Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. was born in November 1942 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and lived there for ten years before moving to, and growing up in New Castle County, Delaware. He graduated from Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware in 1961. In 1965 he earned his undergraduate degree (with majors in history and political science) from the University of Delaware in Newark, and in 1968 he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. Biden then found work as a public defender in Wilmington, Delaware.
In 1972 Biden ran successfully for one of Delaware’s seats in the U.S. Senate, beating Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs. Prior to his swearing in, Biden’s then-wife Neilia Hunter and the couple's three children were involved in an automobile accident. Neilia and daughter Naomi died from the injuries they sustained, while Biden’s two sons, Beau and Hunter, eventually made full recoveries.
For many years thereafter, Biden would repeatedly claim that his wife and daughter were killed by a "drunk driver." For example, in mid-September 2001 he told an audience at the University of Delaware: "It was an errant driver who stopped to drink instead of drive and hit a tractor-trailer, hit my children and my wife and killed them." Similarly, in a 2007 speech at the University of Iowa, he said: "Let me tell you a little story. I got elected when I was 29, and I got elected November the 7th. And on Dec. 18 of that year, my wife and three kids were Christmas shopping for a Christmas tree. A tractor-trailer, a guy who allegedly -- and I never pursued it -- drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch, broadsided my family and killed my wife instantly, and killed my daughter instantly, and hospitalized my two sons, with what were thought to be at the time permanent, fundamental injuries."
But Biden's claims were false. Curtis C. Dunn, the man driving the truck that broadsided Mrs. Biden's vehicle, was never charged with drunken driving. In fact, some investigators thought at the time that the accident had occurred because Biden's wife pulled into the intersection not having noticed Dunn's approaching truck. "The rumor about alcohol being involved by either party, especially the truck driver, is incorrect," said Delaware Superior Court Judge Jerome O. Herlihy, the chief deputy attorney general who worked with crash investigators in 1972. Each time Biden uttered his false account of the event, Dunn's family suffered great anguish.
When Biden was sworn in to office at his son’s hospital bedside in Wilmington, Delaware on January 5, 1973, he became the fifth-youngest senator in American history. Biden would win each of his reelection bids -- in 1978, 1984, 1990, 1996, and 2002 -- with relative ease, becoming the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Delaware’s history.
Shortly after he was first elected to the Senate, Biden voted against funding to help the South Vietnamese government stave off its North Vietnamese Communist invaders. This vote, which was in line with the votes of most in Congress' new Democrat majority, paved the way for the ultimate fall of Saigon (in April 1975) and the subsequent mass slaughter of Indochinese peasants.
Biden became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January 1975, and of the Senate Judiciary Committee two years later.
On June 17, 1977, Biden married schoolteacher Jill Tracy Jacobs.
In 1979 Senator Biden shared President Jimmy Carter's belief that the fall of the Shah in Iran and the advent of Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule represented progress for human rights in that country. Throughout the ensuing 444-day hostage crisis, during which Khomeini's extremist acolytes routinely paraded the blindfolded American captives in front of television cameras and threatened them with execution, Biden opposed strong action against the mullahs and called for dialogue.
Throughout the 1980s, Biden opposed President Ronald Reagan's proactive means of dealing with the Soviet Union. Biden instead favored détente -- which, in practice, meant Western subsidies that would have enabled the moribund USSR to remain solvent much longer than it ultimately did. He also opposed Reagan’s effort to fund the Contras, an anti-Communist rebel group in Nicaragua.
Biden was a leading critic of the Reagan defense buildup, specifically vis a vis the MX missile, the B-l bomber, and the Trident submarine. He criticized Reagan for his “continued adherence” to the goal of developing a missile defense system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative, calling the President's insistence on the measure “one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft.”
Biden first ran for U.S. President in 1987. He was considered a strong contender for the Democratic Party’s nomination, but in April of that year controversy descended on Biden’s campaign when he told several lies about his academic record in law school. In an April 3, 1987 appearance on C-SPAN, a questioner asked Biden about his law school grades. In response, an angry Biden looked at his questioner and said, “I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.” He then stated that he had gone “to law school on a full academic scholarship -- the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship”; that he had “ended up in the top half” of his law school class; and that he had “graduated with three degrees from college.”
But each of those claims proved to be untrue. In reality, Biden had: (a) earned only two college degrees -- in history and political science -- at the University of Delaware in Newark, where he graduated only 506th in a class of 688; (b) attended law school on a half scholarship that was based on financial need; and (c) eventually graduated 76th in a law-school class of 85. “I exaggerate when I'm angry,” Biden would later concede, “but I've never gone around telling people things that aren't true about me.”
