Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption

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"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."—Joe Biden

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 forty years and who now serves as the forty-seventh vice ...

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Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption

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"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."—Joe Biden

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 forty years and who now serves as the forty-seventh 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 in the Senate, his life has been filled with tragedy and countless challenges. Within two months of being elected in 1972, Biden lost his wife, Neilia, and his young daughter in a tragic accident—a loss that brought him to the nadir of despair and shook his resolve to stay in politics. And even after Biden vowed to continue his career, his tenure was marked by two brain aneurysms and career-threatening verbal gaffes. Then, after being considered among the front-runners in the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries, Biden was accused of plagiarism for a speech he made at the Iowa State Fair. He dropped out of the race to the sounds of Washington pundits chattering that the presidency would never be his. Through it all, Biden survived and ran—and eventually dropped out—again in the 2008 primaries. But even with this defeat, Barack Obama recognized Biden's vast experience in domestic and foreign affairs, and selected him to be his running mate.

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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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Veteran political commentator Witcover (Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Nixon & Agnew) chronicles Vice President Joe Biden's growth as a political operative, his personal tragedies and political triumphs, his mistakes, and his disappointments. The biography stretches from his childhood, unlikely 1972 senatorial election, presidential campaigns, and work on the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, through his first year as Vice President. The book relies heavily on excerpts from speeches, interviews, and books by Biden (notably, Promises To Keep: On Life and Politics), plus family members, friends, and political associates, as it traces Biden's efforts to redeem himself and refute the perception that he is glib, gaffe-prone, ambitious, hotheaded, long-winded, dishonest, and superficial. Witcover repeatedly acknowledges but excuses Biden's shortcomings as both failings as well as assets, presenting him as an independently minded person of integrity, honor, family devotion, and chutzpah; a champion of civil rights, women's issues, and law enforcement; a shrewd foreign affairs expert; and a dedicated, experienced, and vital participant in the Obama administration.Verdict This first Biden biography will appeal to political enthusiasts. Recommended for public and undergraduate collections. [See Prepub Exploded, 5/20/10.]—Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY
Matthew Dallek
…a celebratory recitation of the major private and public moments of the vice president's life. Biden's rich and sometimes controversial career mirrors the policy achievements and political failures of the Democratic Party in modern times, and Joe Biden can also be read as a meditation on his party's troubled and occasionally triumphant trajectory since the 1960s.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061791987
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/5/2010
  • Pages: 536
  • Sales rank: 451,587
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jules Witcover is one of the most distinguished and recognized of the veteran Washington correspondents. A former political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, he is the author of numerous books, including 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy, Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, The Party of the People: A History of the Democrats, and The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 Scranton 4

2 Wilmington 18

3 Building a Dream 29

4 The Making of a Politician 47

5 David and Goliath 72

6 The Dream Shattered 91

7 A Fresh Start 101

8 Finding Himself, and Jill 116

9 Civil Rights, Jimmy Carter, and Reelection 132

10 Moving on to the National Stage 143

11 Joe Biden for President 157

12 A Judicial Intrusion 170

13 Debacle in Iowa 186

14 Concentrating on Bork 197

15 A Costly Victory 219

16 Down but Not Out 233

17 Holding Out for Peace 248

18 Clarence and Anita 255

19 In Search of Truth and Fairness 269

20 Cozy Corporate Capital of America 290

21 Fighting Crime and Abuses of Power 303

22 Senate Globe-trotter 317

23 Wars of Necessity and Choice 334

24 Reassessing a Quagmire 355

25 Biden for President Again 372

26 A Questionable Prize 394

27 An Offer He Couldn't Refuse 404

28 Vice President Biden 435

Epilogue 478

Acknowledgments 485

Notes 488

Bibliography 518

Index 522

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Customer Reviews

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