all Americans were protected. His later role on the Senate Judiciary Committee permitted him to explore how these views could be shaped to continue helping Americans. While not covered in the book, the reemergence of this issue makes his run in 2020 poignant.

Witcover spends much time exploring Biden’s early years in the Senate and how he was often talked about as a potential presidential candidate. He declined in 1980 and ‘84, citing his young family and not yet being ready for the spotlight. However, he thought that he could have a chance in 1988, tossing his hat into the ring and beginning his campaign during the spring of 1987. However, he would stumble and find himself spread too thin, while also making a significant gaffe by not attributing certain views to others, tarring himself as a plagiarist. The nomination ended before it really began, though Joe had his Senate responsibilities to keep him busy.

It was the Democrats winning back control of the Senate in 1986 that started the ball rolling for Biden, who earned the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. Biden’s passion for all things legal put him in the spotlight as US Supreme Court nominations became central. Witcover explores two such nomination battles, Robert Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991, in great detail for the curious reader. Biden rose to prominence with them both, but was criticised extensively for how he handled them as Chairman.

Biden turned his focus towards his other Senate Committee, Foreign Relations, into the 1990s and how he could help in the effort to make America a role model on the world scene. From his countless trips to war-torn areas through to blunt meetings with some world leaders whose values did not match those of the United States, Biden proved himself a statesman. Witcover explores this at length and shows how Biden added to his already long resume for another run to win in the White House. However, in a post-September 11th world, Biden and many other senators were led down the garden path by the George W. Bush Administration, according to Witcover, and many voted in favour of a war in Iraq, something that many Democrats would come to regret.

As the end of the George W. Bush presidency neared, Biden felt that 2008 might be his year to run and finally become president. However, he was not alone in his ambition, which included a first-term senator from Illinois by the name of Barack Obama. As hard as Biden tried, he could not garner the attention some of the front-runners captured and dropped out of the race in early 2008. Witcover explores the early campaign in-depth and shows how Joe Biden held some strong views, some of which would force him to eat crow. When Obama won the Democratic nomination, he turned to a man he felt would not only balance the ticket, but also provide strong foundation in a new Administration. Biden had vowed never to be anyone’s lapdog, but did agree to serve as Obama’s vice-president, offering some stipulations.

Witcover spends a significant amount of time on the 2008 Campaign and time that Biden spent as vice-president, showing that years of dedicated service could pay off while also permitting him to learn to tone down his gift of the gab. Biden shaped policies and worked inside the tent to help his president create an America many would come to love.

Serving under Obama, Biden did a great deal to advance the domestic and international agendas of the Administration, combatting those who would try to deter Obama from making the progress he had promised while stumping on the campaign. From liaising with Congress to ensure health-care for all Americans to ensuring that countries were treated fairly and not bullied by others, Biden was in for the fight, ready to do whatever he could. Witcover shows this repeatedly throughout the biography, with concrete examples.

In the waning chapters of the book, added for the re-release in 2019, Witcover looks at Biden and where he hoped to go post vice-presidency. There is a truly heartfelt portion of the piece that surrounds the illness and eventual death of Beau Biden from brain cancer, exemplifying how Joe would and could handle it. In those pages is included the solemn vow and promise Joe made to his son, which is explored more completely in a book the former vice-president penned after leaving the White House.

Watching the destruction of the America he sought to create while working in Washington, Joe Biden mulled over a third and final run for the presidency. He tossed his hat in the ring, beginning a campaign of a progressive in April 2019, vying for the role of nominee against a number of others, many who were younger and who had not yet thought of politics when Joe arrived on the scene. While many were focussed on pie in the sky ideals of policy and social movement, Biden appeared to turn his attention on one thing; wresting control of the reins of power from a madman and returning America to the greatness it lost on January 20, 2017. Here’s hoping he will!

I entered this piece hoping from a great deal, as I needed a meaty and educational piece about Joe Biden. Jules Witcover did that and more, pulling me into the middle of this man’s life and all that he had done. While the journey is long, paralleling some of the speeches that Joe Biden made on the Senate floor, it is comprehensive and detailed, providing the reader with the insight they need to understand the politics and passion of the man. There is no doubt to me that Joe Biden loves his country, almost as much as he does his family. The thoroughness of Witcover’s writing appears in each of the chapters, with both praise and criticism at every turn. Add to that, the education value is one in which any reader can learn something about the man and the system in which he served.

This is no fluff piece, but more an examination of the man and how he sought to grow over his more than forty years of public service. I cannot say enough about Joe Biden, his views, and his passions. Jules Witcover proves his mastery and I am indebted to him for offering up something so captivating.

Kudos, Mr. Witcover, for a sensational biography. I hope you’re around to pen one more book about Biden and his presidency, putting the country back on track (pardon the pun!).

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden (a re-read)

Nine 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 #34, a quick re-read, in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge

Back in 2016, when many politicians climbed onto soap boxes and publish pieces to extol their own greatness, former Vice-President Joe Biden released this short book that seeks to rise above the fray and offer a story of hope, despair, and personal reflection. It is perhaps the first book I have read where a politician talks of their choice to turn away from high office, but it is much more than that, as the attentive and dedicated reader will discover.

