Not having known Beau Biden, and not knowing much about him, I confess I am a little puzzled by the encomia after his death. Not skeptical—the little I have learned seems to portray a decent man whose life was cut way too short. But the lying in state in the Delaware State House? For a state Attorney General? Really?
I get the family tragedy. I lost a brother to the same form of brain cancer. It’s a death sentence, with about 15 months between judgement and execution. I feel for the Bidens.
But what’s up with the rest of you?
I am really sad about Beau Biden’s death. Really, really sad.
A handful of news organizations have noted the outpouring of support for the Biden family coming from all over the country since the announcement Saturday night, much of it focused on the unfathomable grief that Vice President Biden must be experiencing — not only because of his history of family tragedy, but because Beau was the quintessential, perfect first-born son he adored.
I, too, feel awful for the vice president. But the reason I’m so busted up about this is because I think Beau’s passing is a devastating loss for the entire country, for many of the reasons why his father basically worshipped him.
Allow me to get a little political.
My favorite part of being a political reporter is watching stars rise. Believing in unlimited potential is part of the American way, and Beau had it.
It’s not just how he lived his life as a doting family man and a devout Catholic. And it’s not just his CV: University of Pennsylvania graduate, law school graduate, federal prosecutor, state attorney general going after child abuse, soldier in Iraq. That, of course, is as perfect as presidential material can possibly get.
Add to that his spark, genuineness, earnestness and unconditional love for public service. I firmly believe the pendulum swing in American politics is real, and I believed that in some swing toward the Democrats in the future, Beau would be president. That’s how I’m going to remember him.
This from a self-described journalist (though with CNN on your resume, that word needs quotation marks, if not an asterisk).
It was nothing short of a bombshell months later when he announced he wasn’t going to run [for US Senate] in 2010 because he wanted to finish what he started as attorney general. A crew of Democratic officials I spoke to often, and whom I respect, were livid about that and held it against him. For several years they wouldn’t entertain discussions about his future political career because of this grudge. That surprised me.
In May of 2012, I ran into Beau at a Starbucks near the vice president’s residence and had a long talk with him about all of that. I asked him if he thought he would run for Delaware Sen. Tom Carper’s seat when he retired but figured he might be interested in running for governor, which he said he was.
He said to me that day, “I’ll do one of them,” but he was leaning toward a future gubernatorial race because he was disappointed in the Senate.
I’ll never forget his exact words: “I grew up in the Senate. I love the smell of the Russell building.” But as he talked to me, he was scratching his head in disbelief about how dysfunctional the Senate had become and said he had friends in the Senate who were really unhappy because they were unable to do anything, and that really bothered him. (Senators, please take note and fix that for him.)
The way he talked about it made it clear that he loved public service with every bone in his body. Reporters can tell when they’re hearing an ambitious dance from a politician, and what Beau said was not that. Everything he said was real, honest and earnest. Quite frankly, I was mesmerized.
The heart loves what the heart loves, no question. But any editor—heck, any reporter herself—who reads these words has to recognize a critical conflict of interest. A political reporter “mesmerized” by a subject of her reporting, who swoons over his “spark, genuineness, earnestness”, however genuine, earnest, and sparkly? Take a seat on the bench, honey. You’ve been in the game too long.
This spring, I made an appeal to one of his top political aides to come to Delaware to spend some time with him and talk about the upcoming governor’s race, because I’d been itching to write a long-form profile of him for a long time. We planned to do it late this summer or early fall after the governor’s race got off the ground. This week, I felt it was necessary to find some way to write part of what I was planning.
Did she actually wave pom-poms, and was her skirt plaid and pleated? I’m embarrassed for her.
Journalists absolutely must hold government officials accountable, but what good are we doing anyone if we’re just mean?
A unique good point. She makes it clear she admires a select few politicians, including Republicans. But do I think she would have held Beau Biden “accountable”? Not on your life.
Again, to the tone deaf, this is not anything against any Biden, Joe, Beau, or the rest of the clan. I can’t even be too hard on the reporter: she feels the way she feels.
But the Huffington Post and her other employers? You don’t see how inappropriate it is for a supposed unbiased observer to be so biased? Of course you don’t. A few words of tribute are fine and decent, but to print her long political love affair with a potential high public figure is an obscenity to the long-ago decent profession of journalism.