Then, in August 1987 Biden plagiarized a portion of a speech made by British politician Neil Kinnock. Before long, revelations surfaced that Biden also had plagiarized extensive portions of an article in law school and consequently had received a grade of “F” for the course. (He eventually was permitted to retake the course, and the failure was removed from his transcript.)
As a result of these embarrassing examples of dishonesty, Biden withdrew from the presidential campaign on September 23, 1987 and resumed his duties as a U.S. Senator.
Following is an overview of Biden’s policy positions and his voting record on key pieces of legislation during his years in the Senate.
Senator Biden received a 91 percent rating from the National Education Association (NEA), indicating that more than nine-tenths of his votes were satisfactory to America’s largest labor union, which has contributed massive sums of money to Democratic Party candidates. Like the NEA, Biden opposes merit pay for teachers and a voucher system that would permit parents to redirect a portion of their tax dollars away from the public schools and toward private-school tuition for their children. He voted “No” on a voucher proposal in 1997.
Biden believes that global warming is caused by industrial and automotive pollution, and that broad and immediate action must be taken to curb its effects. In 2007 he co-sponsored the Boxer-Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, perhaps the most stringent climate bill in the history of the Senate. Labeling the U.S. as the world's “largest emitter of greenhouse gases,” the bill sought to implement a cap-and-trade system requiring the U.S. to reduce its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Biden also has called for the raising of fuel-economy standards for automobiles to an average of 40 miles per gallon by 2017.
During a September 2008 vice presidential debate against his Republican opponent Sarah Palin, Biden said: “I think it [climate change] is manmade. It's clearly manmade. If you don't understand what the cause is, you cannot come up with a solution.”
On July 31, 2007, Biden said:
"In 2001, Bush’s new foreign affairs team were so intent on going ahead with Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense shield that they were willing to pull out of earlier arms control treaties to get there, inviting, in my view, another arms race. The missile defense system seemed to be the perfect metaphor for the neoisolationist policy. Let’s arm the heavens, they were saying, and protect the US, the rest of the world be damned. The [Bush] administration had said they were willing to walk away from the decades-old ABM Treaty in order to unilaterally develop and deploy the missile defense system, and now they were putting real money behind it. They were willing to put tens of billions of dollars into the Maginot line in the sky that could quite likely set off another arms race, while cutting funding for a program to help Russia destroy its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons before they got into the hands of terrorists."
On December 13, 2007, Biden said:
"[We should] cut somewhere in the order of $20 billion a year out of the military for special programs, from Star Wars, to a new atomic weapon, to the F-22, to the Nimitz-Class Destroyer. You can save $350 billion. That would allow me to do everything I want to do -- my priorities on education, health care and the environment -- and still bring down the deficit by $150 billion."
In 2008, Pete Wehner wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
"Throughout his career, Mr. Biden has consistently opposed modernization of our strategic nuclear forces. He was a fierce opponent of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. Mr. Biden voted against funding SDI, saying [as noted above], 'The president’s continued adherence to [SDI] constitutes one of the most reckless and irresponsible acts in the history of modern statecraft.' Mr. Biden has remained a consistent critic of missile defense and even opposed the U.S. dropping out of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty after the collapse of the Soviet Union (which was the co-signatory to the ABM Treaty) and the end of the Cold War."
In the midst of the Arab oil embargo of 1973, Biden was one of only five U.S. senators to vote against the first Alaskan pipeline bill. That pipeline has since yielded more than 15 billion barrels of oil, almost 20 percent of America's total production.
In more recent times, Biden consistently opposed all bills seeking to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration. In 2006 he voted against a bill “providing for exploration, development, and production activities for mineral resources in the Gulf of Mexico.” And in 2007 he voted against a bill that would have allowed for natural gas exploration and extraction off the coast of Virginia.
Regarding the use of coal, Biden has said: “We're not supporting clean coal,” and “no coal plants here in America.”
His Roman Catholic beliefs notwithstanding, Biden believes that abortion should remain legal in the United States, and that the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision should not be overturned. “The best policy for our country on the question of abortion is a policy of government neutrality,” he says. “Put another way: I do not believe that the government should be involved in making judgments on whether a woman can, or should have an abortion, or -- if she chooses to do so -- in paying for that abortion.”
In 1997 Biden voted against the continuance of a policy stipulating that federal health insurance plans would not pay for abortions except in cases where the woman's life was in danger or the pregnancy was the result of incest or rape.
