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The Hindu Profiles | On India-China LAC row, Shopian encounters and Democratic nominee Joe Biden

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden | The journey to Washington

The former VP wins Democratic nomination at a crucial time for the U.S.

June 13, 2020 10:00 pm | Updated June 14, 2020 02:00 pm IST

Champ, the measure of a man is not how often he is knocked down, but how quickly he gets up. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the White House , would repeat these words of his father, perhaps suitable for his own life of tragedies and triumphs. There will be more in store for Mr. Biden, as he and the incumbent, U.S. President, Donald Trump, battle it out at the polls this November.

Born into an Irish Catholic family in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1942, Mr. Biden moved to Delaware at the age of 11, as his father was in search of a stable job. Joe, the oldest of four siblings, struggled with a severe stutter and successfully overcame it and then going on to train as a lawyer. He worked at a law firm, before running for the U.S. Senate from Delaware.

In 1972, Mr. Biden’s wife, Neilia and baby daughter Naomi, died in a car accident — his sons Beau and Hunter survived. Mr Biden had just won one of the Delaware seats to the U.S. Senate. Eventually he would remarry and have a third child. Mr. Biden would remain a Senator until becoming Barack Obama’s Vice-President in 2009. Tragedy struck him again in 2015, when Beau Biden died of brain cancer.

As someone who spent decades on Capitol Hill, Mr. Biden, unsurprisingly, has a long track record which has won both praise and criticism. His long career has also meant shifts, over time, on positions. Mr. Biden has pitched himself as someone who can build consensus in Washington, and some of his legislative actions, he has explained as attempts to build compromise with Republicans.

Also read: Joe Biden warns of ‘abuse of power’

Controversial votes

Other votes have been harder for Mr. Biden to defend. During the primary season, Mr. Biden was criticised for various votes, including his support in October 2002 for legislation authorising the President to use force in Iraq, or his opposition to court-mandated busing of students to desegregate schools.

In April 2019, the Biden campaign announced that the former Vice-President had reached out to Anita Hill, who had accused Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. Mr. Biden had expressed regret for how he handled Ms. Hill’s accusations and her part in the process, when he was Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991. Also in 2019, there were allegations by women that Mr. Biden had made inappropriate physical contact with them. He reacted by saying that politics to him had always been about making connections but he would be more mindful in the future about personal space.

Also read: Joe Biden urged to pick black VP, not Klobuchar as Minneapolis killing stokes racial tensions

Then came Tara Reade, a woman from Nevada who briefly worked as a staff assistant in Mr. Biden’s Senate office in the 1990s. Ms. Reade told a Nevada paper last year that Mr. Biden had touched her inappropriately when she worked at his office. This year, she said Mr. Biden had sexually assaulted her — a charge Mr. Biden has unequivocally denied.

Earlier this month, Mr. Biden had won 1,991 delegates and has, all but formally, won the Democratic nomination contest. In order to mobilise maximum support for an agenda from moderate and progressive Democratic voters, the teams of Mr. Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders announced “ unity” task forces to reach common ground on a range of policy areas — from climate to criminal justice reform. The two candidates differed significantly on several policy fronts — including healthcare and student debt.

Foreign policy

In terms of foreign policy, Mr. Biden has talked about restoring America’s moral leadership. He has said he will bring the U.S. back into the Paris Climate Agreement and renew America’s commitment to NATO. On China, Mr. Biden has proposed that the U.S. and its allies “get tough” while cooperating in areas such as health, climate change and so forth. He wants the “vast majority” of troops in Afghanistan and West Asia pulled out and an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Mr Biden has consistently come out ahead of Mr. Trump in recent polls. With a raging pandemic, high levels of unemployment and widespread anger at the killing of George Floyd, Mr. Biden, if he wins the Presidency, will find himself occupying a crucial position in a world of chaos.

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