Long-time Delaware senator Joe Biden is best known for his frequent appearances on Sunday morning talk shows, his off-the-cuff speaking style, and for the most high-profile hair transplant in recent politics. A longtime standard bearer for a moderate, conciliatory style of Democratic politics, he is largely perceived as an inside-the-beltway specialist. Though he has run somewhat to the left of Hillary Clinton particularly regarding opposition to the Bush Administration and on issues of constitutional law, his past record has alienated him from many traditional liberals and a vast majority of online progressives, while his outspoken style has yet to attract other voters.
Born in 1942 and growing up in suburban Delaware since age ten, Joe Biden was on the fast track to a significant political career very early in life, getting elected to the U.S. senate at the age of 29. The remarkable success was marred by wrenching tragedy when his family was involved in a severe auto accident, killing his first wife and infant daughter, and seriously injuring his two sons. Deciding to take office, the young senator took his oath of office from his sons’ hospital room. He nevertheless chose to remain in Delaware in order to better care for his injured sons, becoming a daily public transit commuter from suburban Delaware into the U.S. capital. Since then, Senator Biden has remained popular in Delaware, consistently winning reelection by a comfortable margin for over three decades.
Over the years, he has taken sometimes unexpected positions that could variously be described as either “independent” or simply unpredictable. For example, Senator Biden is a strong opponent of tort reform, a cause favored by business-oriented conservatives and many corporations, while he has also authored bankruptcy legislation strongly supported by the finance industry and hated by most liberals and consumer groups. An adjunct professor of constitutional law and a longtime member of the Senate Judiciary committee, his legal stances have gotten far better marks from progressives, though his part in establishing a U.S. drug czar and authorship of the so-called RAVE Act (i.e., “Reducing Americans' Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act”) has been criticized by some for possibly harming civil liberties. He has also been highly visible during controversies involving senate confirmation of White House nominees to the Supreme Court and other key offices.
More recently, the chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee has become the co-creator of the complex “Biden-Gelb” plan, a so-called “third-way” route to ending the war in Iraq. The plan involves the gradual reduction of U.S. forces, creating “breathing room” between sectarian groups, and federalizing Iraq. He was originally a supporter of the war, though he now believes it to have been a mistake.
Senator Biden first ran for president in 1987. That campaign was quickly sidelined when he gave a speech that was similar to another speech given by British Labour politician Neil Kinnock, and charges of plagiarism resulted. The incident turned out to be simply a one-time mistake — Senator Biden had attributed portions of his speech to Kinnock on several other occasions. By the time Biden was vindicated, however, his campaign was long over. It would be another two decades before he would officially announce his second run for the U.S. presidency.
Married to his second wife, Jill, since 1977, Senator Biden’s personal health became an issue during the eighties, when he was hospitalized with a pair of brain aneurysms. Fortunately, he made a smooth recovery and has endured the jokes about his mysteriously reappearing hair while showing a strong of humor of his own. However, as candidates often learn, that sense of humor and sharp-tongue have already proven to be two-edged swords. Still, in a world where voters frequently complain about “canned” political speech, Joe Biden has proven that, for better and for worse, there’s little that’s preprocessed about the senator’s speaking style.
Joe Biden on the Web
Biden for President ‘08
The official website of the Biden campaign. Includes news, a blog, and links to information on the senator’s positions on Iraq and energy policy.
Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The official web site of Senator Biden’s office. Includes the latest information on Joe Biden’s legislative work.
A concise but complete biography covering the senator’s life and work as well as his 2008 presidential campaign.
“The Freewheelin’ Joe Biden”
A critique of the pluses and minuses of Joe Biden and his campaign from the New York Observer’s Steve Kornacki.
Joe Biden: MoveOn Virtual TownHall — Full Video
Senator Biden outlines his support of the Biden-Gelb plan.
A passionate Senator Biden talks with supporters about his approach to health care, providing free health care to all Americans under eighteen and subsidized catastrophic health care for the unemployed.
Biden on Health Care
A more phlegmatic Biden talks about his “three-step” approach to health care. Apparently placed on YouTube by a conservative foe of Biden.
Outsourcing Jobs (PBS Forum)
The senator outlines his position, which is to make the U.S. more attractive to business interests.
Joe Biden answers question on a number of matters from MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and union members.
“Fightin’ Joe Biden”
A comedy-rap video featuring the down home commentators of RedStateUpdate.com expressing their opposition to Senator Biden in song.
On the Campaign Trail
Senator Biden’s campaign suffered an embarrassing blow the very day of its official launch when, apparently trying to be complimentary, he described rival candidate Barack Obama as “clean” and “articulate.” These were less than ideal word choices to describe an African-American because of what they might imply about other American blacks, and, while the Senator was quick to apologize for the foul-up, it made him the butt of jokes and did his campaign no good. Another racially charged verbal dust-up came months later when he made a joke about East Indians and convenience stores, and again in October, when comments he made seemed to mean that African-American students were responsible for poor schools. While few believe Biden is racially prejudiced, the comments haven’t helped make him a first choice for minority voters.
Biden’s campaign has also been plagued by poor fundraising, though the senator has tried to turn that argument around by decrying the role of money in political campaigns and calling for public financing.
The Quotable Joe Biden:
On the aftermath of 9/11:
“Here at home, when Americans were standing in long lines to give blood after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we squandered an obvious opportunity to make service a noble cause again, and rekindle an American spirit of community.”
On Foreign Policy:
“Because our military power dwarfs that of other countries — we spend more on defense than the rest of the world combined — this Administration believes that alliances and international institutions are more of a burden than a benefit. They allow the Lilliputians to tie down Gulliver.”
On his chances:
“People ask if I can compete with the money of Hillary and Barack. I hope at the end of the day, they can compete with my ideas and my experience.”
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