CHARLOTTE — Although they often play second fiddle in the media, the second family captivated the crowd at the Democratic National Convention Thursday.
The Bidens also have a somewhat convoluted reputation in the national media. Jill Biden, who rarely figures in the national spotlight, is recognized for her doctorate in education and her work with military families. Vice President Joe is so often chided for slips of the tongue and gaffes in speech that he often is portrayed as much less serious than his predecessor, former Vice President Dick Cheney. Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor, even suggested in August that Obama should replace Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the ticket.
The Bidens worked together to expel these preconceived notions and present Joe as a strong vice presidential candidate.
Beau, Joe’s elder son and Delaware’s attorney general, came first. He presented a deeply personal and heartfelt introduction of his father, whom Beau formally named the vice presidential nomination by acclamation.
“As he led those new Americans through the oath of citizenship, this celebration of democracy in the land of a deposed dictator, I was struck by the strength and diversity of our country,” Beau said. “I was reminded why we as a nation are stronger when everybody has a chance to do their part. And I was reminded of everything President Obama and my father have done to guarantee that chance.”
Joe Biden is a statesman who has made differences of both small-scale, interpersonal importance and large-scale legislative magnitude, Beau added. The younger Biden, who serves as a major in the Delaware Army National Guard, recalled that when he was deployed in Iraq, his father made an unannounced visit to the war zone and held a naturalization ceremony for soldiers.
“In moments both public and private, he is the father I’ve always known, the grandfather my children love and the vice president our nation needs,” Beau noted.
The vice president has proven to be not only an advocate for America’s troops, but for women—another demographic pursued by Democrats in 2012—said his wife, Jill, in her address Thursday night.
“Two decades ago, when Joe started working on the Violence Against Women Act, domestic violence was often treated as a private family matter rather than the crime it is,” she said. “But Joe knew that he had to bring this issue out into the open. And in the years since that bill passed, I’ve had women tell me that their sisters or their friends wouldn’t be alive today—if it weren’t for Joe.”
As Jill turned the podium over to her husband, Joe was welcomed with a standing ovation—a warm greeting for a politician with a 44 percent approval rating, according to a Sept. 5 USA Today/Gallup poll.
“My fellow Americans, four years ago, a battered nation turned away from the failed policies of the past—and turned to a leader—who they knew, could lift our nation out of crisis,” he said of his running mate in the opening of his address. “Our journey isn’t finished.”
Joe’s speech raised themes of humility and family as he discussed his late father’s humble roots. Joe’s father lost money in a series of several business reverses and became a car mechanic —“an automobile man”—he said. From this narrative, the vice president praised Obama’s revitalization of the American automobile industry, which he claimed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have neglected.
“America is not in decline,” he said. “I’ve got news for Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan, it has never, never, ever, been a good bet to bet against the American people.”
Biden highlighted the importance of Obama’s actions in taking down Osama bin Laden.
“He listened to the risks and reservations about the raid. And he asked the tough questions,” Biden recalled. “But when Admiral McRaven looked him in the eye and said, ‘Sir, we can get this done,’ I knew Barack had made his decision. His response was decisive. He said do it—and justice was done.”