In 2004 Biden voted against a bill that would have attached criminal penalties to the killing or injuring of a fetus while carrying out a violent crime on a pregnant woman.
In July 2006 he voted against parental notification laws and against punishing those who would transport minors across state lines to get an abortion.
In 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2003, Biden voted in favor of bills to prohibit the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion.
Biden received an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund, for his consistent record of voting to limit the rights of gun owners and manufacturers. He also voted in favor of exposing the firearms industry to potentially crippling lawsuits.
In 2007 Biden voted against a bill permitting the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General “to authorize foreign intelligence acquisition concerning those reasonably believed to be outside of the U.S., provided that written certification is presented that the procedure does not constitute electronic surveillance under existing law, the surveillance is made with the assistance of a communications provider, and the significant purpose of the acquisition is to obtain foreign intelligence information.”
Biden voted “Yes” on allowing illegal aliens to participate in Social Security, and “Yes” on allowing more foreign workers into the U.S. for farm work.
In 2006 he voted in favor of erecting a fence on the U.S./Mexico border, but later explained that for him, the vote was an anti-drug trafficking vote, not one aimed at curbing illegal immigration. “I voted for the fence related to drugs,” Biden said. “A fence will stop 20 kilos of cocaine coming through that fence. It will not stop someone climbing over it or around it.”
In 2007 Biden voted against a bill to prohibit illegal aliens convicted of serious crimes -- such as aggravated felonies, domestic violence, stalking, violation of protection orders, crimes against children, or the illegal purchase or sale of firearms -- from gaining legal status.
That same year, he voted to scrap a point-based immigration system (i.e., a system which seeks to ensure that people with skills that society needs are given preference for entry into the United States). He advocates instead a system focusing on the reunification of family members, even if that means permitting the foreign relatives of illegal aliens to join the latter in America.
Biden also voted in favor of continuing to send federal funds to sanctuary cities; against requiring a photo ID from people registering to vote; and “No” on declaring English the official language of the United States.
Senator Biden received an 8 percent rating from the U.S. Border Control (a nonprofit lobbying organization dedicated to ending illegal immigration and securing our America’s borders), signifying that his voting record reflected an open-borders stance.
Throughout his Senate career, Biden, with few exceptions, generally supported higher taxes, though he did vote against specific tax increases which were advanced by Republican presidents.
When President Reagan pushed for across-the-board-tax cuts in 1981, Biden twice voted for bills that would have watered down Reagan’s proposal. When the full Reagan tax cuts came up for a final vote, however, Biden voted in favor of them, as did 88 of his 99 Senate colleagues.
In March 1983 Biden voted for a $40 billion increase in Social Security taxes.
In June 1986 Biden supported Democrat Senator George Mitchell’s effort to raise the top income tax rate to 35 percent.
In October 1990 Biden voted against President George H.W. Bush’s proposed 5-year, $164-billion tax hike. That same year, he supported an amendment sponsored by then-Senator Al Gore to raise the income-tax rate on middle-class Americans (i.e., married couples earning more than $78,400 a year and individuals earning more than $47,050) from 28 percent to 33 percent.
In August 1993 Biden voted in favor of Bill Clinton’s proposed $241 billion in new taxes over five years.
In May 2001 Biden voted against both of President George W. Bush’s major tax cut proposals -- one for $350 billion and another for $1.35 trillion over a ten-year period.
In all but three of the 16 years spanning 1992 to 2007, the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU) -- which grades each member of Congress on taxing and spending issues -- gave Biden an “F.” In 2007, NTU gave him a 4 percent rating and ranked him 94th out of 100 senators.
On September 18, 2008, Biden (who was then Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate) said this about Obama’s proposed tax hike on people earning more than $250,000 per year: “We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people…. It’s time [for high earners] to be patriotic ... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut.”
In 1987 Biden was a key player in preventing the confirmation of President Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, warning that Bork would strip minorities, women, and children of their civil rights. In later years, Biden similarly (though unsuccessfully) sought to derail the Supreme Court nominations of Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito, who, like Bork, were all strict constructionists who opposed judicial activism; i.e., they subscribed to the tenet that a Justice's duty is to interpret the law and the Constitution as it is written, and not to legislate from the bench.
The First Gulf War
In 1990 Biden opposed President George H.W. Bush's decision to forcibly drive Saddam Hussein's army of occupation out of Kuwait. He stated that the U.S. had no “vital interests” in repelling the invasion, and he predicted, wrongly, that American casualties would be astronomical in number.
