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US President-Elect, Joseph R. Biden Jr, Shaped By Tragedy, Tradition

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Thirty-three years ago, he was the fast-talking junior senator from Delaware with a chip on his shoulder, desperate to prove his gravitas during a brief, ill-fated presidential run.
The next time around, in 2008, he was the seasoned foreign policy hand and veteran lawmaker who strained to capture the imagination of Democratic presidential primary voters.
As he weighed a third attempt at the presidency last year, many Democrats feared he was too late. Too old, too moderate, too meandering to excite ascendant voices in his party, too rooted in the more civil politics of the past to nimbly handle Donald Trump.
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. ran anyway. He ran as a grieving father who connected with a country in pain. As a relative centrist who emphasized character, stability and belief in bipartisanship over the particulars of a policy agenda. As a flawed, uneven campaigner whose vulnerabilities were ultimately drowned out by his opponent’s outsize weaknesses, and eclipsed by the seismic issues at stake, as the nation confronted the ravages of a deadly pandemic.
In many ways, he ran as the politician he has always been. And for one extraordinary election, that was enough.
“They’re not so much saying, ‘I’m investing in Joe Biden because of his philosophy,’” said former Senator William S. Cohen, Republican of Maine, who served with Mr. Biden and supported him this year. “They’re invested in Joe Biden because of him, of who they see as being a human being.”
Mr. Biden’s victory on Saturday is the culmination of a career that began in the Nixon era and spanned a half-century of political and social upheaval. But if the country, the political parties and Washington have changed since Mr. Biden, now 77, arrived in the Senate as a 30-year-old widower in 1973, some of his attitudes — about governing and about his fellow Americans — have hardly changed at all.
He still reveres institutions, defiantly champions compromise and sees politics more in terms of relationships than ideology. He has insisted that with Mr. Trump out of office, Republicans will have an “epiphany” about working with Democrats — a view that elides the fact that Republicans were rarely interested in working with the Obama administration when Mr. Biden was vice president.
Those beliefs, coupled with his reputation as an empathetic and experienced leader, made Mr. Biden acceptable to a broad coalition of Americans this year, including independents and some moderate Republicans.
Now, Mr. Biden’s convictions about how to unite the country and move forward will be tested as never before.
He will take the helm of a nation devastated by a health crisis, reeling from an economic downturn and divided over virtually every major political matter of the day, from how and even whether to confront climate change and racial injustice, to baseless questions from some of Mr. Trump’s supporters about the very legitimacy of free and fair election results.
His first priority, Mr. Biden has said, will be to bring the coronavirus under control, as he also works to invest in infrastructure and to promote economic growth. Mr. Biden has released a series of policy plans around all of those issues, and has made clear that a national emergency calls for urgent and ambitious action.
But the president-elect, a 36-year veteran of the Senate who has never embraced the most far-reaching progressive proposals, is also well aware that the partisan makeup of Washington may limit the scope of his agenda. He is unlikely to press for rapid, transformational change of institutions like the Supreme Court or to embrace the boldest proposals in the Green New Deal.
Yet for all of his instincts for consensus-building, he will face enormous and conflicting pressures when he returns to Washington.
Progressives who papered over their differences with Mr. Biden in the name of defeating Mr. Trump will quickly turn to fighting for their priorities, which may not always align with Mr. Biden’s goals or timeline.
“Where the progressive energy will really turn angry is if we see Biden really compromising on core principles,” warned Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Even his closest allies believe there are elements of his long record that should be reconsidered from the White House, including the legacy of the crime bills passed during his tenure in the Senate. Mr. Biden for years served as a tough-on-crime Democrat, and he has sometimes struggled to account for his leading role in the 1994 crime bill, which many experts now associate with mass incarceration.
“He needs to put together a commission or a committee to study the 1986 and 1994 crime bills,” said Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking Black official in Congress, describing mass incarceration as an unintended consequence. “We’ve got to rectify.”
And Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the powerful Republican leader, has a relationship with Mr. Biden — but he is unlikely to be moved by encomiums to bipartisanship and civility.
“Joe is a peacemaker — he’s always tried to get along with Republicans,” said Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and the former Senate majority leader.
But he was skeptical that Republican leaders in Congress would feel similarly about curbing divisiveness in Washington.
“I just hope Joe’s right and I’m wrong,” he said, “but I don’t see that coming to an end.”
Mr. Biden was a mediocre student with big ambitions, a gregarious young football player from an Irish Catholic family who overcame a stutter and dreamed of running for president.
In the meantime, he settled for school politics, serving as class president at his Catholic high school and adopting an approachable manner that he would deploy decades later on the campaign trail.
“The joke was, if Joe stood next to a light pole, he’d strike up a conversation,” said Bob Markel, a childhood friend of Mr. Biden’s. “You were talking to him for 20 seconds, he’d put out his hand and say, ‘Joe Biden.’”
He came from a line of politically engaged Pennsylvanians on his mother’s side, with a great-grandfather who served as a state senator. His father was a dignified man who had struggled financially, “a student of history with an unyielding sense of justice,” Mr. Biden said in his eulogy. Joseph R. Biden Sr., who moved the family from Scranton, Pa., to Delaware when Mr. Biden was 10, shaped his son’s moral compass and instilled in him a strong sense of identity; his story looms large in Mr. Biden’s efforts today to connect with working-class Americans.
Mr. Biden enrolled at the University of Delaware, where he threw himself into politics as freshman class president. He participated in the occasional high jinks, though even then he was fairly conservative in his personal manner.
“It’s the same style that I think we’ve seen since he was a teenager,” Mr. Markel said. “That moderation can be seen when he was in his teens. He was a fun-loving guy, certainly outgoing, but he didn’t do crazy things.”
For all of his political ambitions, he was at a remove from the antiwar activism taking hold among his peers in the caldron of the 1960s, and he was not one for protesting. After graduating from law school, he followed a path into institutional Democratic politics: young lawyer, part-time public defender and rising star within the Delaware party establishment.
At the end of that decade, party elders suggested he try his hand at a seat on the New Castle County Council.
