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Monday, October 24, 2016

WASHINGTON — Strange thing passing, but Joe Biden’s river of tears over his son Beau, who passed away on May 30, has turned into political hay. Deep into grief, Biden never sought that; it just so happened that way. You can hear chatter rising for him to jump into the primary fray again.

The path — if taken — is the one less travelled by.

The vice president broke the oldest rule for American men: Don’t show weakness. Men don’t cry. In a cultural shift, men from East to West love Biden more for saying frankly how sad he felt all summer. Sky-high praise has walked with Joe through the valley, as a chorus of pundits sing “Hail to the Chief” to the genial 72-year-old.

Yet praise for Biden now does a disservice to Hillary Clinton, who needs support from her allies. The long wait for Biden to decide “at the end of the summer” should be over.

Biden lives in a stately white house on the Naval Observatory grounds, but still covets the gleaming mansion downtown after 36 years in the Senate and seven years on this job.

Let’s be clear. The loquacious Biden, fondly known as a master of excess, has run for president twice and lost badly. He voted for the Iraq War and botched the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearing, which flew into a furious folly. In the small state of Delaware, voters never punished him, because he’s so darn likeable.

But some are a bit daft about Joe on the most serious matter in the public square.

Howard Kurtz, media critic for Fox News, said Biden’s heart-to-heart about loss with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show was one of the most “remarkable moments” he’d ever seen on television.

Op-ed columnist David Brooks of The New York Times went further: he declared Biden’s revealing session with Colbert, the new host of The Late Show on CBS, is the very reason Biden should run. Brooks switched his position on Biden as a compelling presidential candidate based on a 15-minute conversation. He wrote, “His discussion of his own grief over his son Beau’s death was beautiful and genuine and revealed (his) golden heart. …” No word on his public record.

Brooks said it was a character “formation story” for public service. No, an adult son’s death is an autumnal sign that says it is time to move off the field. (Beau was 46.) It’s a generational passing. The father-son trope is as old as Homeric myth, and I think Homer would agree with me.

Clearly, the clamor is also about the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s “authenticity” — or lack thereof. Clinton puts up a good front and hates to say “sorry.” It took her years to ‘fess up about her Iraq War vote and months to apologize for her private email server.

But here the gender irony cuts deep. Biden’s emotional freedom does not hold true for women in our new age. Hillary Clinton could not speak of mourning a loss so freely without paying a price. If she did, she’d be the weak one, who wasn’t ready for high office. If she has not made herself vulnerable to voters (except for one choked-up moment in New Hampshire in 2008), maybe there’s a reason why.

Noted author Gail Sheehy observed in Politico that Clinton has undergone a shift of her own, with newfound confidence: “For the first time Hillary seems comfortable in her own skin — not just with her age but also with her gender.”

If Brooks seeks a “formation story” for Clinton — which he says she hasn’t presented well — try this.

Clinton belongs to the generation that lived and breathed the civil rights and women’s movements. The fruits of higher education, professional work and social leadership were theirs to claim. She was at the head of that generation, her Wellesley College class commencement speaker, from there going on to break every barrier and attend Yale Law School. She has meaningful ties to the Midwest, South and Northeast. She has prepared every day of her life for this last chance to be president, living in a glass house for all seasons — keeping her zest, mind, and spirit together.

Or something like that.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit

Photo: U.S. vice president Joe Biden speaks on stage at an event to discuss the minimum wage at the Javits Convention Center in New York, September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

  • Dominick Vila

    As a father who lost a son half century ago, I understand what VP Biden is going through, and I don’t blame him for his hesitancy to go to a grueling campaign that is likely to include personal attacks, absurd claims, hyperbole, and lies to deflect attention from the things that really matter: the character and judgment of the candidates, their academic and professional qualifications, their record, and their vision.
    The fact that VP Biden has made mistakes only proves that he is as human as the rest of us. What is important is to look at the whole package before making a decision as to whether or not he has the qualifications and personal attributes we expect, or should expect, from a national leader. I think it is important to point out that, for politicians, one of the most important attributes is charisma, a trait that often allows them to connect with the average citizen, gain our support, and lead. Joe has charisma, something that most of the other candidates running lack.
    Having said all this, I believe he owes it to his son, to his family, and to the country to decide whether or not to run. Te passing of time allows us to heal, and go on, for our sake and for our families. That does not mean we have forgotten those who re no longer with us. They, especially a child, will always be a part of our lives regardless of what we do, and for as long as we live. He must decide, as soon as possible, whether or not he want to run for the presidency of the United States. If he feels he cannot do it, he should be unambiguous about it.

    • bcarreiro

      I hope he does.

  • FireBaron

    Right now we Democrats have a major problem. None of our potential candidates are what I would call young and energetic. I am 61 years old and I am still younger than the lot of them! At least in 2008 there were some younger than me! Granted, they are all on their game, but can we please get some new blood involved?

    • Eleanore Whitaker

      I have to agree. What I see of the 40 to 50 somethings is a total lack of initiative to get involved in government and business decisions that directly affect them. They will rue the day they enabled that situation.

      It looks as if the 20 somethings are akin to the 60 somethings. They, at least, are recognizing how important certain issues are to their future.

      Perhaps, that’s the crux of the problem for the middle aged 40 and 50 somethings…for them, the future is now. For the 20 and 30 somethings, the future is far ahead and they see the “now” as a bad direction.

  • Eleanore Whitaker

    For more than two hundred years, the ideal president, senator or congressman had to have a pair of testicles. It was the brand of US government so deeply embedded that any changes to this caused government shock.

    The reality is that life evolves. Government has to evolve with it. Anything that seeks to control or force will ALWAYS be met with resistance.

    Hillary is from a generation of women who broke all traditional rules and regulations mandated by men.

    If a woman can raise children, earn her own income and manage a household without any help from a man, why wouldn’t these women rovolt against male domination?

    Any man in the US today who fools himself that the template in government and business is not forever changed by gender awareness is a man who is living so far in the past. Brandishing the past as a weapon to keep women always in 2nd place is not going to work. Not anymore. The sooner men realize this, the more peaceful our society will be.

    Women have already proven they can lead in business as well, if not better than men. Even when men in business stick it to them and obstruct women every step of the way. Women have also proven they can fight like men. Our women in the military prove this every day. So why would any woman settle for 2nd place or a lower salary based entirely on her gender or lack of equal educational, business and government opportunities?

  • Dogmudgeon

    Well, *that* was … awkward.

  • Andrew Freeland

    Since this is the race for the Dem. presidential nomination, let’s compare Clinton (elected US Senator, D – NY, and ran a strong, close race against Obama in 2008) with Biden (very similar ideologically, also a good and caring person, but with very poor presidential campaigns, only elected in tiny Delaware; yes, a faithful VP, but . . . ). Sanders is definitely ideologically different (not an unalloyed positive electorally). I’m loath to hurriedly dispense with Hillary – because I’m equally loath to see some GOP nutcase assume the presidency – there is too much of import at stake to throw it away because we cannot live for one more second without some socialist utopia (and again, I like Bernie, Joe, and most liberals and their ideas). Bernie and Joe are fine men, but don’t represent the best electoral strategy.