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Immovably fascinated by the world; it's properties, people, conditions, sensations, irony,
and all the amazing moments which, whether by enlightenment or scarring, bring about permanent change.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

amtrak joe

Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr.
47th US vice president
u.s. secret service codename: "celtic" (referencing his irish roots)

"Just talk to me as a father - not what the Constitution says. What do you feel?" -joe

born november 20, 1942 in scranton, pennsylvania
his family moved to delaware when he was ten years old.

from his childhood until his twenties, he spoke with a stutter.
to overcome it, he spent long hours reciting poetry in front of a mirror.

"The art of living is simply getting up after you've been knocked down." -joe

at the university of delaware, rather than studying,
he was more interested in sports and socializing
("although his classmates were impressed by his cramming abilities").
he dropped a junior year plan to play varsity football,
enabling him to spend more time with his out-of-state girlfriend.

having asthma as a teenager, he was not available for service in vietnam.
nor was he part of the anti-war movement.
occupied with marriage and law, he "wore sports coats ... not tie-dyed."

joe is a teetotaler (abstinent from alcohol)
due to negative impressions of drinking in his family.

"A lot's going to happen this summer. And even after the summer." -joe
[i took this out of context, and i like it that way]


* amtrak joe *

(joe's name on his senate desk, which was also the desk of jfk)

1969 he became an attorney.
1970 got elected to county council.
1972 was the 6th youngest senator in US history,
re-elected to senate six times,
was the 15th longest serving senator in history,
and the 4th most senior senator upon resignation.
he set the mark for youngest senator to cast 10,000 votes.

that year, joe's family went christmas shopping
(wife- Neilia, older son- Beau, younger son- Hunter, and one-year-old daughter).
their station wagon pulled out of an intersection, and was hit by a tractor-trailer.
the two sons were critically injured.
his wife and daughter were died.

"After my first wife and daughter were killed, my boys were banged up badly,
and I had those aneurysms that didn't give me a big chance of living,
my dad sent me a little three-paneled cartoon: Hägar the Horrible.
I still have it on my desk.
Hägar is in his Viking boat with his horn helmet,
rowing away when a bolt of lightning comes out of the sky. Hägar gets charred.
He looks up at heaven and says, 'Why me, God?'
And God comes back with 'Why not?' " -joe

the senate majority in washington, convinced him not to resign to care for his family,
so to be at home every day for his young sons in the Wilmington suburbs,
joe rode the amtrak train, 1.5hrs, each way, every day.
(this practice continued throughout his senate career.
earning the nickname "amtrak joe".
in '11, the wilmington station was renamed after him,
in honor of his 7k+ trips from there.)

the accident left joe confused, angry, and with trouble focusing.
"I liked to [walk around seedy neighborhoods] at night
when I thought there was a better chance of finding a fight...
I had not known I was capable of such rage...
I felt God had played a horrible trick on me."
at work, he appeared to just go through the motions of being a senator.
staffers were taking bets on how long he would last.

"My mom would say, 'Joey, as long as a person's alive, they have the obligation to strive.
They're not dead until they've seen the face of God.'
So you just have to get your ass up — no matter what." -joe

he was a single father for five years.
joe left standing orders to be interrupted in the senate
at any time, if either of his sons called.
he does not work on december 18, the anniversary of the accident.

Beau became a Delaware Attorney General and an Army Judge Advocate serving in Iraq.
Hunter is a Washington attorney and lobbyist.

"My dad used to say,
'You know you're a success when you look at your kids
and realize they turned out better than you.'
I am a success.
But I should have had one Republican
who wanted to be an investment banker and make a lot of money
so that when they put me in a home, I get a window with a view." -joe
"Does it feel like home or a thirty-three-room mansion?
It feels like home for one reason:
Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday night,
one of my granddaughters comes and hangs out." -joe
"My deceased wife used to say,
'Joe, the greatest gift God gave to mankind was the ability to forget.'
To which my mother would always add,
'If that weren't the case, women would only have one child.' " -joe

consistently ranked as one of the least wealthy members of the senate
his net worth is $59k - $366k (with almost none investment or outside income)

"There was an article in the newspaper. It said something like,
'It's probable no vice-president has ever assumed the office
with fewer assets than Vice-President Biden.'
I assume they were talking about financial assets." -joe
"I still have my 1967 Goodwood-green Corvette, 327, 350-horse,
with a rear-axle ratio that really gets up and goes.
The Secret Service won't let me drive it.
I'm not allowed to drive anything.
It's the one thing I hate about this job.
I'm serious." -joe


* support *

"My rights are not derived from any government.
My rights are not denied by any majority.
My rights are because I exist." -joe
"Nobody owes you a living. But everyone's entitled to dignity." -joe

in '94, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (aka the Biden Crime Law)
and the landmark Violence Against Women Act,
contain a broad array of measures to combat domestic violence,
and provides billions of dollars in federal funds to address gender-based crimes.
joe said, "I consider the Violence Against Women Act
the single most significant legislation that I’ve crafted
during my 35-year tenure in the senate."

"My definition of power is the ability to help people." -joe
"All our differences hardly measure up to the values we all hold in common." -joe
“There’s no political point worth anybody’s life out there. None.” -joe

biden believes that life begins at conception,
but he's not going to impose his personal religious views on others.
because of his support for abortion rights,
his own catholic church does not allow him to speak at catholic schools,
and was barred from receiving holy communion
by the bishop of his original hometown.
joe continues to receive communion at his local delaware parish.

he has collaborated effectively with important republicans
sometimes going went against elements of his own party.
(which i respect. neither party is all-wrong or all-right)
he has given speeches which simultaneously scold and encourage democrats.