At the heart of the story is the struggle Biden had with his eldest son’s brain cancer diagnosis. This realisation puts everything into perspective for the vice-president, as well as the entire Biden family. Wanting to keep things private, no one would share the news publicly and Biden was still trying to serve the Obama Administration as effectively as possible.

Woven into the story are countless international crises that Biden was required to handle, sometimes an eager distraction while at other times an anchor that kept him from the focus on family and loved ones. Added to that, there was the 2016 presidential election to consider. Would Biden, a capable long-term politician and hands-on member of the Executive Branch, toss his hat into the ring? Those in Democrat circles watched and waited, the country soundlessly tapped their collective foot, still unaware of the chaos that brewed for the Biden family below the surface.

When Beau Biden did pass, it was both a relief and a blow to the entire Biden family, as the glue that held them all together was lost. The elder Biden tried to remember all the promises he made to his son, some in passing and a few heart-felt pleas to carry the torch. The most important of these was the promise not to let 2016 pass without a Biden running for president.

The latter portion of the book, with Beau gone and Joe trying to wrap his head around it all, turns to the 2016 race. Would he run? Should he run? Could he run and make a difference? It would seem that while Biden pondered his options, the country had already placed him as a front-runner. As Biden confides, it was his decision and his alone. GOP members and the media would only offer kid gloves for so long, as well as the Clinton camp that began cursing another heavyweight to neutralise.

In the end, Biden chose what he felt was best, a promise to Beau that he would do his best to be the man everyone knew. The Joe Biden who used compassion over a club, integrity over vicious words, and intelligence over knee-jerk reactions. Now, with 2020 here and the election at hand, it is time for Joe’s promise to Beau to come to fruition, allowing him to fight for another son’s honour as well!

This is a wonderful piece, suited for all readers who like the more human side of politicians, though can understand the rhetoric that goes along with having a role in the machine. Touching at times, Biden pulls out all the stops and tells a story that will not soon be forgotten.

When I first picked up this book, I had just finished a thorough examination of the 2016 presidential election, one in which I was left gagging at the atrocious actions of people vying to represent the entire American population. Returning to it a second time, my study of the Trump Administration allowed me to see the promises in this piece through a new lens.

I wanted to see more about the narrative from the Biden perspective, the man who chose not to put his hat in the ring back in 2016. While I expected a strong political discussion throughout, I was happy to find something more complex. Within these pages rests a narrative that wove together the power of American politics, international clashes, family interactions, and a man’s struggle to come to terms with his son’s eventual illness.

The reader is in for a piece where they must handle emotions and see how world events shaped the man who sought to keep it all together and away from the public eye. Biden does not pull punches in this piece, but does not make excuses either. He tells of world events (ISIS, ISIL, Ukraine, Russia), as well as domestic policies in the Obama Administration, but he also injects strong ties to family and the love they bring him. This is a piece that helps shape a man and his love for country, family, and self. It is impossible to divorce any of it effectively.

A few things that I took away from this book include the knowledge that life does not stop when tragedy knocks, promises to those who are going before us mean more than a simple nod of the head, and there is more to life than tossing mud in the eyes of one’s opponents. Anyone who has been through a personal tragedy will know that while they are numb, a simple look out the window will show that life is not prepared to stop for grieving, it moves along. Such is one of the key sentiments that Biden shares with the reader. Terror still occurs, state sovereignty is not respected, domestic issues do not solve themselves. Biden was forced to juggle all of it in order to mix his public and personal lives. It is obvious (but nice to hear) that others struggle with this as well.

The list of promises made to the dying can be heart-wrenching, as the reader may know. One always promises to do this and that, if only to bring a sense of ease to the one who will soon be gone. However, Biden did not take his promises to Beau as simple window dressing, those “yah, umm, sure…” moments. He felt that he owed it to the son who always supported him and whose political light shone just as powerfully. Biden shows that he is a different sort of man, looking to others rather than his own greatness, to shape the future of his own legacy.

Finally, one cannot deny that 2016 was one of the most divisive presidential election campaigns in recent history. That Biden sought to enter the race is commendable, especially looking at those with whom he would cross paths. The decision not to run, where he would be forced to face Clinton, Sanders, and Trump (and countless others), may have been determining factors. But, Biden seems less interested in gouging out the eyes of others and more about trying to build the country up.

Few readers would deny that 2016 was less about policy and more about how to denigrate others in the hopes of tearing them down (as 2020 has proven to be on the GOP side, again). Did a newly-wounded Biden really need that in his life? It is the ultimate sacrifice to bear one’s self to the electorate, especially in these days when no one holds back with their mud slinging.

While there will be some readers who want dirt-only with their political stories, I would recommend this piece to anyone with a heart or who has been touched with the loss of a loved one. It seeks to unite, as much as politics usually divides, and tells of the powerlessness one can feel at the hands of cancer, but offers the strength to persevere.

