Thursday, August 27, 2009

Media Wake, Biden Tears

The etiquette of celebrity death brings the usual talking heads--calculating Orrin Hatch on PBS, loathsome Joe Lieberman on Larry King--with me-me-me tributes to Ted Kennedy but largely unseen is Joe Biden with an authentic outpouring of human grief.

In an era when empathy is an accusation, the Vice President is an anachronism--a politician often demeaned right and left for speaking his mind and heart, exposing himself to political ridicule.

Yesterday morning, in a routine appearance at the Department of Energy, Biden could not suppress tears along with memories of a friendship that endured for decades:

"He stood with me when my wife and daughter were killed in an accident. He was on the phone with me literally every day in the hospital, my two children were attempting, and, God willing, thankfully survived very serious injuries. I'd turn around and there would be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me."

Biden was 29 when he came to the Senate, Kennedy had been 30. "He and I were talking after his diagnosis," the Vice President recalled. "And I said, I think you're the only other person I've met more optimistic, more enthusiastic, more idealistic, sees greater possibilities after 36 years."

Although Kennedy improved the lives of millions, Biden recalled, he "never was petty. He was never small. And in the process...he made everybody he worked with bigger--both his adversaries as well as his allies.

"Don't you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century serving in the Senate had so many of his foes embracing him, because they know he made them bigger, he made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself?"

In many ways, Ted Kennedy will be irreplaceable, but Joe Biden remains as an exemplar of truth-telling and passionate idealism.


Holte Ender said...

I really enjoyed reading that, gave me a new look at Biden.

Joe Hornbaker said...

Biden has his blowhard moments, being a politician, after all. But his grief was indeed genuine, and his tribute moving.

Fuzzy Slippers said...

I think that this says a great deal about Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden, but I think that it also says a great deal about what Obama lacks and why he'll never be mourned or missed as Ted Kennedy is and will be.