The 9/11 Attacks
Shortly after 9/11, Biden told his staff that America should respond to the worst act of terrorism in its history by showing the Arab world that the U.S. was not seeking to destroy it. “Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran,” he said.
Iraq War (2003)
Prior to the Iraq War, Biden consistently spoke out about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. “He’s a long-term threat and a short-term threat to our national security,” Biden said of Hussein in 2002. “… We have no choice but to eliminate the threat. This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world.” Also in 2002, Biden said: “Saddam must be dislodged from his weapons or dislodged from power.”
Consequently, in October 2002 Biden voted “Yes” on authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. He continued to express his resolve on the matter in 2004, emphatically stating: “I voted to give the President the authority to use force in Iraq. I still believe my vote was just.”
In 2005 Biden told the Brookings Institution: “We can call it quits and withdraw from Iraq. I think that would be a gigantic mistake. Or we can set a deadline for pulling out, which I fear will only encourage our enemies to wait us out -- equally a mistake.”
In April 2007 Biden appeared with the late newsman Tim Russert and defended Vice President Dick Cheney and the international community’s assessment of Saddam’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program. “[E]veryone in the world thought he had them [WMD]…. This was not some, some Cheney, you know, pipe dream.”
But later in 2007, while running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Biden said that his 2002 vote authorizing the use of force against Iraq “was a mistake” that he regretted. “I vastly underestimated the incompetence of this administration,” Biden said during a 2007 Democratic primary debate in Carson City, Nevada.
In June 2007 Biden told the Boston Globe that General David Petraeus’s “surge” strategy of sending an extra 20,000 troops to Iraq “is not going to work either tactically or strategically” in terms of quelling the insurgency. On Meet the Press, Biden said that while Petraeus “believes that it [the surge] is a good idea,” “[v]irtually no one else believes it’s a good idea.”
In 2007, Biden scolded then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's testimony (to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations) that for the foreseeable future the Bush administration would not be negotiating with Syria or Iran because “they are not engaging in constructive behavior.” Said Biden:
“I do not agree with your statement, Madame Secretary, that negotiations with Iran and Syria would be extortion, nor did most of the witnesses we heard in this committee during the last month. The proper term, I believe and they believe, is diplomacy, which is not about paying a price but finding a way to protect our interests without engaging in military conflict. It is, I might add, the fundamental responsibility of the Department of State, to engage in such diplomacy, as you well know.”
Biden is a defender of affirmative action (i.e., race-, ethnicity-, and sex-based preferences) in academia and the business world. He was also a supporter of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Biden's response to a November 2006 U.S. Airways incident involving six Islamic imams is instructive. The imams in question were removed from a plane shortly before takeoff because several passengers and crew members had become alarmed by what they perceived to be their (the imams') suspicious behavior. The Council on American-Islamic Relations subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the imams, against both the airline and the complaining passengers. In response to the suit, two Republican congressman, Peter King and Steven Pearce, crafted an amendment seeking to create legal immunity for citizens who report suspicious behavior in good faith. The amendment was initially approved by lawmakers in March 2007, but Senator Biden voted against it.
Publicly Casting Doubt on the Legitimacy of Bush's Presidential Victory
In 2004 Biden told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the U.S. had no moral authority to preach about the need for democracy in the Middle East. “We don’t have much of a democracy ourselves,” he said mockingly. “Remember our own presidential election; remember Florida!” -- a reference to the disputed ballot recount in 2000.
2008 Bid for the Presidency
As early as June 2005, Biden first made public his intention to seek the nomination for U.S. President in 2008. On January 31, 2007 he officially entered the presidential race. His campaign failed to gain any traction, however, and on January 3, 2008 he withdrew from the race, which by then was being dominated by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Prior to his selection as Obama’s running mate on August 23, 2008, Biden had been consistently effusive in his praise of John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee.
Conversely, Biden had often been critical of Obama and his judgment on matters of import:
2008 Vice Presidential Run
During his vice presidential campaign, Biden occasionally exhibited a tendency to exaggerate and misrepresent facts, just as he had done in 1987. At a September 9th fundraiser, for example, he spoke about “the superhighway of terror between Pakistan and Afghanistan where my helicopter was forced down [during a February 2008 fact-finding mission Biden had taken with fellow senators John Kerry and Chuck Hagel]. John McCain wants to know where [Osama] bin Laden and the gates of Hell are? I can tell him where. That's where al Qaeda is. That's where bin Ladin is.” During a speech in Baltimore later that month, Biden said: “If you want to know where al Qaeda lives, you want to know where bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me. Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are.” Two days after that, in Cincinnati, Biden reiterated that al Qaeda had re-established a safe haven “in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where my helicopter was recently forced down.”
