By Jules Witcover
Earnest, plain-spoken pol of an older era or gaffe-prone, egotistical glad hander? Those are the two descriptions that are bandied about when the conversation turns to Joe Biden. As is often the case with political personas, the truth is somewhere in between. In “Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption,” renowned journalist Jules Witcover unravels the vice president’s life story and provides the most in depth account of his character in at least 10 years.
Witcover, known for “The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America” and “85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy,” gives Biden the treatment he deserves. The book is not, as it is billed, “the first definitive biography” of Biden. That title deservedly goes to Richard Ben Cramer’s “What It Takes.”
But it is among the best political biographies I have read in quite some time. Beginning with Biden’s childhood in Scranton, Pa., Witcover chronicles the vice president’s working class upbringing, including his poor grades and general lack of ambition. He also tackles the most difficult parts of Biden’s life: the death of his wife and young daughter, as well as his two brain aneurysms.
When it comes to Biden’s modern political persona, Witcover relies on countless interviews. Among them: President Obama and Biden himself. The biography released on October 19. I highly recommend it.