“I spent most of my time in heavily Democratic precincts,” Mr. Biden recalled, describing the race in a memoir. “But I also spent a great deal of time going door to door in the middle-class neighborhoods like the one I grew up in. They were overwhelmingly Republican in 1970, but I knew how to talk to them.”
At the age of 30, Mr. Biden was moving swiftly in his political career. But personally, he was a broken man.
In a day, he had gone from a married father of three who won a startling victory in the 1972 Senate race to a widower with two toddlers in the hospital after a car crash killed his wife, Neilia, and their baby daughter, Naomi.
For months, he struggled to adjust to the Senate job he had wanted so badly.
Decades later, one of his surviving sons, Beau, would die of brain cancer. Mr. Biden, by then vice president, would be shattered anew.
Yet those staggering personal losses, friends say, shaped Mr. Biden’s uncommon ability to empathize — perhaps his greatest strength.
On the campaign trail, he never spoke with deeper authority than when he promised a grieving voter that one day, the memory of a loved one would bring a smile before a tear. His skill at connecting with voters in pain, allies say, uniquely prepared him to run for president amid a pandemic that has killed more than 237,000 people in the United States and upended the lives of many others on Mr. Trump’s watch.
“He understood the emotional trauma that Trump has inflicted on the country in a way that most of the other candidates didn’t,” said Shailagh Murray, who was a top aide to Mr. Biden as vice president.
After the 1972 accident, Mr. Biden slowly began rebuilding his life, later marrying Jill Jacobs and having a daughter, Ashley.
And eventually, he settled into Washington, too, where his early instincts for bipartisanship and working within the system were reinforced by mentors like Mike Mansfield, the longtime Senate majority leader.
Mr. Biden rose to lead the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. He advanced signature policy achievements like the Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban, and he developed relationships with leaders around the world. He torpedoed the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court, a setback that some Republicans remain bitter about to this day, and championed the confirmation of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
His tenure in the Senate is also associated with what many Americans see as the mistreatment of Anita Hill before his committee during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas; with his vote for the Iraq war and his opposition to busing; and with his leading efforts on the 1994 crime bill that troubled some voters throughout the campaign.
As he navigated Congress, Mr. Biden built relationships with similarly consensus-minded Republicans like Senators Bob Dole, Arlen Specter and John McCain.
But Mr. Biden, who has said he was motivated to run for office in part by a belief in civil rights, was also willing to work with even the most virulent segregationist senators. And perhaps, the most controversial speech he has given was his eulogy for Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.
“At least there was some civility,” Mr. Biden said at a fund-raiser in June 2019, citing James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman E. Talmadge of Georgia. “We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done.”
Under fire, Mr. Biden ultimately expressed regret for the way he invoked segregationist former colleagues.
He did not apologize for the instinct.
The stature Mr. Biden gained in the Senate did not always translate on the presidential campaign trail.
His 1988 race ended in humiliation amid a plagiarism controversy.
In 2008, Mr. Biden struggled to stand out in a talented and crowded field that included Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He dropped out after Iowa, after cementing his reputation for verbal gaffes by referring to Mr. Obama as “articulate and bright and clean.”
But as Mr. Obama’s vice president, Mr. Biden was in many ways back in his element.
“Every time we had a trouble in the administration, who got sent to the Hill to settle it? Me,” Mr. Biden said at that 2019 fund-raiser. “Because I demonstrate respect for them.”
Sometimes that approach got him results — he helped secure three Republican votes for the economic stimulus bill in 2009, for example.
On other occasions — including a major gun control effort after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut — it ultimately did not.
Mr. Biden, like many of his fellow Democrats, was enraged by the Trump presidency and fearful about the corrosive effects of four more years of extraordinary divisiveness.
But he was also closely attuned to moderate, older Black primary voters and had carefully followed which Democrats won in the toughest districts in the 2018 midterm elections. As Mr. Biden mulled a third presidential bid, he was skeptical of tacking far to the left in response to Mr. Trump and his Republican allies. And he was convinced, based on his own experiences, that he could help find common ground.
“Through very difficult periods in the country’s history, he believes he has been able to bring people together,” said Mike Donilon, Mr. Biden’s chief strategist, citing the 2009 stimulus bill and his efforts on a sweeping health measure at the end of 2016. “Beyond the politics, there are also just fundamental judgments about how to treat people, how to talk to them.”
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Biden has championed that approach, sometimes with a touch of performative defensiveness.
“We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country,” he said in a speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, last month. “I’m accused of being naïve. I’m told, ‘Maybe, that’s the way things used to work, Joe, but they can’t work that way anymore.’”
“They can and they must if we’re going to get anything done,” he said.
Mr. Biden, of course, has a policy agenda too, one that he has addressed often in recent months.
He ran on a platform of expanding health care access through a public option, and promoting the middle class. He promised to tackle climate change and to combat racial injustice, acknowledging that America has “never lived up” to the promise that all Americans are created equal. After the pandemic hit, he grew increasingly open to more ambitious social and economic proposals.
But more than anything, he ran as himself, with all of the convictions and the flaws he has displayed over a half-century in public life.
There were the exaggerations and verbal blunders and the flashes of temper. He lost the first three contests, and his campaign was practically moribund when Black voters in South Carolina, who saw him as a familiar and reassuring figure in troubled times, rescued his bid.
“We know Joe,” Mr. Clyburn said as he endorsed Mr. Biden. “But most importantly, Joe knows us.”
And through those peaks and valleys, Mr. Biden hewed to one consistent message: that the turmoil of the Trump era was an existential threat to the character of the country — and that he was uniquely equipped to lower the nation’s temperature and try to bring the country together.
“Has the heart of this nation turned to stone?” Mr. Biden said recently, speaking in Warm Springs, Georgia. “I refuse to believe it. I know this country. I know our people. And I know we can unite and heal this nation.”
In some ways, it is a promise he has been preparing to make for his whole career.
This time around, a majority of American voters decided to believe him.

