Margaret Talev: Why Joe Biden Wanted Barack Obama to Deliver His Son’s Eulogy
Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama went through the fires together: two presidential campaigns, economic collapse, war, terrorism, destabilization of the Arab world and societal change that spawned the Tea Party and gay marriage waves simultaneously. But aides say it is the men’s shared experience with personal grief, and an unexpected bonding of their wives, daughters and grandchildren, more than their tests as officeholders, that have turned a political partnership between two men separated by race, age and temperament into a deep, if mostly unsung, friendship.
That’s a dynamic many Americans will see on Saturday, when Obama delivers the eulogy for Biden’s son Beau, a husband, father, veteran and rising political star who seemed destined to carry on his father’s legacy before his death from brain cancer on May 30 at age 46. Obama called Biden on the night Beau died. By the time the call ended, he had been tasked with a humbling assignment: To say the final words about Beau that the vice president and his wife Jill are too grief-stricken to utter. “The president . . . has this reputation for being cold or distant—but he isn’t,” Klain said. “For the people in his orbit, the people he has a chance to get to know, he has a real sense of family” and the Bidens “are part of that. I think it’s a loss that he feels personally.” Biden wanted Obama to deliver the eulogy because he felt that Obama would know instinctively what the family would want others to know about Beau.
Earlier this year, on St. Patrick’s Day, Biden addressed a group in Pennsylvania and recounted how he had felt when researchers discovered that his own great-great grandfather and Obama’s great-great-great grandfather each had been shoemakers in Ireland who emigrated within five weeks of one another. “I thought to myself, isn’t that the Irish of it,” Biden said. “All their dreams, could they ever [have] dreamed 160 years later, two shoemakers’ great, great grandsons would be sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States of America.”