All posts from “Joe Biden”

January 20, 2009

The first Catholic vice president

Joe Biden just became the first Roman Catholic vice president in American history. NPR lets us know that five other Catholics have run for vice president: William Miller (R-1964), Ed Muskie (D-1968), Thomas Eagleton (D-1972, briefly), Sargent Shriver (D-1972) and Geraldine Ferraro (D-1984).

October 2, 2008

Liveblog: Vice-presidential candidates debate away

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are debating over tax breaks and healthcare during tonight's debate. Palin seemed very nervous at the beginning but smoothed out eventually. Here's a partial transcript from CNN.

When asked about climate change, Palin said she didn't want to argue over the causes while Biden said it is man made.

Biden says that same sex couples should have the same constitutional and legal rights as heterosexual couples. Palin say she's doesn't want to re-define the traditional definition of marriage, which Biden said he agrees.

Biden: "Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it."

The debate moves to foreign policy. Biden says religious leaders control Iran's foreign policy. Palin says there must be a two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

Both candidates call for the end of the genocide in Darfur.

I'm waiting for the transcript to get the context for these, but Palin seems to be speaking Christianese: "Her reward is in heaven," "worldview," "city on a hill."

Update: Palin to Biden "I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right?"

Update: "That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here."

An abortion reference slipped in when Biden talked about why he changed his views on appointing Bork to the Supreme Court.

"Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties."

TV commentators are saying people who were hoping for a train wreck are probably disappointed.

The Susan B. Anthony List president implies a comeback for Palin but doesn't offer to say where she went.

"The Sarah we saw tonight was the same Sarah from the GOP convention - the real Sarah. She is back," Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

In a CNN poll, 51 percent thought Biden did the best job, while 36 percent thought Palin did the best job. However, respondents said Palin was more likable, scoring 54 percent to Biden's 36 percent.

The Boston Globe's Michael Paulson writes, "Joe Biden wasn't asked about whether he should take Communion. Sarah Palin wasn't asked whether she speaks in tongues. In fact, tonight's vice-presidential debate featured only minimal talk of faith at all..." Reuters' Tom Heneghan asks, "Has the faith factor fizzled in the U.S. campaign?"

October 2, 2008

The Death of Joe Biden's Wife -- An Honest Crisis of Faith

I really admire this passage from Joe Biden's memoir, Promises to Keep. It's about the sudden death of his wife, Neilia (above), and their baby daughter Naomi in a car accident shortly after his election to the Senate in 1992. It is defiantly not an explication of the power of faith, but rather an honest -- and politically risky -- description of what it really felt like. His faith returned later, but I think anyone who has been through horrific tragedy will appreciate the honesty here:

They flew us to Wilmington, but I didn't know anything for sure until I got to the hospital. All the way up, I kept telling myself that everything was going to be okay, that I was letting my imagination run away with me, but the minute I got to the hospital and saw Jimmy's face, I knew the worst had happened. Beau, Hunt and Naomi had been in the car with Neilia when the accident happened. Neilia had been killed and so had our baby daughter. The boys were both alive, but Beau had a lot of broken bones and hunt had injuries. The doctors couldn't rule out permanent damage. I could not speak, only felt this hollow core grow in my chest, like I was gong to be sucked inside a black hole.

The first few days I felt trapped in a constant twilight of vertigo, like in the dream where you're suddenly falling...only I was constantly falling. In moments of fitful sleep I was aware of the dim possibility that I would wake up, truly wake up, and this would not have happened. But then I'd open my eyes to the sight of my sons in their hospital beds -Beau in a full body cast--and it was back. And as consciousness gathered again, I could always feel at least one other physical present in the room--and there would be Val, or my mom, or Jimmy. They never left my side. I have no memory of ever being physically alone.

Most of all I was numb, but there were moments when the pain cut through like a shard of broken class. I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in; how suicide wasn't just an option but a rational option. But I'd look at Beau and Hunter asleep and wonder what new terrors their own dreams held, and wonder who would explain to my sons my being gone, too. And I knew I had no choice but to fight to stay alive.

Except for the memorial service, I stayed in the hospital room with my sons. My life collapsed into their needs. If I could focus on what they needed minute by minute, I thought I might stay out of the black hole. My future was telescoped into the effort of putting one foot in front of the other. The horizon faded fro my view. Washington, politics, the Senate had no hold on me. I was supposed to be sworn into the Senate in two weeks, but I could not bear to image the scene without Neilia....