Though Biden’s implication was that his plane had been forced down by enemy fire, in fact the unscheduled landing was due to a severe snowstorm that had suddenly hit the area. “It went pretty blind, pretty fast and we were around some pretty dangerous ridges,” John Kerry told the Associated Press immediately after the incident. “So the pilot exercised his judgment that we were better off putting down there, and we all agreed…. We sat up there and traded stories. We were going to send Biden out to fight the Taliban with snowballs, but we didn't have to do it…. Other than getting a little cold, it was fine.” Biden’s plane was traveling with air cover from an F-16.
In the midst of a major stock-market crisis in late September 2008, Biden told CBS interviewer Katie Couric that it was incumbent upon the U.S President to demonstrate leadership and allay public fears by clearly explaining how the crisis will be solved. Said Biden: “Part of what being a leader does is to instill confidence, is to demonstrate that he or she knows what they are talking about and to communicat[e] to people ... this is how we can fix this…. When the stock market crashed [in October 1929], Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here's what happened.’”
Biden’s error was twofold: First, when the stock market crashed in 1929, Herbert Hoover was the U.S. President; FDR would not take office until March 4, 1933. Nor could any President have addressed the American people on television in 1929, because TV would not be introduced to the public until a decade later, at the 1939 World's Fair.
Also during the campaign, Biden (in July 2006) made a remark that was intended to be humorous, but sparked some criticism: “In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. And I'm not joking.”
Vice President Biden
On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were elected President and Vice President of the United States, respectively. The Obama-Biden ticket defeated the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin by a margin of 364 electoral votes to 162. Obama-Biden received a total of 64,538,980 votes (52.5%) from the American public, vs. McCain-Palin's 56,802,609 (46.2%).
In a June 2009 interview on Meet the Press, Biden backed away from the Obama administration’s estimate that the $787 billion stimulus package that had been passed four months earlier would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs. Instead, with unemployment rising and the economy going from bad to worse, Biden was forced to admit: "Everyone guessed wrong."
In March 2009, in the midst of the rancorous political process whereby Democrats sought to pass sweeping healthcare-reform legislation, interviewer Jake Tapper asked Biden: "Do you hear back from venerable members who are worried this bill will cost them their jobs?" Biden replied:
"... [M]y response is, hey, man, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I'm telling you, you know, pre-existing [conditions], they're going to be covered. You know we're going to control the insurance companies."
Biden Predicts a Peaceful and Successful Transition for Iraq As the U.S. Military Leaves that Country
While the Obama administration was drawing down America's military presence in Iraq in 2010, Biden said the following in February of that year:
"I am very optimistic about Iraq. I think it's going to be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government. I spent -- I've been there 17 times now. I go about every two months -- three months. I know every one of the major players in all of the segments of that society. It's impressed me. I've been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences."
Biden Says U.S. Must Spend Its Way out of Recession
In July 2009, when the debate over healthcare reform was in full swing, Biden told people attending an AARP town hall meeting that unless the Democrat-supported healthcare plan became law, “we’re going to go bankrupt as a nation.” Biden continued: “Now, people when I say that look at me and say, ‘What are you talking about, Joe? You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?’ The answer is yes, that's what I’m telling you.”
Biden Opposed the Mission That Killed Osama bin Laden; Later Says He Actually Supported the Mission
When President Obama authorized the May 2011 mission in which a U.S. Navy SEAL team ultimately killed Osama bin Laden, Biden was the only one of Obama's advisors who opposed the plan. Mark Bowden — author of a The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden — wrote in October 2008: “It was widely reported in the weeks and months after the raid that most, or at least many, of the president’s top advisors opposed the raid. That is not true. Nearly everyone present favored it. The only major dissenters were Biden and [then-Defense Secretary Robert] Gates, and before the raid Gates would change his mind.”
According to Bowden, the two options under consideration were a drone strike and the special operations raid. Most of the President's advisors favored the latter. But when it was Biden’s turn to speak at the Situation Room meeting, he told Obama: “Mr. President, my suggestion is: don’t go.” Wrote Bowden, “Biden believed that if the president decided to choose either the air or the ground option, and if the effort failed, Obama could say goodbye to a second term.... So in the end, every one of the president’s top advisors except Biden was in favor of immediate action.”
