Posted: Oct. 21, 2015


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

From two Bidens in the public theater to none. Something in Delaware just went click.

Joe Biden made his peace with posterity and the wayward Irishness of life when he walked into the Rose Garden on a sparkling Wednesday afternoon to declare his un-candidacy for president.

He talked about a window that had closed. That was not supposed to be the metaphor that took him out of office, whenever it came. It was supposed to be a handoff to Beau, a passing of the torch, as it were, to the son who would be governor and then who knows what else.

Instead, there came the click.

Add Joe to the changes that seem to be leaving this state more frayed than it was.

Ellen Kullman out at DuPont, which continues be the incredible shrinking company. Click.

The disregard for the civility that used to be the bedrock of state politics, as in the words of the Republican state chair, who would offer no laurel leaves to Joe but jeered, "Today is his final day in the political sun." Click.

It will not be the same without Joe, who commanded the political stage in Delaware like nobody else for a run that will have lasted 45 years. 

What a thrilling, exhausting, tragic, maddening, uplifting extravaganza it has been, ridin' with Biden, as the saying goes.

Nobody promised him a rose garden, even if Obama lent him one for this day, and Joe never expected one. All he ever expected for himself was he would get up if he got knocked down, and he knew that was coming.

As Joe once said on the Senate floor, "To fail to understand that life is going to knock you down is to fail to understand the Irishness of life."

From the beginning, there was the preposterous election of this 29-year-old Democrat, equal parts smart and smart-aleck, from the New Castle County Council to the U.S. Senate in an upset of Caleb Boggs, a beloved Republican who had been in office almost all of Joe's life.

Only weeks later, the giddiness of victory was swamped by the heart-and-soul-breaking loss from the car crash that took Neilia -- "the sweetest flower of all the field" -- and Amy and left the tiny frames of Beau and Hunter badly broken.

Joe came back. He came all the way back, as the boys recovered and he and Jill got married and they had Ashley.

Then there was the exuberance of the 1988 presidential campaign, when Delaware was riding high with two candidates in the field, Joe for the Democrats and Pete du Pont for the Republicans, only to have it all snuffed out when Joe self-destructed, beset by accusations of serial plagiarism, and Pete lost in the conventional way.

It got worse, when Joe nearly died from brain aneurysms, but he came back, he came all the way back from near-death and near-political death, and not even the unseemly spectacles of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings he chaired for Robert Bork, who did not get to the bench, and Clarence Thomas, who did, could derail him.

He became a leading Democratic voice on foreign policy. He gave a speech at the National Press Club in Washington on Sept. 10, 2001, the day before the terrorist attacks, warning, "The real threats [will] come into this country in the hold of a ship, or the belly of a plane, or are smuggled into a city in the middle of the night in a vial in a backpack."

Joe was rising, and he was not rising alone. It was not just Joe anymore but Joe and Beau, the senator and the attorney general, dominating state politics, as Joe tried again for president and wound up the vice president.

Then Beau was gone, lying in honor, and life tumbled in on itself, and Joe had to get himself up one more devastating time.

He has been called the most consequential vice president in American history, and never mind those silly moments like the open microphone when Joe called Obamacare a "BFD."

People inside the Beltway might have called him "Crazy Uncle Joe," but people in Delaware called him "Our Joe," because ridin' with Biden has been right up there with Caesar Rodney's ride.

Click. Thank heavens, as Joe bowed out, he called himself a kid from Delaware, not Scranton.