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North Can Live Without VAT Accruals, NEF Boasts …Backs Wike, Southern Govs On Fiscal Federalism, Restructuring

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The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has boasted that the North was a rich region, and can survive on its resources without the “billions” accruing to Southern states.
The NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made this known, yesterday, when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme.
He was reacting to the tussle between states and the Federal Government on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT).
VAT is a consumption tax paid when goods are purchased and services are rendered, and charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on September 10, ordered that status quo be maintained pending the determination of an appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.
At the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in Enugu, last Thursday, the 17 governors insisted that they have the constitutional mandate to collect VAT, and vowed to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the matter.
While some northern governors like Aminu Masari (Katsina), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), amongst others, had kicked against the move, the 17 Southern Governors led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had unanimously supported the position that “the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
Speaking, yesterday, during the television programme, Baba-Ahmed said, “I will advise that we wait to hear what the court says. However, even the fact that it has become an issue suggests that we really do need to address the fundamentals and the manner in which the federation works.
“We have always supported restructuring. We have always asked that a major and genuine shift initiative either by groups or the National Assembly so that matters like this be addressed properly.
“If we don’t do that now, then, we should get a leader that would do that in 2023. This administration appears not to understand the importance of restructuring; we do in the North, we recognise the fact that we need to change the manner in which we generate wealth and allocate (it).
“The thing is: the North wants restructuring; the North wants fiscal federalism. We are a rich region, and we can live on what we have, even if we don’t have the billions that accrue to others states. Our poverty is not a kind of problem that we would break this country over.”
According to him, the VAT war is a wake-up call to northern governors who need to recognise the fact that VAT or no VAT, they need to develop their resources and develop the human capital of the North.
The NEF spokesman added, “North, you said you have many people but you are under-developing your own people – the biggest liability of the North is that we have a huge population that is under-developed. You need to develop the human capital that you have.
“We need leaders; the current governors don’t recognise this. Otherwise, they won’t be involved in this argument; allow the court to decide.
“But for goodness sake, (they should) begin to think — what else can we do if the court decides now that Rivers State is right, Lagos State is right, and the Southern states are right, and they won’t be getting all these billions coming in from VAT? What happens?”
Baba-Ahmed said the Northern governors at this stage should not be sleeping, noting that the North is “sitting on wealth, we have massive resources in this country, we have to fight insecurity first, and the Federal Government has to help us, we need to clear the bushes, the forests and all the criminals that are there, and we need to go back to farming.
“Agriculture is a major asset; we have land, we have water, we have livestock, we have minerals that are literally begging to be picked from the ground but our governors are too focused on the pittance that they are getting. This is wrong”, he argued.

