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LARGE FORMAT. Joe Biden, the man who wanted to heal America’s ailments as he healed his wounds


DBecoming President of the United States: this is the new challenge tackled by the Delaware senator in 1987. At 45, he poses as a candidate of a new generation. “He was known for his outgoing personality and his aggressive spirit”, recalls the public radio NPR *. The elected official is in good shape in the polls, but accusations of plagiarism derail his campaign. “Several media outlets reveal that one of his speeches is copied, almost word for word, from that of a British Labor”, summarizes Jean-Eric Branaa. The New York Times unearths another accusation of a similar nature, while studying law.

Surrounded by his children Hunter, Beau and Ashley, as well as his wife Jill, Joe Biden announced his presidential candidacy on June 1, 1987, in Wilmington (Delaware). (CYNTHIA JOHNSON / THE LIFE IMAGES COLLECTION / GETTY IMAGES)

Joe Biden hangs on a few days before renouncing the presidential election. “At that time, this type of scandal ends a career”, notes Jean-Eric Branaa. But the Democrat enjoys “of a certain tolerance, because of his image of blunderer: he is perceived as a ‘good guy’ who speaks too fast, but never thinks badly “. Through carefully prepared public events, he works to restore his image. Until he felt a stabbing pain in the head, one evening in February 1988. The senator suffered a ruptured aneurysm. It is close to death, but the surgeons stop the bleeding in time. His clan sees it as the sign * of a “cosmic plane” for Biden the survivor.

So he gets back to work. “He acquired unparalleled experience by sitting on the Senate Judicial Affairs Committee, then chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee.”, enthuses his friend Joe Riley to franceinfo. The senator defends a law on violence against women *, goes to theaters of foreign conflicts *, finds compromises with the Republicans. In 2002, he thus approved the war in Iraq * wanted by George W. Bush.

Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hears Supreme Court candidate David Souter on September 1, 1990 in Washington.
Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hears Supreme Court candidate David Souter on September 1, 1990 in Washington. (TERRY ASHE / THE LIFE IMAGES COLLECTION / GETTY IMAGES)

Then came the 2008 presidential election, where he was no longer seen as the youth candidate, but as a seasoned and popular elected official within his party. “He’s one of the favorites, along with Hillary Clinton, for the Democratic primary”, continues Jean-Eric Branaa. Until he mentions one of his opponents. A certain Barack Obama, whom he describes * as “the first African-American who speaks well, who is bright, clean on himself and good-looking”. Accusations of racism fuse, within his own camp as in the opposition.

Others see in this release a new illustration of the “blundering” side of the senator, known for his approximations and his clumsiness *. “Joe Biden looks less civilized, more genuine than other politicians. It’s a character trait he shares with Donald Trump.”, points out David Smith, correspondent for Guardian at the White House, interviewed by franceinfo. Despite a public apology, the elected representative of Delaware struggles to take off in the polls and eventually withdraws. But Barack Obama, who wins the Democratic nomination, sees this veteran of Congress as the perfect running mate to win the presidential election. And it works: in early November 2008, the duo was elected to the highest positions in the country.

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden speak to residents outside the Wilmington, Delaware train station, January 17, 2009.
President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden speak to residents outside the Wilmington, Delaware train station, January 17, 2009. (JOHN MOORE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA)

In Wilmington, where the centrist still resides today, it is already a victory. “A few days before the inauguration, Biden and Obama traveled by train from Philadelphia to Washington”, remembers Cassandra Marshall, head of the Democratic Party of the city, interviewed by franceinfo. “They stopped here in Wilmington and spoke to the crowd from the train station, she says, pointing to the small red brick building, which also bears the name of the senator. I had never seen so many people. I believe the whole state made the trip! ” For the locals, this is proof that Joe Biden “don’t forget where he came from”.

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