The story of Vice President Joe Biden’s potential run for the presidency heated up today, and got ugly very fast, as Politico ran a story accusing Biden himself of being the source for a story about his dying son Beau begging him to run for president.
Furthermore, the story implies Biden embellished the “leaked” account of his son’s words for maximum political effect. On Tuesday afternoon, Biden’s office declared the story was “categorically false, and the characterization is offensive.”
The contentious revelation concerns an August 1 article from Maureen Dowd at the New York Times, described as a “renowned Hillary Clinton critic” in Tuesday’s Politico piece:
According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her, painting a tragic portrait of a dying son, Beau’s face partially paralyzed, sitting his father down and trying to make him promise to run for president because “the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”
It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening.
But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in The New York Times, asking them to call.
Before that moment and since, Biden has told the Beau story to others. Sometimes details change — the setting, the exact words. The version he gave Dowd delivered the strongest punch to the gut, making the clearest swipe at Clinton by enshrining the idea of a campaign against her in the words of a son so beloved nationally that his advice is now beyond politics. This campaign wouldn’t be about her or her email controversy, the story suggests, but connected to righteousness on some higher plane.
The Politico article goes on describe Biden as considering Hillary Clinton’s falling poll numbers, the prospect of a bitter battle with Clinton’s political machine, and the rapidly approaching filing deadlines in a calculating manner, contrasting this with the moving moment-of-destiny story he supposedly shopped to the New York Times.
Biden is also portrayed as moving with perhaps unseemly haste to connect with left-wing darling Senator Elizabeth Warren to explore her willingness to join him on the ticket, and using his wife Jill Biden to manipulate media coverage of his campaign deliberations. At the same time, the story also suggests he’s not taking the business of launching a last-minute presidential campaign seriously enough, given that over two months have passed since he used Maureen Dowd to inflate his trial balloon.
Also, while the notion of Biden exploiting, or perhaps even inventing, the story of Beau’s deathbed encouragement is horrendous, the Politico article goes to some lengths to emphasize that his grief is genuine, and much of his family remains opposed to him launching a 2016 campaign.
Those of a conspiratorial mindset may wonder if the Politico story was itself arranged by a certain individual with an even greater reputation for making political “calculations” than Joe Biden… who is a nasty piece of work on the campaign trail, despite his carefully cultivated media reputation as lovable, if somewhat dotty, “Uncle Joe.” It does have a certain shot-across-the-bow feel to it.
Either the story is true, and Biden’s denials are another calculated gambit; the story is false, and was a calculated gambit by someone who wants Biden to stay out of the race; or Politico’s sources are honestly mistaken, although the story specifies that several people provided them with the same information.
Since Maureen Dowd herself refused to comment for the article, and only she could conclusively refute it, the result is a set of bad vibes Biden would find it difficult to completely dispel.