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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Biden's book ahead of Democratic debate

Joe Biden's book argues that the former vice

Joe Biden's book argues that the former vice president can connect. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Scott Olson

Ahead of the next Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, amExpress took a look at Joe Biden’s campaign book, “Promise Me, Dad.”

Thursday will be the first time this cycle that Biden faces off directly with the other two frontrunners, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Both are far more in tune with the new progressive energy sweeping through the party, so how will the former vice president convince voters old and young that he’s more ready than they are for a 2020 primary and general?

The answer may be in this 2017 book, which stands out from many of the other drab candidate books this season.

If you were going to have a beer with one of the campaign tomes, it would be this one. The setup is key: Biden (with his writing team) focuses on the sickness and death by cancer of his politically promising son, Beau, in 2015. So there is pathos aplenty. Good luck trying not to tear up over Biden’s diary entry upon Beau’s death: “My God, my boy. My beloved boy.” Or the fact that somewhere along the way, Biden says he began to look up to both of his sons.

The narrative structure allows Biden to do what he does best: tell stories. About the Bidens’ annual restorative trip to Nantucket borne out of the earlier tragedy of his first wife’s car accident death. About politicians like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who Biden says reminded him of Beau and who encouraged Biden to think carefully about declining to seek the presidency, given the lesson of his father, Mario Cuomo. About comforting the father of NYPD officer Wenjian Liu, murdered in 2014. Liu’s father later returns the favor and attends Beau’s wake.

Rambling old-fashioned storytelling (at least when Biden sticks to the facts, which has been an issue lately) is one of Biden’s calling cards for 2020. The argument for his candidacy is that the guy knows how to connect. This book showcases that ability, while also shrewdly laying the groundwork for a 2020 run. It follows Biden as he runs around the globe putting out President Barack Obama’s diplomatic fires. It underscores Biden and Obama’s apparently deep friendship, to the point that the president offers to lend the Bidens money if needed. It claims that Biden has all sorts of friends, friendly guy that he is, from Obama to Latin American presidents to his personal aide to the hospital staff that helped his sick son.

Crucially, the book explains Biden’s 2016 decision not to run by conveniently laying out all the ways his campaign would have been populist and of-the-moment.

It even covers, multiple times, the good intentions behind Biden’s proclivity to hug people, sometimes awkwardly. “Please, hug me for a minute,” he remembers one woman who lost a daughter saying to him. It’s presented as an almost-reflexive act.

It’s about comfort and connection and the reassuring presence of someone who has seen some things, both in his own life and around the world, which Biden 2020 surely hopes will be enough to finally gain the top spot.

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