Six weeks after the death of his elder son, Vice President Joe Biden has thrown himself back into his work, meeting with foreign leaders, giving speeches and even cheering on the women’s national soccer team in its victory over Japan in the World Cup.
WASHINGTON — Six weeks after the death of his elder son, Vice President Joe Biden has thrown himself back into his work, meeting with foreign leaders, giving speeches and even cheering on the women’s national soccer team in its victory over Japan in the World Cup in British Columbia. Unsurprisingly, in the shadow of tragedy, he is not his typically ebullient self. But by all accounts he is feeling his way forward and trying to figure out what comes next.
He has not ruled out running for president again, and some friends are nudging him to, even if the political math does not seem to favor it. But he has good days and bad days, his mind never far from his late son, Beau Biden, and his staff is not planning further than two weeks ahead.
“This is not a guy who is going to go easily,” said former Sen. Ted Kaufman, a longtime confidant appointed to fill Biden’s seat representing Delaware in the Senate after the 2008 election elevated him to the vice presidency. “Whatever he’s doing, he’s going to stay involved.”
Whether that means another campaign remains unclear. Biden, 72, has 18 months left in his current job, and advisers said he felt a duty to its responsibilities. It has also been therapeutic to get back to the White House and focus on issues like clean energy and foreign policy. Among his assignments are the dicey challenges of Ukraine and Iraq. And just over the horizon is another potential budget battle.
Most Read Nation & World Stories
- The Gateses’ public split spotlights a secretive fortune, with a hush-hush Kirkland entity at the center
- Beneath Biden’s folksy demeanor, a short fuse and an obsession with details
- Wild horses adopted under a federal program are going to slaughter
- Greene searched Capitol office building for Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, 2019 video shows
- Sports on TV & radio: Local listings for Seattle games and events
Since returning to work, he has met with the prime minister of Ukraine, the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, the president of Brazil, the president of Honduras, the prime minister of Canada and the prime minister of Mongolia, while also making calls to other world leaders. On Monday, he will participate in the United States-Ukraine Business Forum and later give a speech on India at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Biden is not ready to talk about the future and did not respond to a request for an interview. But he is seen in a different light for the moment. Wherever he goes these days, he receives condolences. Indeed, Biden’s grief has been so public, so human, in a way not seen in a sitting president or vice president in many years, that it has struck a nerve in Washington and beyond.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican presidential candidate, choked up while talking to a video crew from the Huffington Post about Biden. “I called him after Beau died, and he basically said, ‘Well, Beau was my soul,’ ” Graham said with tears in his eyes.
When Graham retired from the Air Force Reserve, he noted, Biden made a point of attending the ceremony. “He’s the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics,” Graham said. “He is as good a man as God ever created. And we don’t agree on much, but I think he’s been dealt a really gut blow.”
Many already knew Biden’s history of gut blows, especially the death of his wife and year-old daughter in a car accident weeks after his first election to the Senate in 1972. But with the death of Beau from brain cancer at 46, they saw someone struggling again to bear the unbearable, this time on an even bigger public stage.
As his son’s body lay in honor in Legislative Hall in Dover, Delaware, Biden stood for five hours straight greeting visitors. At the public viewing in Wilmington the next day, he stood receiving mourners for 10 hours without a break. “His ability to provide comfort to others at a time of his own tragedy is unlike anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware.
Mark Gitenstein, a longtime aide and friend, said the vice president had become “America’s father” as people watched him cope with grace and humanity. “One of the most touching and reaffirming silver linings in this awful period has been the rest of America has seen the Joe Biden that I’ve seen for over 30 years,” he said.