"[he] occupies the sensible center of the Democratic Party...
...he plans to stress the dangers to the security of the average american,
not just from the terrorist threat,
but from the lack of health assistance, crime,
and energy dependence on unstable parts of the world."
- harry f. themal (delaware newspaper columnist) in '06

"If they can’t identify the enemy or describe the war we’re fighting,
it’s difficult to see how we will win." -joe
"This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power." -joe
"Let's just be smart this time. I'm looking for smart." -joe

he says american businesses (and economic competitiveness) have two major threats:
high health care and energy costs
he opposes drilling for oil in the artic.

joe co-sponsored:
- the Sense of the Senate resolution,
which calls on the u.s. to be a part of the u.n. climate negotiations
- the Boxer-Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act,
the most stringent climate bill in senate

"It's hard to find a single project that everyone can see being created,
like the Hoover Dam or the interstate highway system.
The real answer is we need entire new industries." -joe
"the number-one job facing the middle class,
as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs." -joe
"For the world to follow, we must do more than rattle our sabers
and demand allegiance to our vision simply because we believe we are right.
We must provide a reason for others to aspire to that vision.
And that reason must come with more
than the repetition of a bumper-sticker phrase about freedom and democracy.
It must come with more than the restatement of failed policy.
It must come with the wisdom to admit when we are wrong
and resolve to change course and get it right." -joe
"After 9-11, the President had a historic opportunity to unite Americans
and the world in common cause.
Instead, by exploiting the politics of fear,
instigating an optional war in Iraq before finishing a necessary war in Afghanistan
and instituting policies on torture, detainees
and domestic surveillance that fly in the face of our values and interests,
President Bush divided Americans from each other and from the world." -joe

in '04, biden met with leader muammar gaddafi in tripoli,
and secured the brief release of libyan democracy activist and political prisoner; fathi eljahmi.

in a '08 speech to israel's knesset, president w. bush suggested that democrats were acting
in the same way some western leaders did when they appeased hitler in the run-up to ww2.
at this, biden stated: "this is bullsh*t. this is malarkey. this is outrageous.
outrageous for the president of the united states to go to a foreign country,
sit in the knesset ... and make this kind of ridiculous statement....
...since when does this administration think that if you sit down,
you have to eliminate the word 'no' from your vocabulary?"

...which is a perfect segway to:

* joe bombs *

"America, whose greatest strengths are her ideas and ideals,
has become afraid to talk." -joe
"If I had to parse through every single thing I'm going to say, then I'm not me." -joe

joe is a strong speaker, debater,
and a frequent and effective guest on talk shows.
he is known to deviate from prepared remarks at will.
(though, his questions and remarks during senate hearings
were especially known for being long-winded)
though, he has plagiarized in speeches,
lied about his college grades,
and let slip a few comments.

"You cannot go to a 7-11 or a Dunkin' Donuts
unless you have a slight Indian accent.... I'm not joking."

and especially in '07 when speaking about (then- fellow pres candidate) obama;
"I mean, you got the first mainstream african-american
who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,
I mean, that's a storybook, man."
this comment damaged his fund-raising capabilities, and undermined his campaign.

once under the obama campaign,
he was told to keep speeches succinct and avoid off-hand remarks.

according to wiki, obama was privately frustrated
("how many times is biden gonna say something stupid?")

obama campaign staffers referred to his blunders as "joe bombs"
and kept biden uninformed regarding strategies.

"[biden's loose talk is] part of what makes the vice president so endearing ...
we wouldn't change him one bit."
- valerie jarrett (senior obama advisor)

a self-proclaimed "genuine lover of ice cream,"
he stopped for a cone in a wisconsin,
the shop's manager casually asked him to "lower our taxes."
joe responded; "why don't you say something nice instead of being a smart-ass all the time?"
the manager later said the run-in with biden was "very nice"
and that joe had whispered he was just kidding.

"if there were no gaffes, there'd be no joe.
he's someone you can't help but like."
- lindsey graham (former senate colleague)

"Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified
than I am to be vice president of the United States of America.
Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me." -joe


* joe & barry: a love story *

relations between the two campaigns were strained,
until biden apologized on a call to obama and the two built a stronger partnership.

once they discovered barry's daughter and joe's granddaughter attend the same school,
they formed something of a friendship, despite their different personalities.

when obama and biden met in secret to discuss a possible vice-presidential relationship,
and the two hit it off well personally.

he brought to the obama ticket:
- aggressive challenge to republican candidate mccain
(which barack seemed uncomfortable doing),
- appeal to middle class and blue-collar voters,
- foreign policy and national security experience

"The first discussion, as we sat around this big table
on the eightieth floor of some building in Chicago during the interregnum period,
was with a group of about thirty economists.
We weren't talking about reorganizing banks during that meeting.
We were talking about banks going out of business.
We were talking about doors being shuttered.
The action that the president took — and some of the antecedent actions on TARP —
literally saved the economy from going off a cliff and the world going into a depression.
Everyone forgets that now, especially our banker friends." -joe
"What I'm amazed about is the guy's courage.
The decisions the president makes day in and day out
are decisions that nobody sees.
Trust me, if you had to make only one of those decisions,
you'd be telling your grandchildren about it." -joe
"Barack Obama has a vision of American greatness
based not just on our unmatched military might,
but on our economic, intellectual, and moral strengths.
They were once the envy of the world.
They can be again." -joe
"[david] axelrod really wanted me to do this on teleprompter,
but I told him I'm much better when I wing it.
I know these evenings run long, so I'm going to be brief.
Talk about the audacity of hope.
President Obama does send his greetings, though.
He can't be here tonight, because he's busy getting ready for Easter.
He thinks it's about him." -joe (at the 2009 gridiron dinner)

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