The foundation event of Joe Biden’s life, from where all things proceed and end, occurred on December 18, 1972. On that day his first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, pulled out into an intersection. In the family station wagon with her were their children: one-year-old daughter Naomi, three-year-old Joseph R Biden III, known as Beau, and two-year-old Robert Hunter Biden, known as Hunter.
Joe Biden’s wife and daughter were killed, and his sons severely injured: Beau sustained several broken bones. Hunter sustained injuries to the skull and severe traumatic brain damage that kept him in hospital for months.
Joe Biden initially decided not to take his oath as the newly elected senator from Delaware – in effect, to resign from a position he had yet to take up – in order to take care of his boys. Senate powerhouse Mike Mansfield persuaded him to stay.
So Biden took the oath at his children’s bedsides in hospital. He was then 30 years of age, the minimum age for service in the US senate, and one of the youngest people ever elected to it.
Forty-eight years later, Biden swore allegiance to the constitution to become president of the United States, the oldest person ever elected to that office. He will be 82 at his next inauguration – provided, of course, he wins his second term.
Hunter has been an investor, a lobbyist, a philanthropist, an artist. You can put quotation marks around these words in the sense of how serious these jobs were for him.
In a memoir called Beautiful Things, he writes about his substance abuse, and how his addiction to cocaine reached its zenith at the death from cancer of his brother, Beau, in 2015. Beau had been attorney general of the state of Delaware and had served in the Iraq war. He was tipped as a future senator, maybe even president.
Then brain cancer ended his life, and Joe Biden believes that it was the “burn pits” used to destroy materials, some toxic, on the battlefield that killed him.
Joe Biden has never really gotten over the death of Beau Biden. Neither has Hunter nor the many people who knew Beau, including Biden’s vice-president, Kamala Harris, the former attorney general of California and a close friend of Beau’s.
Joe is the oldest of an out and proud Catholic family of Irish descent, for whom family is all. His sister has been a campaign manager for him, and his brothers have been close.
There are fact-free accusations that Joe Biden’s family has benefited from his political career; that they directly did when he was vice-president. There is to be an impeachment inquiry conducted by the minuscule Republican majority in the House. This is a first.
David Weiss, a lawyer appointed special counsel to look into these allegations, has now brought felony gun charges against Hunter.
It was thought by the Biden side that a plea deal had been reached over a gun he bought in 2018 – the prosecutors say he made false statements about his drug use on a federal firearms form, and should not have been in possession of a firearm as an active drug user – but that deal collapsed in August when it became clear that Hunter’s side expected that admitting his guilt would end all investigations into his conduct. The other side wanted to go on and on.
Next July may be Hunter’s first court appearance; slap in the middle of his father’s campaign for his second term as Potus.
It is a campaign that most Americans do not want Biden to go on, and one reason is Hunter.
The fact is that there are practically not many in DC, on any side, who are related to a person in power and do not use that connection to blow their own horn in some way, be it personal, political or philanthropic.
Look at Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who are alleged to have made zillions via their relationship to the 45th president. This does not matter, of course, because that was then and this is now.
The very expensive House impeachment inquiry is just a fishing expedition. It hopes to find documentation linked to Biden’s time as VP that hooks him into Hunter’s maybe doing something improper in regard to Ukraine.
If the House impeaches Biden, the Senate would then have to convict and remove Biden. That is unlikely.
There are some in the Republicans’ minuscule House majority who doubt the efficacy of all of this. They know it is just a bid to help Kevin McCarthy, the speaker who is under pressure from the party’s crazy right, to stay in office.
Donald Trump is once again leading the pack as the Republican nominee to run against Biden, whom most Americans believe should not run because he is too old. Trump is only three-and-a-half years younger than Biden but he can still yell, while Joe trips onstage and nods off while listening to a speaker.
And as of this past spring, US life expectancy is 76.4 years. So if I still lived there, I would not be expected to make it much longer.
Meanwhile, there is a sense of malaise around in the USA. Yes, there is a huge auto workers strike, which could crash the industry. But most people are just dissatisfied with the general state of things.
I believe this malaise is in some part down to the pandemic. This is not unusual.
The Black Death changed the status of the peasant in Europe. No longer tied to the land because of so many deaths, people began to demand payment for their labour. The postwar flu pandemic of 1918 that killed millions created changes that may have led to the rise of fascism.
The damage to us all, whether we are aware of it or not, will take many years to evaluate, to see. The deep unhappiness, fear, and uncertainty that many of us still feel can spill out into the world of politics.
But we are not in a universe now in which we are interested in understanding one another; in reaching out from the base of our common humanity to see if we can connect and heal.
“You have a republic, if you can keep it,” Benjamin Franklin is alleged to have said in answer to a question in regard to exactly what the US is. And Donald Trump is running for Potus. Again.