"When I got knocked down by guys bigger than me . . . [my mother] sent me back out and demanded that I bloody their nose so I could walk down the street the next day."
In this, the first definitive biography of Vice President Joe Biden, renowned journalist Jules Witcover examines the fascinating life of a man who, with his tenacity, outspokenness, and charming smile, has shaped Washington politics for the past 40 years and who now serves as the 47th vice president of the United States.
Raised in the working-class towns of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, and with lackluster grades in school and no particular goals other than to play sports or, fleetingly, to become a priest, Biden shocked the nation in 1972 when he became one of the youngest elected senators in U.S. history. From that point forward, he carved a legacy for himself as one of the most respected legislators in the country.
Biden's record in Congress was impressive. He chaired three Senate committees, confronted Slobodan Miloševic head-on as a war criminal, and conducted the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court justices. After voting for the 2002 Senate resolution to use force in Iraq, he later called for its repeal and became an outspoken critic of the conduct of the war.
Yet for all of Biden's achievements, his life has been filled with tragedy and countless challenges.
Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption is based on exhaustive research by one of Washington's most prolific journalists. In drawing on numerous exclusive interviews with Biden's confidants and family members, as well as President Obama and Vice President Biden, Witcover has gone beyond conventional biography to track the forces that have shaped a man who, with his plainspoken style and inspiring life story, has resonated with millions of Americans and whose work is now influencing the Obama-Biden administration and shaping America.
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Sympathetic but dull bio
Like him or hate him, most would agree that Joe Biden is at least an interesting personality. Add in an experienced and respected journalist/author in Jules Witcover and you would expect a compelling if not hard hitting read. Yet what results here is a rather pedestrian, by the numbers biography, devoid of any real insights. Most of the major events of Biden's personal and political career are covered, from the tragic accident that claimed his first wife, through his senate campaigns, with particular focus on the various Supreme Court confirmation hearings he chaired, through the 2008 election and his first year as Veep. Though clearly a fan, Witcover does not gloss over Biden's penchant for verbal gaffes and the accusations of plagiarism. Still, there is not much depth here and Biden's role, stance, or opinions on more than a few of the more major political events of the past thirty years (e.g the end of the Cold War, the rise of terrorism, the Clinton impeachment, the George W Bush presidency) receive only a cursory treatment. The end result reads somewhat like a campaign bio: factual but dull and uncontroversial. Given Biden's outspokenness - both for the public betterment and occasionally, his own detriment, it's a shame that this book couldn't match its subject.