Posted: Aug. 20, 2013


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Life was looking good for the Bidens. Uh-oh.

Joe Biden was being seen as right up there with the best of the vice presidents, as well as riding high on the short list, along with Hillary Clinton, for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.

Beau Biden was zipping toward re-election next year for a third term as Delaware's Democratic attorney general, no Republican opponent in sight, and increasingly regarded as a frontrunner for governor in 2016.

Now Beau Biden, who is 44, has gone to Houston, his wife Hallie and his father with him, for a medical evaluation that news outlets are saying is taking place at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Not again. Life has turned upside down for the Biden family.

"To fail to understand that life is going to knock you down is to fail to understand the Irishness of life," Joe Biden once said in a speech to the Senate, a sentiment he borrowed from the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, another Irish-Catholic senator.

Enough is enough.

Joe Biden got himself elected to the Senate in 1972 in a spectacular upset, made even more so because he was still technically ineligible to serve until his 30th birthday a few weeks later, but by Christmastime, the celebration had turned to devastation.

A car accident took the lives of his wife and 13-month old daughter and seriously injured Beau Biden, then three years old, and Hunter Biden, his brother who was two, and it was almost more than Joe Biden could manage to go ahead and assume office.

As for Beau Biden, he spent a year in Iraq as a JAG officer with the National Guard and came home, the danger surely behind him, only it was not. Within months he was hospitalized in 2010 with a mild stroke, when he was scarily only 41.

It was not even the first alarm about Beau Biden's health, aside from the car accident. As a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department in 2000, he was proud to volunteer for an assignment in Kosovo, but he had to leave early after coming down with a mysterious illness that left him weak for months.

Before Beau Biden experienced symptoms last week his office described as "feeling weak and disoriented," he was set for a rousing round of political events, a prelude to his re-election campaign that was widely being viewed as a dress rehearsal for the governor's race.

There was supposed to be a fund-raiser Wednesday at the Lewes Yacht Club, a big draw for the smart set, and an appearance Saturday at the annual Sussex County Democratic Jamboree at Cape Henlopen, but for now, everything is up in the air.

"I'm told the fund-raiser is still on, and if he cannot be there, the campaign will send a surrogate," said Mitch Crane, the Sussex County Democratic chair.

The same goes for the beach jamboree.

The Irishness of life does not just knock people down. It can pick them up, as the Bidens also know.

There was another marriage for Joe Biden with Jill Biden and another daughter and now a riot of grandchildren, some of them from Beau Biden's family and some from Hunter Biden's.

There was also the time Joe Biden was hounded off the presidential trail because of brutal political mistakes he made, trying for the 1988 nomination, or else he probably would have tried to tough out the killer headaches he was having.

It looked like a low, low point. Fortunately, though, he had returned to his usual schedule, so he paid attention to the headaches and went for treatment. The cause turned out to be brain aneurysms, and it was touch-and-go to keep him alive.

Not only did Joe Biden survive, he renewed himself and got to be the vice president.

The Irishness does not have to mean life will go wrong. Say it ain't so, Beau. Please, say it ain't so.