Biden confirmed this account in January 2012, when he said that he had directly advised President Obama against the bin Laden raid. "Every single person in that room hedged their bet except Leon Panetta," Biden recalled. "Leon said go. Everyone else said, 49 [percent], 51[ percent]. He [Obama] got to me. He said, ‘Joe, what do you think?’ And I said, ‘You know, I didn’t know we had so many economists around the table.’ I said, ‘We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is, don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.’”
But in October 2015, when Biden was contemplating the possibility of running for President, he altered his account of what had occurred in the lead-up to the bin Laden operation, telling an audience at George Washington University that he had given his direct support to President Obama after a cabinet meeting. "It was something that was a difficult call for the president. So, we sat in the cabinet room at the end of the day making the decision. He said, ‘I want everybody’s opinion.’ Everybody went around the room. There were only two people who were definitive and absolutely certain: Leon Panetta said go and Bob Gates said don’t go, and others were 51-49, some ended up saying go, but it was such a close call. I joked and I said, ‘You all sound like 17 Larry Summers,’ the economist, on one hand then on the other. They said, ‘Joe, what would you do?’ There was a third option I didn’t really think we should do. I said, I think we should make one more pass with a UAV to see if it is him. The reason I did that is because I didn’t want to take a position to go if that was not where [Obama] was going to go. So as we walked out of the room and walked upstairs, I said, I told him my opinion that I thought he should go, but follow his own instincts. But it would have been a mistake – imagine if I had said in front of everyone, don’t go or go, and his decision was different. It undercuts that relationship. I never say what I think finally until I go up into the Oval with him alone.”
Biden Announces Support for Gay Marriage, Then Is Ostracized by Obama Administration
In a May 2012 television interview, Biden stated that he favored the legalization of gay marriage. This forced President Obama, who had been planning to wait until a later point in time (perhaps after the 2012 elections) before publicly adopting that same position, to announce immediately that he too was in favor of gay marriage. Biden's gaffe came with significant political consequences for him. He apologized personally to Obama and offered to do all the less glamorous assignments — "every [expletive] job in the world," as Biden put it — so long as he could still be included in major White House decisions. But from that point forward, White House staffers treated Biden with coldness; essentially froze him out of all internal discussions; prevented him from attending planning meetings; kept him out of key private dinners with fundraisers; limited his public appearance schedule; and failed to emphatically refute rumors that Hillary Clinton might replace him as the 2012 vice presidential candidate.
Biden Says Romney and Republicans Seek to Put African Americans "Back in Chains"
In an August 2012 campaign appearance before a predominantly African American crowd in Virginia, Biden quoted Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as having said that in his first 100 days as president "he's going to let the big banks once again write their own rules -- unchain Wall Street." Then the vice president added angrily: "They're going to put y'all back in chains!"
Biden Says Middle Class Has Been "Buried" for the Past Four Years
During an October 2, 2012 campaign stop in Charlotte, North Carolina, Biden misrepresented the Republicans' economic plan as a proposal to lower taxes on the wealthy and raise taxes on the middle class. Said Biden: "This is deadly earnest. How they can justify -- how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that's been buried the last four years? How in the lord's name can they justify raising their [the middle class's] taxes with these tax cuts?"
Biden Pledges to Raise Taxes on the Wealthy by $1 Trillion
In an October 4, 2012 campaign appearance in Iowa, Biden made reference to a Democratic proposal to let the Bush-era income tax rates for households making $250,000 or more expire (and thus increase) at the end of the year, while maintaining existing rates for everyone else. (This proposal was in contrast to the Republican plan, which called for maintaining the current rates for all income groups.) Said Biden: "On top of the trillions of dollars in spending that we have already cut, we're going to ask the wealthy to pay more. My heart breaks. Come on, man." Biden then made reference to a Republican claim that, as the vice president phrased it, "Obama and Biden want to raise taxes by a trillion dollars.." "Guess what?" Biden continued. "Yes, we do, in one regard: We want to let that trillion dollar tax cut [i.e., whatever portion of the Bush-era tax cuts benefited high earners] expire so the middle class doesn't have to bear the burden of all that money going to the super-wealthy. That's not a tax raise. That's called fairness where I come from."
Biden Says Immigration Reform Is a Matter of "Dignity"
Speaking at the Conference on the Americas (in Washington, DC) on May 7, 2013, Biden said that every nation has to make “tough choices,” and continued: “In the United States, it means reforming our immigration system and 11 million undocumented men, women and children being able to come out of the shadows and be full participants in American life. Imagine that -- the dignity ... Granting them the dignity and respect they deserve.”
