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Dreams of His Father
A father's ultra woke wisdom for the time
President Biden speaks constantly of his father’s influence on his political thought and leadership. Joe Biden, Sr., according to his successful son, instilled a strong sense of the importance of dignity in the workplace. “‘Joey…’” the President recently related, speaking of his father’s advice. “‘Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect.’”
Biden fils repeats this apothegm constantly…though it remains unclear how it has applied to his own life. Despite claims that he was offered a job working in the timber industry in Idaho or that he was a long-distance trucker, it appears that Biden only worked for a few years in the private sector, for politically connected law firms, and was elected to the U.S. Senate at the age of 29. His sister made a career of managing his campaigns, and his two brothers both profited handsomely from their association with their famous relative. For example, his brother Frank is a “senior advisor (non-attorney)” for the Boca Raton Berman Law Group, a personal injury firm, and his other brother Jim has spent his entire adult life using his sibling’s connections for advancement.
Hunter Biden’s professional exploits have been amply covered. Suffice to say that neither “dignity” nor “respect” are the primary words that come to mind when one reviews his highly remunerative labor on the boards of Burisma Holdings and BHR Partners. Joe Biden’s father’s own career seems somewhat mysterious, with unexplained peripeteia and sudden changes in fortune that led him into a variety of sales jobs in different cities, culminating (perhaps) with a sinecure at the dodgy Council for Labor and Industry in the 1980s.
But the weird thing is when President Biden ascribes opinions to his father that are outside the realm of kitchen-table talk about the value of work. In these cases, his dad is forced to ventriloquize opinions that make absolutely no sense in their ostensible context.
For instance, shortly before the 2020 election, Biden held a televised “town hall” with ABC News. Asked how, as president, he would protect the rights of transgender people, Biden explained, “I will flat out just change the law. Every—eliminate those executive orders, number one.” His commitment to the LGBTQ community, he said, was something that was deeply ingrained in his consciousness, dating back to the Kennedy administration.
One weekday afternoon in 1962, he said, his father dropped him off in Wilmington, “the corporate capital of the world at that time,” in order to get an application for a summer job as a lifeguard at a swimming pool. He witnessed a scene that would have startled any teenage boy. “And these two men, well dressed, leaned up and hugged one another and kissed one another. And I’m getting out of the car at the light and I turn to my dad. My dad looked at me and said Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.”
It’s one thing to imagine a gay couple in 1962 smooching in an ill-lit Greenwich Village barroom; it’s quite another to picture it happening in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, which was (and still is) something of a small town, in a state which in 1962 still actively prosecuted sodomy, and was one of only three states that prohibited probation for people convicted of “crimes against nature.” And it’s still another to imagine a supposedly devout Catholic father of four counseling his teenage son, some sixty years avant la lettre, that love is love.
We hear this sort of thing from beyond the grave of Joe Biden, Sr. a lot. Speaking in October at the opening of the Dodd Center for Human Rights, Biden explained that his dad and Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Jackson had a lot in common when it came to the question of collective guilt. “Whenever we hear that kind of poisonous hatred, wherever we see our fellow humans being dehumanized, it doesn’t mean we go to war, but we must speak out,” explained the President. “Silence—as my dad would remind me—silence is complicity. Silence is complicity. That’s what Nuremberg said: Your silence is complicity.”
Biden’s father was also irate about the failure of the American military to stop the Holocaust. In remarks to the Jewish community in advance of Rosh Hashanah this year, he related that he “was raised by a righteous Christian, a father who—who made sure that we—we had—we had dinner where we incidentally ate and we talked. And my father—my father was the one who was—would rail against the fact that—what—we didn’t bomb railroad tracks in World War Two and all.”
It’s harmless enough, one supposes, to listen to an old man ramble on about his father’s wisdom. Though it might go down a little easier if what he supposedly said didn’t all sound like MSNBC talking points.