Kudos, Mr. Vice-President, for such a wonderful piece. After reading this, I would strongly like to read a thorough version of your memoirs, should you choose to pen them. I located a great piece up to 2008 and now it’s time for more!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden

Nine stars

At a time when many politicians climb onto soap boxes and publish pieces to extol their own greatness, former Vice-President Joe Biden released this short book that seeks to rise above the fray and offer a story of hope, despair, and personal reflection. It is perhaps the first book I have read where a politician talks of their choice to turn away from high office, but it is much more than that, as the attentive and dedicated reader will discover. At the heart of the story is the struggle Biden had with his eldest son’s brain cancer diagnosis. This realisation puts everything into perspective for the vice-president, as well as the entire Biden family. Wanting to keep things private, no one would share the news publicly and Biden was still trying to serve the Obama Administration as effectively as possible. Woven into the story are countless international crises that Biden was required to handle, sometimes an eager distraction while at other times an anchor that kept him from the focus on family and loved ones. Added to that, there was the 2016 presidential election to consider. Would Biden, a capable long-term politician and hands-on member of the Executive Branch, toss his hat into the ring? Those in Democrat circles watched and waited, the country soundlessly tapped their collective foot, still unaware of the chaos that brewed for the Biden family below the surface. When Beau Biden did pass, it was both a relief and a blow to the entire Biden family, as the glue that held them all together was lost. The elder Biden tried to remember all the promises he made to his son, some in passing and a few heart-felt pleas to carry the torch. The most important of these was the promise not to let 2016 pass without a Biden running for president. The latter portion of the book, with Beau gone and Joe trying to wrap his head around it all, turns to the 2016 race. Would he run? Should he run? Could he run and make a difference? It would seem that while Biden pondered his options, the country had already placed him as a front-runner. As Biden confides, it was his decision and his alone. GOP members and the media would only offer kid gloves for so long, as well as the Clinton camp that began cursing another heavyweight to neutralise. In the end, Biden chose what he felt was best, a promise to Beau that he would do his best to be the man everyone knew. The Joe Biden who used compassion over a club, integrity over vicious words, and intelligence over knee-jerk reactions. This is a wonderful piece, suited for all readers who like the more human side of politicians, though can understand the rhetoric that goes along with having a role in the machine. Touching at times, Biden pulls out all the stops and tells a story that will not soon be forgotten.

When I picked up this book, I had just finished a thorough examination of the 2016 presidential election, one in which I was left gagging at the atrocious actions of people vying to represent the entire American population. However, I wanted to see more about the narrative from the Biden perspective, the man who chose not to put his hat in the ring. While I expected a strong political discussion throughout, I was happy to find something more complex. Within these pages rests a narrative that wove together the power of American politics, international clashes, family interactions, and a man’s struggle to come to terms with his son’s eventual illness. The reader is in for a strong piece here, forced to handle emotions and see how world events shaped the man who sought to keep it all together and away from the public eye. Biden does not pull punches in this piece, but does not make excuses either. He tells of world events (ISIS, ISIL, Ukraine, Russia), as well as domestic policies in the Obama Administration, but he also injects strong ties to family and the love they bring him. This is a piece that helps shape a man and his love for country, family, and self. It is impossible to divorce any of it effectively.

A few things that I took away from this book include the knowledge that life does not stop when tragedy knocks, promises to those who are going before us mean more than a simple nod of the head, and there is more to life than tossing mud in the eyes of one’s opponents. Anyone who has been through a personal tragedy will know that while they are numb, a simple look out the window will show that life is not prepared to stop for grieving, it moves along. Such is one of the key sentiments that Biden shares with the reader. Terror still occurs, state sovereignty is not respected, domestic issues do not solve themselves. Biden was forced to juggle all of it in order to mix his public and personal lives. It is obvious (but nice to hear) that others struggle with this as well. The list of promises made to the dying can be heart-wrenching, as the reader may know. One always promises to do this and that, if only to bring a sense of ease to the one who will soon be gone. However, Biden did not take his promises to Beau as simple window dressing, those “yah, umm, sure…” moments. He felt that he owed it to the son who always supported him and whose political light shone just as powerfully. Biden shows that he is a different sort of man, looking to others rather than his own greatness, to shape the future of his own legacy. Finally, one cannot deny that 2016 was one of the most divisive presidential election campaigns in recent history. That Biden sought to enter the race is commendable, especially looking at those with whom he would cross paths. The decision not to run, where he would be forced to face Clinton, Sanders, and Trump (and countless others), may have been determining factors. But, Biden seems less interested in gouging out the eyes of others and more about trying to build the country up. Few readers would deny that 2016 was less about policy and more about how to denigrate others in the hopes of tearing them down. Did a newly-wounded Biden really need that in his life? It is the ultimate sacrifice to bear one’s self to the electorate, especially in these days when no one holds back with their mud slinging. While there will be some readers who want dirt-only with their political stories, I would recommend this piece to anyone with a heart or who has been touched with the loss of a loved one. It seeks to unite, as much as politics usually divides, and tells of the powerlessness one can feel at the hands of cancer, but offers the strength to persevere.

Kudos, Mr. Vice-President, for such a wonderful piece. After reading this, I would strongly like to read a thorough version of your memoirs, should you choose to pen them.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons