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He’s the dealmaker some other presidents pretend to be: Joe Biden.
© The New York Times/Redux/laif

The Affirmative Case for Joe Biden

Shaped by decades of political experience and personal tragedy - there is no better man for the office of US president than Joe Biden. The accusations of his opponents are petty and misguided.

Ask somebody why they’re voting for Democratic nominee Joe Biden for president, and invariably you get a qualifier – “He wasn’t my second or even third choice” – before the BIG BUT… “BUT I’d vote for a brain-eating amoeba over Donald Trump.” Some of us, though, don’t like big buts, and we cannot lie. We’re not voting for the former vice president because he’s a “lesser evil.” We’re voting for him because he’s damn good.

Look at what Biden did for 13-year-old severe stutterer Brayden Harrington, who became the star of the Democratic National Convention when he bravely testified about how Biden gave him the confidence to speak. Biden has done this with many kids. Because, you see, young Joey Biden had a stutter. He knew what it was like to have bullies mock him relentlessly, and you can be sure as hell he’s not going to let any kid go through that alone.

Those of us who have followed Biden closely over his political career have heard similar “man for others” stories for decades: Joe at the airport taking a half hour to buck up an AIDS patient; counseling the quarantined COVID dad about how to play with his kids through a door; trading personal phone numbers with widows and widowers who have lost their mates, and mothers and fathers who have lost their children. Then, actually calling.

One could dismiss all this as good press relations or bad, sappy hagiography, but even political enemies like South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, have been forced to concede, “He is as good a man as God ever created.” Yes. You could say Joe Biden possesses the personal character to make America decent again.

Of course, it’s a character etched in grief. Many know how Biden lost his wife and baby daughter in a tragic car accident before being sworn-in as one of the youngest senators in U.S. history; how he took the train home from Washington, DC to Delaware every night to care for his two surviving sons; how he lost one of those two sons to cancer forty years later. As Joy Behar, American TV icon and co-host of “The View,” told me, “I like a president who’s been through hell, and Biden has been there and back.” Time and again, Biden uses his experience of getting knocked down to help others get back up.

In 2008, America had been knocked down by foreign policy debacles and a global financial collapse. Then-presidential nominee Barack Obama could have chosen any Democratic senator to be his governing partner. He chose Biden. Why? Not because of Biden’s reputation as a nice guy. Because Biden was a seasoned foreign policy hand with a history of getting stuff done and parlaying his close personal relationships with fellow senators into public accomplishments.

As a senator, Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which resulted in a 64% drop in intimate partner abuse, improving the lives of millions of women. He pushed through a decade-long ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It was Biden, more than anyone else, who was responsible for keeping Richard Nixon toady and repugnant right-wing ideologue Robert Bork off of the Supreme Court. Bork ended up being replaced by Justice Anthony Kennedy, a frequent swing vote who helped steer the court in a more moderate direction. Biden secured the funding for mine resistant tanks that greatly reduced casualties to American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When he’s made mistakes, the Scranton, PA native has shown an uncommon willingness – especially for a politician – to correct them. When he was the chairman of the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee that mistreated Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings, he recruited women to join the committee. With Senator Kamala Harris, Biden has followed through on his pledge to pick a woman as his running mate. He has also pledged to put the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

As vice president, Biden became Obama’s go-to in times of crisis. Need a Republican vote to pass the stimulus that saved the cratering U.S. economy? Call Joe. Need to nudge wobbly red state Democrats to vote for a health care reform bill that would provide coverage for tens of millions of uninsured Americans and unprecedented guarantees for hundreds of millions more? Call Joe. Need to make a sensitive call to a leader in Europe, Latin America, or the Middle East? Call Joe.

In 2009, Biden and Obama took office inheriting 800,000 job losses a month. They left office eight years later with, by far, the longest uninterrupted expansion of job growth in American history.

Joel K. Goldstein, Saint Louis University law professor and author of several books on the vice presidency, put it plainly: “Biden has become the most productive two-term vice president in American history.” Obama certainly agreed. As commander in chief, he awarded Biden with the nation’s highest civilian honor: the Congressional Medal of Freedom.

The Trump campaign likes to ask, “What has he done in 47 years?” A better question is, “Who’s done more?”

Many Black voters will never forget Biden’s unwavering loyalty to the first Black President how he put his ego second and never tried to upstage his boss. As Laurie Goff, a pre-school teacher from Seattle, wrote in a tweet that went stratospheric, “You tell me what 40+ year ‘establishment’ white politician has ever done that. Joe Biden is cut from a different cloth.”

Many LGBTQ Americans will never forget how Biden led the Obama administration to fully embrace marriage equality by coming out for it, himself, on national television.

Americans are understandably cynical that any leader in these partisan times can unite the country. But look at how much uniting Biden has already done in his campaign. He defeated 27 contenders for the Democratic nomination without alienating any of them. He earned a record number of votes, more than any Democratic nominee ever in a contested primary. After he won, he united a notoriously fractious Democratic Party in record time.

It’s no ordinary politician who can assemble a political coalition that extends from progressive New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Republican centrist and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. In fact, Biden has been endorsed by hundreds of prominent Republicans, including ex-governors, senators, cabinet officers, military generals, and national security officials.

The outfit making the punchiest ads for Biden this cycle is a Republican group called, “The Lincoln Project.” Executive Director Sarah Lenti, who worked in the George W. Bush administration for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, tells me, “As a former Republican who cares about the future of this country, who believes in the paramountcy of the office of the presidency, and is praying for a leader who will carefully and wisely begin to knit this nation back together — becoming pro-Biden was the only and obvious choice. As a mother of two young boys, becoming pro-Biden was a moral imperative.”

At a time when over seven and a half million Americans have contracted COVID-19 and over 215,000 have died from it, who better than Biden, who’s been transformed by personal grief, to lead a grieving nation?
From the beginning, he’s addressed the crisis with consistency and compassion. He started calling for a national plan and to put science first back in January, when few other American leaders were taking it seriously. Since President Trump became infected, Biden’s repeated calls to avoid making this a partisan moment and instead come together have been pitch perfect.

He understood the stakes. He was a key player in mitigating the damage from the 2009 H1NI pandemic and stopping a U.S. Ebola outbreak in 2014.
If elected, Biden will inherit the most precarious U.S. economy since the Great Depression. Nearly 60% of small business owners say they’re worried they’ll have to close permanently. Over 40% of workers say they, or someone in their household, have lost a job or wages to COVID. Biden will need a massive stimulus, even bigger than the 2009 package that kickstarted the unprecedented expansion of jobs. Luckily, Biden happens to know the guy who oversaw that one, fraud free: a fella by the name of “Joe Biden.”

Republican opponents claim Biden will be the “puppet” of the far left and govern as a Socialist. They called Obama a Socialist, too, and it was equally ridiculous. Biden’s never been anyone’s lap dog. For nearly half a century, he’s practiced power by finding the political center, whether within his own party or the nation as a whole, to negotiate pragmatic deals. He’s the dealmaker some other presidents pretend to be. I won’t name names.
Joe Biden is the right man for this time. Hell, maybe for any time.

 

Matt Gunn is an award winning filmmaker and writer for over 16 seasons on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”. As a member of the HBO writing team, Gunn has received multiple Emmy Award nominations. Actor and producer, his film, “Man About Town,” in which he starred, won the Sundance Film Festival's Short Filmmaking Award. A St. Louis, Missouri native based in Los Angeles, Gunn is the lucky husband of one and father of two.