Posted: Sept. 8, 2015
By Celia Cohen
There is always the voice inside, the one that says, "Get up!"
It is the legacy Joe Biden was left by his father, Joe Sr., so profoundly so that it was the framework for Promises to Keep, the memoir released in 2007, right before the presidential run that became the vice presidential run.
"He had no time for self-pity. He didn't judge a man by how many times he got knocked down but by how fast he got up. Get up! That was his phrase, and it has echoed through my life. The world dropped you on your head? My dad would say, Get up! You're lying in bed feeling sorry for yourself? Get up!" Biden wrote.
"The newspapers are calling you a plagiarist, Biden? Get up! Your wife and daughter -- I'm sorry, Joe, there was nothing we could do to save them? Get up!"
Now that his beloved Beau is gone, the words must be an inferno, and maybe one way to get up is to run for president, but they are not the only words, because there is also the heart-of-his-heart voice, the one that comes from Jill.
Biden was not kidding when he heard a shout of run-for-president from the Labor Day crowd in Pittsburgh and numerous news outlets reported what he said back.
"I got to talk to my wife about that," Biden said.
Presidential races are Jill's call. They have been her call since 1988, when the election for the White House was wide open as Reagan was finishing up his two terms and the prospects for Biden were promising, maybe even formidable.
As Biden wrote in his memoir, her instinct was to warn him off, but he plunged ahead, until just before he formally declared in September 1987, when he found he had doubts himself. She told him he could not turn back then, because too many people had upended their lives for his candidacy, and they were counting on him.
As it played out, of course, Jill's instinct was right, as the campaign blew up amid plagiarism charges and the venomous atmosphere of the Senate hearings Biden chaired on the doomed nomination of Robert Bork for the Supreme Court.
They sat out Clinton in 1992 and 1996 and Gore in 2000, but Biden was itching to try again in 2004, when Bush-the-son was up for re-election. Biden assembled a command structure for a campaign and lined up some contributions, only to shut everything down in August 2003 when the time, in presidential terms, was getting short.
Sometime afterwards, he went to explain his decision at -- where else? -- the Sussex County Democratic Jamboree, the place he always goes when his life is unsettled and he needs to bring himself back. He said Jill was against a run.
"It would be like parachuting in," Biden said then. "Jill was not willing to do that now. She said, 'Why don't you wait until next time and just march in? I'm tired of parachuting in.'"
It turned out Jill really meant what she said. With the 2008 election coming, Biden was convinced she would be against it again, mostly because of the toll it would take on the family. She called a family meeting to give him the word, as he recounted in his memoir:
"We've been meeting," Jill said, and I realized they'd really thought about how to say this to me.
Then I heard Jill again. "I want you to run this time," she said. "It's up to you, but we'll support it."
So for 2016? Ask her, not him.
What must really be brutally tantalizing is Biden's standing appears to be the best it has ever been, both as a political figure and a policymaker, in 45 years of public life.
Biden has been on fire politically since the column by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times set off a boomlet in early August for him to run, after she wrote it was Beau's dying wish, although she did not explain how she knew. Seance?
Funny it was Maureen Dowd. She was the one whose front-page story accusing Biden of plagiarizing from Neil Kinnock, a British politician, loosed the fury that drove him out of the 1988 race.
Biden's national stature is so high, he was just named "likely to be the most consequential two-term vice president in American history" in a column last week by Joel Goldstein, a professor who is a noted scholar of the vice presidency at Saint Louis University School of Law. In American history.
Here in Delaware, he can figure on riding into posterity with Caesar Rodney.
Is it enough? Ask her, not him.