Posted: Nov. 11, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

The fixation on Double Down, the new behind-the-scenes book about the 2012 presidential election, has chiefly been about the secret flirtation with the idea of swapping out Joe Biden as vice president for Hillary Clinton.

That, and the co-authors' style, especially their vocabulary, which was critiqued at length Sunday in The New York Times Book Review by Michael Kinsley, the editor at large at The New Republic. Why write that Chris Christie had a "coriaceous" hide? (It means leather-like.)

Still, there was something else that could get the attention particularly of Delawareans.

It is an account of the stroke that befell Beau Biden, the vice presidential son, in 2010 during his first term as the Democratic attorney general.

Mark Halperin and John Heilimann write:

"Since the death of his first wife and infant daughter in a 1972 car crash, Biden had maintained a close bond with his two sons, who survived the accident, and always lived in fear of the next mortal phone call. The stroke was publicly described as minor, but in fact was life-threatening. There were initial questions about how full his recovery would be. (He suffered partial paralysis for months.)"

It is enough for Double Down to cause a double take.

"The book is completely inaccurate. There were many, many independent accounts that refute this assertion in the book," said Molly Magarik, who runs Beau Biden's political operation.

Begin with the doctor. Robert Rosenwasser, who treated Biden at the Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience in Philadelphia, issued a statement on May 18, 2010, a week after the stroke, to say he was sending Biden home after finding "his neurological status perfect in all areas including motor skills, language function and cognitive assessment."

There was also this video, flagged by Magarik, from NBC News showing Biden leaving the hospital:

In the weeks afterward, plenty of people could judge for themselves with Biden striding through Hockessin in the Fourth of July parade in 90-degree heat and speaking at the Sussex County Democratic Jamboree in late August at Cape Henlopen.

Why the book would describe Biden's stroke the way it did is a mystery. Double Down comes without footnotes or sourcing beyond the co-authors' note that they conducted lengthy interviews with more than 400 people and culled through vast quantities of e-mail, memos, notes, and audio and visual recordings.

The text is 473 pages long and about an inch deep. The characterization of Biden's stroke is part of a single paragraph, and all of the recent hyperventilation about Hillary-for-Joe arises from a throwaway three paragraphs.

Ironically the book resurrects questions about Biden's health two months or so after another medical scare, the one that sent him to Houston for what the family vaguely called a "successful procedure" but has yet to be given any public explanation by an attending doctor.

There was no hesitation about setting the record straight on Beau Biden's health then. What a contrast to the way it is now.