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Joe Biden - Evan Osnos

Last updated Aug 29, 2023


# Metadata

# Highlights

People pay for what they do, and, still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply: by the lives they lead. —James Baldwin, No Name in the Street (Location 13) - Tags: orange

# Prologue

Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable. (Location 45) - Tags: orange

# CHAPTER 1 Annus Horribilis

“Everybody knows, even people supporting him: this is all about his self-interest. It’s all about him,” he told me. “It has had profound impacts on people’s ability to live their life.” Still, he conceded, it might not suffice to change voters’ minds. (Location 133)

“These were really the most open, the least prejudiced, the brightest, the best-educated generation in American history. (Location 189)

When the news of his death arrived he wrote in a statement for the press: “For parents trying to answer their children’s questions about what to make of the world we are in today, teach them about John Lewis.” (Location 214)

# CHAPTER 2 What It Took

Biden’s insecurities fed a certain openness and vulnerability. (Location 254)

His tendency to say out loud what others in Washington said in private caused him trouble at work. (Location 275)

The New Deal and the G.I. Bill gave them benefits, loans, and federal work programs, which thrust millions of white Americans into the middle class. (Location 305)

He kept a pen and pad beside his bed and rated each day from one to ten, to track his progress. (Location 397)

# CHAPTER 3 “Grow Up”

in 2007, Biden finally put aside the excuses about his failed presidential campaign. “The bottom line was, I made a mistake, and it was born out of my arrogance,” he told a reporter. “I didn’t deserve to be president.” (Location 468)

Julianne Smith, his former deputy national security advisor, told me. “And it doesn’t even matter what the political stripes are: he knows conservatives, he knows social democrats, because, over thirty-five-plus years, everybody came to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.” (Location 550)

Jill Biden urged him to reconsider. She told me, “I was angry at George Bush for getting us into that war. To me, it was so senseless.” She had pushed her husband to run for president, because, she said, “You’ve got to end that war.” Now the vice presidency was another chance. Moreover, she added, “Joe started out in politics because of civil rights. And then for this to evolve and then come to this historic moment, with the first Black man ever elected to be president of the United States, and for Joe to be a major part of that, I thought was really almost a fairy tale.” (Location 553)

# CHAPTER 4 Veep

Obama admired his feisty debate performance, his knowledge of foreign leaders, and his connections in D.C. (Location 571)

Over lunch at the White House, Biden raised the PR problem, saying that a divide would harm both of them. Obama agreed; he promised to watch his words. “The vice president asked for one thing,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s first chief of staff, recalled. “That he could always comment, would never be shut down, and he’d be the last guy in the room to talk to him. And the president lived up to that commitment.” Likewise, Biden said, “The deal the president asked for was that we would each commit that, when anything was on our minds, when something the other was doing was bothering us, we’d say so.” (Location 588)

Until recently, vice presidents were a long way from power. (Location 595)

in the decades after the Second World War, as the speed and the range of White House decisions grew, vice presidential power rose. (Location 597)

In Joe Biden’s political vocabulary, nothing was more important than being “in the deal.” (Location 602)

Biden told me, adding, “The hardest action to take as a leader, as a parent, as a politician, as a priest, whatever it is, is the one that prevents the bad thing,” because you can never prove that you prevented something worse. (Location 616)

like much in Biden’s life, his relationship to Obama was built on loyalty. Once you become vice president, Biden said, “you have an obligation to back up whatever he does, unless you have a fundamental moral dilemma with what he’s doing.” He added, “If I ever got to that point, I’d announce I had prostate cancer and I had to leave.” (Location 707)

Leon Panetta, who headed the CIA and, later, the Pentagon, for Obama, told me that Obama recognized a gap in his experience and his skills. (Location 717)

# CHAPTER 5 Envoy

Biden was determined not to get the United States drawn into a regional conflict; he had no illusions about Putin’s intentions. He was still alarmed, more than a decade later, by George W. Bush’s misreading in 2001, that Putin was “very straightforward and trustworthy.” Bush said he “was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.” (Location 854)

# CHAPTER 6 The Lucky and the Unlucky

One of his aides told me that Biden saw himself as “the shark that has to keep swimming to stay alive.” (Location 987)

“How I measure somebody, whether it’s playing sports, running a company, or in public life, is how much passion they still have. How much they tackle the job. I mean, tackle it.” He knocked on a wooden side table beside the sofa and said, “I know from experience I could be ill. I could be a cancer victim or have a heart attack. That’s another reason why my dad used to say, ‘Never argue with your wife about something that’s going to happen more than a year from now.’ ” (Location 1066)

Over the years, Hunter had worked at a bank, a lobbying firm, and a hedge fund, but his father kept his distance, to avoid accusations of a conflict of interest. (Location 1121)

# CHAPTER 7 Battle for the Soul

Biden had recently called Hill to express his regrets, but the call had left her unsatisfied. “I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability (Location 1216)

The incident seemed to hasten abrupt changes in the national mood. Within days, the National Football League reversed its position on kneeling during the national anthem. Booksellers across the country were swamped with orders for books about racism and Black history. (Location 1301)

AOC is someone I like a lot. She said that she wouldn’t vote for him in the primary, and that in a different country she would be in a different party from him. And he could have responded to that by being, like, ‘Fuck you.’ But instead he responded to that by being, like, ‘How about you come in and write my climate policy?’ ” (Location 1358)

he told me that he would push for legislation: a measure, proposed by Warren, to forbid companies to use excess revenues to purchase their own stock, rather than to invest in wage increases or in research. (Location 1387)

# CHAPTER 8 Planning a Presidency

“The strategy is: go fast, be bold,” Jake Sullivan, a top policy adviser, told me. “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking we have to line things up in a sequence according to a traditional political calculus, because these are anything but traditional times.” (Location 1411)

Kevin Kruse, a Princeton historian, called on Biden to undertake an investigation into the administration’s handling of the pandemic, modeled on the Pecora Commission, a Senate inquiry into the causes of the crash of 1929. (Location 1468)

Traditionally, when something goes horribly wrong, especially when thousands of Americans die, there would be a major inquiry, like the 9-11 Commission.” (Location 1472)

The Obama administration did not prosecute major purveyors of toxic loans or derivatives, or torturers directed by the CIA, largely because Obama preferred, as he said at the time, to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” (Location 1476)

It can’t just be a partisan process of victor’s justice. This has to be about national healing and values and norms.” (Location 1490)

“People on the left—to use this too-aggregated term—would say, ‘We like what he promised to do, but he didn’t follow through.’ The question was how much was his fault, how much was structural impediments, and how much was the timing and what he had to do to save the economy.” (Location 1503)

mandatory voting, akin to laws in Australia. (Location 1512)

“If you asked Joe and I what regrets we might have, or what lessons we learned from my administration, it’s not that we were insufficiently bold in what we proposed. It’s that we continued to believe in the capacity of Republicans in Congress to play by the rules, and to be willing to negotiate and compromise.” (Location 1568)

Obama went on, “Through its actions, the Republican Party has discredited the old-style negotiations and compromises that existed in Congress when Joe first came in. (Location 1575)