On August 1, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (who is still bitter and man-hating over Michael Douglas dumping her for Catherine Zeta-Jones) wrote a piece about a possible Joe Biden run for the presidency titled: Joe Biden in 2016: What Would Beau Do? Beau, of course, is Joe Biden’s son who died of brain cancer in May of this year. What drove the column was this anecdote:
When Beau realized he was not going to make it, he asked his father if he had a minute to sit down and talk.
“Of course, honey,” the vice president replied.
At the table, Beau told his dad he was worried about him.
My kid’s dying, an anguished Joe Biden thought to himself, and he’s making sure I’m O.K.
“Dad, I know you don’t give a damn about money,” Beau told him, dismissing the idea that his father would take some sort of cushy job after the vice presidency to cash in.
Beau was losing his nouns and the right side of his face was partially paralyzed. But he had a mission: He tried to make his father promise to run, arguing that the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.
It is hard not to agree with that. Biden values seem to be confined to coasting along, earning the ‘gentleman’s C’ and fabulism rather than the egregious grifting we’ve come to expect of the Clintons.
Now we find out that Joe Biden, himself, pushed this story into the press.
Aug. 1, to be exact — the day renowned Hillary Clinton-critic Maureen Dowd published a column that marked a turning point in the presidential speculation.
According to multiple sources, it was Biden himself who talked to her, painting a tragic portrait of a dying son, Beau’s face partially paralyzed, sitting his father down and trying to make him promise to run for president because “the White House should not revert to the Clintons and that the country would be better off with Biden values.”
It was no coincidence that the preliminary pieces around a prospective campaign started moving right after that column. People read Dowd and started reaching out, those around the vice president would say by way of defensive explanation. He was just answering the phone and listening.
But in truth, Biden had effectively placed an ad in The New York Times, asking them to call.
Before that moment and since, Biden has told the Beau story to others. Sometimes details change — the setting, the exact words. The version he gave Dowd delivered the strongest punch to the gut, making the clearest swipe at Clinton by enshrining the idea of a campaign against her in the words of a son so beloved nationally that his advice is now beyond politics. This campaign wouldn’t be about her or her email controversy, the story suggests, but connected to righteousness on some higher plane.
“Calculation sort of sounds crass, but I guess that’s what it is,” said one person who’s spoken to Biden about the prospect of running recently. “The head is further down the road than the heart is.”
Once I took a crisis communications course under a nationally recognized authority on the subject. During a break I was talking to him about the power of anecdotes. He was, he said, against manufacturing anecdotes out of whole cloth but he believed that someone of even moderate intelligence could create anecdotes by steering a conversation in a certain direction. There is at least as good a chance of that happening as a fatally ill Beau Biden encouraging his father to run for president. Of course, given the way Joe Biden makes stuff up, now we really have to question if this anecdote is true… or if this just the Neil Kinnock speech being recycled.