Keynote Speaker for J Street
In September 2013, Biden was the keynote speaker at J Street's 4th annual conference.
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Criticizes Biden
On January 7, 2014, Time magazine reported that in his soon-to-be-released memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, President Obama's former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, wrote the following about Biden: “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
In a January 12, 2014 interview, Gates told CBS News: “[W]here I have particular problem with the vice president was in his encouragement of suspicion of the military and the senior military with the president. [Biden said] 'You can't trust these guys. They're gonna try and jam you. They're gonna try and box you in,' and so on. And that did disturb me a lot."
Biden's MLK Day Speech
On January 20, 2014, Biden spoke at the annual Martin Luther King Day Breakfast held by Al Sharpton's National Action Network. Condemning Republican-backed voter-identification laws, the VP said: "Our opponents know, they know, the single most dangerous thing to give us is the right to vote! They know what that is." Further, Biden criticized the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act which required certain states and localities with a history of pre-1965 discrimination to have any changes to their election laws cleared by the Justice Department or a federal court. “I have to admit, I never thought we’d be fighting the fight again on voting rights,” Biden remarked.
The vive president also said that the U.S. was:
"And it's way past time that we stop arguing whether every American has the right to adequate, affordable healthcare," added Biden. "Thanks to Barack Obama, that fight is over and we are not going back, period."
Claiming That Voter ID Laws Are Evidence of Racism and Hatred
During a Black History Month event on February 25, 2014, Biden expressed frustration with a recent Supreme Court ruling that had struck down a provision of the Voting Rights Act that required certain (mostly Southern) jurisdictions with a pre-1965 history of voting suppression to pre-clear any changes in their voting laws (such as the implementation of Voter ID requirements, or changes to early-voting or same-day-voting regulations -- with the Justice Department. Biden also claimed that new voter ID laws in North Carolina, Alabama and Texas were evidence of “hatred” and “zealotry.” Said the Vice President:
“At least 11 states have introduced legislation recently requiring voters to show ID at the polls, making existing voting laws more restrictive. Lawslike in North Carolina which imposed a new photo ID requirement, shortening early voting, and eliminating same-day registration and early voting. These guys never go away.... You guys [African Americans] know it, but it's an important lesson for me. Hatred never, never ultimately goes away.... The zealotry of those who wish to limit the franchise cannot be smothered by reason.... This fight has been too long, this fight has been too hard, to do anything other than win — not on the margins, but flat-out win.”
Biden Says Illegal Immigrants "Are Already Americans"
In a March 2014 speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Summit, Biden said:
"Eleven million people living in the shadows I believed are already American citizens. These people are just waiting, waiting for a chance to be able to contribute fully, and by that standard, 11 million undocumented aliens are already Americans in my view.... Teddy Roosevelt said it better. He said, Americanism is not a question of birthplace or creed or a line of descent. It’s a question of principles, idealism and character....
"It takes a whole hell of a lot of courage to be sitting at a wooden kitchen somewhere anywhere in the world and say, you know, 'I tell you what kids. Let’s all pick up and go to America where we don’t speak the language, where they don’t seem to want us, where it’s gonna be really, really rough to get there, but let’s go. Won’t that be fun?'
"All they want—they just want a decent life for their kids, a chance to contribute to a free society, a chance to put down roots and help build the next great American century. I really believe that. That’s what they’re fighting for."
In Midst of Border Crisis Involving Tens of Thousands of Illegal Minors, Biden Calls for Massive Numbers of New Immigrants
On June 6, 2014, the Obama administration announced that it would be paying approximately 100 American lawyers to help young illegal immigrants -- a rapidly growing demographic -- settle in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder said that these hundred-or-so attorneys -- dubbed “justice AmericaCorps” -- would “protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society … particularly young people who must appear in immigration proceedings.”
The number of youths illegally crossing the border into the southern U.S. had reached staggering proportions since 2012, when President Obama had announced that his administration would no longer deport minors who were in the country illegally, so long as they met certain basic requirements. Whereas in 2011 about 6,000 young people were apprehended by border personnel, government officials now estimated that the corresponding totals would exceed 90,000 by the end of 2014, and 140,000 in 2015 -- not including the many tens of thousands more who would avoid capture.
