From the Right



Who's Behind Joe Biden's Leftward Lunge?

Michael Barone on

What's going on with Joe Biden? Why is a president who ran and was elected as a centrist Democrat supporting one left-wing proposal after another? What has prompted the politician whose sensitivity to public opinion was finely honed for four decades to take one unpopular stand after another?

As a senator from Delaware when it voted like the national average, from 1972 to 1996, he opposed school busing and Medicaid-funded abortion. Starting in 2000, Delaware has been a safe Democratic state, and Biden has veered left, opposing the killing of Osama bin Laden and backing same-sex marriage before former President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

But as president, he's defied public opinion, insisting on a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and, most recently, backing gender-altering surgery for minor children. Why has he veered so far from his constituents?

Let me offer something in the way of a hypothesis, starting with a few clues.

One is that this president doesn't like to go to Camp David. Some presidents like the wooded mountain retreat, which Franklin Roosevelt called Shangri-La and Dwight Eisenhower renamed after his grandson. Others don't.

Ronald Reagan preferred his mountaintop hut, high above Santa Barbara. George H. W. Bush in summertime adored his family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bill Clinton just wasn't the woodsy type.


Biden prefers Delaware. Since his first wife and infant daughter died in a car crash a month after he was elected to the Senate 50 years ago, he has owned a large house at the edge of Delaware's "chateau country," one of the nation's most beautiful suburbs. His sister Valerie and her husband helped raise his two surviving sons, and he famously took the Amtrak home from Washington each night.

As president, he now heads home on weekends, often at Friday noon, to his big house in the Wilmington suburbs or his large house in Delaware's charming Rehoboth Beach. Pleasant surroundings -- and with ready access to some family members and fond memories of others.

A second, perhaps minor, clue, came on one of his few public interviews this year -- with the late-night talk host Jimmy Kimmel. An obviously sympathetic Kimmel, aware of Biden's declining job approval, commiserated, "What a terrible job you have." Biden insisted he's optimistic about the country's future.

"Why are you so optimistic?" Kimmel replied. "It makes no sense." The president replied, "This generation is going to change everything."


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