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Boxing: Joshua Facing Toughest Test In Usyk?

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Boxing champion, Anthony Joshua could face his toughest test yet when he fights Oleksandr Usyk in London on Saturday, says ex-world champion George Groves.
Joshua, 31, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line against Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian has won all 18 professional fights, beating Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora on that run.
“Technically, Usyk is brilliant,” said Groves . “He showed that in unifying the cruiserweight division in great fights and I believe he could be Joshua’s toughest test to date. This is the first fight when I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua got beaten.
“Joshua has fought [Wladimir] Klitschko and been in with Joseph Parker and also been beaten [by Andy Ruiz] and the only question mark for Usyk Is he big enough to compete with AJ?
“If Usyk keeps a high pace and makes Joshua miss with a lot of shots, that will work to Usyk’s advantage as he has probably got a better engine.
“Joshua is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous punching power and strength but has a tendency to tire out if the pace is uncomfortable for him.”
A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected and it will be the largest attendance Joshua has fought in front of since his win over Alexander Povetkin with 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in September, 2018.
Since then, Joshua has lost to Ruiz in New York before winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia and gained a ninth-round victory over Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena last December, with only 1,000 fans attending because of Coronavirus restrictions.
Both Joshua and Usyk won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, at super-heavyweight and heavyweight respectively, with the Briton going on to win 24 of his 25 professional fights, including 22 inside the distance.
Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte, who lost to Joshua in 2015 and is pushing for a rematch with him or a shot at WBC champion, Tyson Fury, believes the key to beating Usyk on Saturday is to adopt an attacking strategy.
“I think it’s a great fight and Joshua will stop him in the first six or seven rounds,” Whyte told Tidesports source.
“Usyk will start fast and Joshua should be cagey as Usyk is a bit lighter. Joshua can sometimes lack confidence but hopefully he goes back to the old him, starts pressing, being the bigger, stronger guy and gets the job done early.
“If Joshua sets the pace, he can get an early knockout and if he is strong, confident and walks him down, then I don’t see Usyk’s punches troubling Joshua.”
Groves, who held the WBA Super-Middleweight belt in 2017 and 2018, added: “If I was Joshua, I would take control of the ring and try to dominate and bully off the front foot.
“Usyk will want to be off the back foot for the first couple of rounds, then try to pepper Joshua.
“If I was in the Joshua camp, I would say: You want to keep this guy in his box. You don’t want Usyk having any confidence, so hit him hard and early.
“In the first three rounds, you want to land something big on him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn also suggested Joshua could get an early victory.
Hearn said: “I’m always nervous for an Anthony Joshua fight, especially when you’re fighting someone that really believes he is going to win”.

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2022 AFCON: ‘Cameroon On Track’

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The Confederation of African Football (CAF) President, Patrice Motsepe, has said that Cameroon is “on track” to successfully host the Africa Cup of Nations early next year after visiting Olembe Stadium in Yaounde last weekend.
The venue will host the opening match and final of the AFCON in January and February of 2022.
A CAF delegation, including President Motsepe and General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, were joined by Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi in inspecting progress made at the Olembe Stadium and various other facilities in the capital city.
“I’m very satisfied with the briefing I got and what I saw. I saw the Olembe Stadium and it is world class; we should all be proud as people of Cameroon and as Africans,” said Motsepe, as quoted by CAF’s website.
“We must applaud Cameroon [for] building such infrastructure. In partnership with the Government, the Minister of Sports, LOC, FECAFOOT President and CAF administration under Veron [Mosengo-Omba], I’m certain that in January next year, the rest of the world will be impressed. I’m very satisfied with what I have seen. We are on track.”
Motsepe continued: “The quality of football that will be played here will once again show the world that Africa has the quality to one day win the FIFA World Cup, that is the ultimate goal. The AFCON is special and I think it is important for us to set the tone in Cameroon.”
Mosengo-Omba also heaped praises on Olembe Stadium: “The infrastructure and architecture of the stadium is world class and can be compared to many other famous stadiums globally. In Cameroon, we have six beautiful match venues. Our job now is to ensure that we are ready with everything else.”

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