22:59 GMT14 August 2020
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    Joe Biden could be mere months away from becoming President of the US, the de-facto most-powerful individual in the entire world, in theory at least. The obvious question is who is he, and what would he do if and when he enters the Oval office?

    Joseph Robinette Biden Jr – perhaps best-known as Joe Biden – is the Democratic candidate for President in 2020. A US political veteran first elected to the Senate in 1972, and US Vice President 2009 – 2017, third time’s evidently a charm for the plucky nigh- octogenarian, as he unsuccessfully ran for the party nomination previously in 1988, and 2008.

    High IQ

    His first run was typified by scandal and controversy, when in September 1987 it was revealed he’d plagiarised a stirring segment of a campaign speech from Neil Kinnock, then-leader of the UK Labour Party.

    In a speech delivered to a Welsh Labour conference in May that year, Kinnock had rhetorically enquired:

    “Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? [Pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?” he fulminated.

    In numerous speeches on the campaign trail, Biden uttered almost exactly the same lines, replete with pointing and references to his own wife – but also copied almost verbatim other elements of Kinnock's speech, such as their forebears' ability to read and write poetry, strength in working for hours underground in a mine only to come up and play football afterward, and being limited by lack of a "platform" upon which to stand.

    ​Major US news networks immediately and recurrently began playing footage of the speech by Kinnock alongside speeches by Biden simultaneously – and it wasn’t long before he was found to have plagiarised passages from speeches made by John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey.  

    Over the course of the controversy, it was also revealed he’d ironically failed his first year at Syracuse University School of Law in 1965 for submitting a paper which was a rudimentary rewrite of a Fordham Law Review article – in a campaign-wrecking gaffe, Biden was questioned by a New Hampshire voter about his performance at college, to which he responded “I probably have a much higher IQ than you do, I suspect”, before lying about having graduated in the "top half" of his class, attending law school on a full scholarship, and receiving three degrees in college.

    It was also discovered Biden had a repeated tendency to fabricate a past as a Civil Rights Movement marcher, claiming he’d walked alongside “tens of thousands of others” to “change attitudes”. Despite being warned by campaign staff about lying outright in such an egregious manner – his activities were actually limited to one summer job incident, in which while working as a swimming pool lifeguard, joined black coworkers in establishing a picket line around a local movie theater operating a segregation policy – he continued to make them.

    When challenged by journalists on this point, he airily dismissed their concerns.

    “I find y'all going back and saying, 'Well, where were you, Senator Biden, at the time?' – you know, I think it's bizarre…Other people marched. I ran for office!” he explained.

    The Thing

    Biden has seemingly managed to steer clear of quote piracy and fantastical claims of non-existent political campaigning experience this time round, although his statements have still become a focal point in the 2020 campaign – if one can call them statements, for as a great many YouTube compilations have amply documented, the Democratic candidate seems to often have trouble properly articulating himself, frequently loses his train of thought, and rarely makes a public appearance without making several major verbal gaffes.

    ​Perhaps his most infamous bout of verbal diarrhoea came in September 2019, when he made a much-ridiculed comment about the importance of record players.

    “Make sure every single child does in fact have…three, four and five year olds go to school, not daycare, school, school. We have social workers go into homes of parents, to help them deal with how to raise their children, it’s not they don’t wanna help, they don’t want…they don’t know what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television, excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the phone…make sure the kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school, sorry, very poor background, will hear four million fewer words by the time they get there,” he blathered.

    In another widely-ridiculed incident, during a March speech in Texas, Biden famously struggled to accurately and fully recite part of the US Declaration of Independence.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident. All men and women are created, by the, you know, you know the thing,” he said.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” is the actual passage.

    ​He’s also become notorious for fudging figures – in June, at an appearance in Pennsylvania, he lambasted Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying there were now 120 million Americans (36.5 percent of the US population). dead from the pandemic. The actual figure was a comparatively paltry 122,000 at that stage. It followed him suggesting in 2019 there’d been 150 million deaths in America from gun violence since 2007.

    Button Pushing

    For all his oral unintelligibility, Biden’s policy platform is somewhat more coherent. Emphasizing his government experience, he’s positioning himself as a steady, seasoned and stable pair of hands in an uncertain time.

    For one, on violent crime, his position is unambiguous – police officers should shoot criminals in the leg to incapacitate them, rather than killing them no questions asked.

    He’s also made healthcare the cornerstone of his campaign. He was instrumental in the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which Trump opposed and has attempted to roll back, and has repeatedly stated ensuring Americans have access to affordable treatments is a personal priority for him – after all, he lost his first wife and an infant daughter in a car accident in 1972, and in 2015, his son Beau Biden died of brain cancer.

    ​His second son Hunter has long-battled drug and alcohol issues, being dishonorably discharged from the US Navy Reserve in June 2013 – at the age of 43 – a month after his father administered his commissioning oath in a White House ceremony, when he tested positive for cocaine during a urinalysis test. He chose not to appeal the matter as it was unlikely the panel would believe his explanation given his narcotic history. As late as the closing months of 2018, he was reported to have been caught smoking crack cocaine in private members clubs in Washington DC. ​This allegedly occurred at the same time he held a seat on the board of Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma, a role which reportedly earned him as much as US$50,000 a month, and caused significant controversy for his father.

    Hunter joined the company’s board in April 2014 but declined its offer to serve another term in May 2019 due to the controversy surrounding his membership - in an interview with ABC News that year, he dismissed suggestions he wasn’t qualified because he didn’t have any knowledge about natural gas or Ukraine, but conceded being the son of the then-vice president “of course” played a role in his selection. The extent of the work he did for Burisma has never been conclusively clarified, although it’s suggested he attended board meetings and energy forums in Europe “once or twice a year” on its behalf.

    Joe himself may also need significant medical care in the near future,given if he’s elected President, he’ll be the oldest in history, at 78. The comparatively sprightly Trump would also however be the oldest in the event of triumph, at a comparatively energetic 73.
    Biden has furthermore made clear his Presidency would represent a continuation of Barack Obama’s in every way, foreign and domestic. His eight years in the Obama White House – during which he frequently appeared at the President's side – has allowed him with some legitimacy to lay claim to much of the then-President’s legacy.

    Indeed, this oft-touted intimate association may also be crucial in clinching the votes of BAME voters, and moderate Republicans who supported Obama. However, despite referring to the former President as his "brother", Biden wasn’t endorsed by Obama until he’d actually won the nomination.


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