Notwithstanding this crisis -- and the fact that the open southern border left the U.S. vulnerable to infiltration by Islamic terrorists who had long been known to be working with Mexican drug cartels -- Biden, speaking at a National Association of Manufacturers’ meeting, called for a "constant, unrelenting stream" of new immigrants — "not dribbling [but] significant flows" that could bolster the national economy. "We need it badly from a purely — purely economic point of view,’ said Biden. The vice president later tweeted: "The final thing we need to do together is pass immigration reform … We need it badly. -VP at manufacturing summit."
As the Daily Mail reported, Biden's comments came as border patrol agents were "appealing to the federal government to help with the thousands of illegal children pouring across the border."
Profligate Use of Taxpayer Money for Personal Flights
In August 2014, the Daily Mail reported that according to author Ronald Kessler's forthcoming book, The First Family Detail, Vice President Biden had spent more than a $1 million of taxpayers' money traveling on Air Force Two for weekend and day trips between Washington, DC and his home in Wilmington, Delaware. Kessler claimed that when he filed a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2013 to get accurate numbers on the dates, details, and costs of Biden's trips, the vice president's deputy counsel, Jessica Hertz, instructed the Air Force not to provide the data. According to Kessler, an Air Force officer once told him: "They are covering up. We spent a lot of time compiling the records, but Biden's office said logs for each flight would have to be consulted. This is a smokescreen to delay providing any records as long as possible." These actions by Biden and his operatives were "unprecedented," said Kessler, and contradictory to President Obama's pledge that his administration would "apply a presumption of openness" in fulfilling FOIA requests.
Eventually, Kessler learned that between January 2009 and March 2013, Biden had flown back and forth between DC and Wilmington 225 times. But as the Daily Mail noted, "those trips actually required a total of 400 flights ... because of what Kessler calls 'deadhead' trips -- return flights when Biden was not on the plane." All told, the cost of just the fuel and maintenance associated with those flights -- and not including the salaries of the Air force Two and helicopter crew members -- was $979,680.
A Secret Service agent reportedly told Kessler that "the Air Force Two guys pull their hair out over" Biden's same-day trips back and forth between DC and Wilmington. The agents were also especially vexed, said Kessler, when Biden would travel to Wilmington one day and then jet back to Andrews Air Force Base the next morning to play a five-hour round of golf with Obama while the plane waited on the tarmac at Andrews.
Moreover, Kessler noted that when Obama in 2011 had placed Biden in charge of the administration's Campaign to Cut government waste: (a) the president claimed that Biden would "hunt down and eliminate misspent tax dollars in every agency and department across the federal government," and (b) Biden told supporters of the administration that he was the "new sheriff in town."
Also in July 2014, broadcaster and bestselling author Mark Levin reported that an “incredibly good source” had informed him that Biden sometimes flew to Delaware, at taxpayer expense, to get his haircuts.
Use of Racial/Ethnic Slurs
At a September 16, 2014 conference marking the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Biden made reference to his own son having met fellow members of the U.S. military in Iraq who were in need of legal help because of foreclosures and other problems that they and their families were facing back at home. Said the vice president: "That's one of the things that he [Biden's son] finds was most in need when he was over there in Iraq for a year. That people would come to him and talk about what was happening to them at home in terms of foreclosures, in terms of bad loans that were being—I mean these Shylocks [predatory bankers] who took advantage of, um, these women and men while overseas." The remark created controversy because it derives from the name of a ruthless Jewish money-lender in Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice and is widely considered anti-Semitic.
The following day, Biden, while telling a story about Singapore's first prime minister at a "Nuns on the Bus" event in Des Moines, Iowa, said: "You know, on the way back from Mumbai ... I stopped in Singapore to meet with a guy named Lee Kuan Yew who most foreign policy experts around the world say is the wisest man in the Orient." As the Daily Mail subsequently explained, "The terms 'Orient' and 'Oriental' are generally appropriate for describing inanimate objects but not people."
Biden Calls for the "Emancipation" of Wealthy People's Money and Additional Government Spending on Education, Childcare, and Job Training
At a February 23, 2015 Black History Month event, Biden said: “A lot of wealthy white and black people aren't bad but they control 1 percent of the economy and this cannot stand.... It's not fair because the business experts are saying that concentration of wealth is stunting growth. So let's do something that's worthy of emancipation.... You know better than other groups that there is so much more to do. We find ourselves where a lot of disparities still exist.... We have a chance right now and in the next two years to make a fundamental change in that equation.... We know that 60 percent of jobs require a college education but middle class and poor folks have been left behind. That's why we're about changing the equation for working families in America and that's why the president is focused on childcare to job training to college help and education to free community colleges. This is the way to change the equation and shame on us if we miss the opportunity.”