There was good news: The doctors assured us that Beau and Hunter would make full recoveries. Beau's bones would mend. Hunter had no brain impairment. But Christmas passed with the boys in the hospital, and I began to feel my anger. When the boys were asleep or when Val or Mom was taking a turn at their bedside, I'd bust out of the hospital and go walking the nearby streets. Jimmy would go with me, and I'd steer him wordlessly down into the darkest and seediest neighborhoods I could find. I liked to go at night when I thought there was a better chance of finding a fight. I was always looking for a fight. I had not known I was capable of such rage. I knew I had been cheated out of a future, but I felt I'd been cheated of a past, too.

The underpinnings of my life had been kicked out from under me...and it wasn't just the loss of Neilia and Naomi. All my life, I'd been taught about our benevolent God. This is a forgiving God who is tolerant. This is a God who gave us free will to be able to doubt. This was a loving God, a God of comfort. Well, I didn't want to hear anything about a merciful God. No words, no prayer, no sermon gave me ease. I felt God had played a horrible trick on me, and I was angry. I found no comfort in the Church. So I kept walking the dark streets to try to exhaust the rage."

(Originally posted at Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.)

October 1, 2008

Palin and Biden offer Roe v. Wade views

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden discussed their opposing views on Roe v. Wade with Katie Couric in a CBS interview posted today.

Their answers are below, but many news outlets focus on Palin's difficulty naming another Supreme Court case she disagreed with besides Roe V. Wade.

Joe Biden

Katie Couric: Why do you think Roe v. Wade was a good decision?

Joe Biden: Because it's as close to a consensus that can exist in a society as heterogeneous as ours. What does it say? It says in the first three months that decision should be left to the woman. And the second three months, where Roe v. Wade says, well then the state, the government has a role, along with the women's health, they have a right to have some impact on that. And the third three months they say the weight of the government's input is on the fetus being carried.

And so that's sort of reflected as close as anybody is ever going to get in this heterogeneous, this multicultural society of religious people as to some sort of, not consensus, but as close it gets.

I think the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment … offers a right to privacy. Now that's one of the big debates that I have with my conservative scholar friends, that they say, you know, unless a right is enumerated - unless it's actually, unless [it] uses the word "privacy" in the Constitution - then no such "constitutional right" exists. Well, I think people have an inherent right.

Sarah Palin

Couric Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states' issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I'm, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it's no secret that I'm pro-life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that's what I would like to see, um, further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but …

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

September 10, 2008

Bishops v. Biden

The Catholic Bishops are cheesed with Joe Biden for, as they see it, claiming that abortion is just a "personal and private issue." Here's the relevant quote, from Biden's response on Meet the Press last Sunday:

I'd say, "Look, I know when it begins for me." It's a personal and private issue. For me, as a Roman Catholic, I'm prepared to accept the teachings of my church. But let me tell you. There are an awful lot of people of great confessional faiths--Protestants, Jews, Muslims and others--who have a different view.

According to the bishops, "the Senator’s claim that the beginning of human life is a 'personal and private' matter of religious faith, one which cannot be 'imposed' on others, does not reflect Catholic teaching."

Of course, Biden did not say that the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is a private matter. His position is that it is a confessional matter. The bishops can assert until they are blue in the face that what they profess is universally applicable because it's built into the nature of things; but at the end of the day they remain religious leaders asserting the doctrine of their church. And most American Catholics, like Biden, understand them as such.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics)

August 23, 2008

Biden's Abortion Record -- Pro-Choice Centrist

Below is a collection of the ratings of Joe Biden by various abortion-related groups.

Here's the bottom line: Biden is a pro-choice centrist on abortion. What does that mean? He votes consistently with the pro-choice forces on most matters, and is a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade -- but he departed from pro-choice orthodoxy on two of the biggest abortion issues:

--Unlike Obama, he opposes federal funding for abortion, arguing that has pro-choice views should not be imposed on others. "I still am opposed to public funding for abortion," he said on Meet the Press in 2007. "It goes to the question of whether or not you're going to impose a view to support something that is not a guaranteed right but an affirmative action to promote."

--Unlike Obama, he voted for the ban on late term abortions.

On most other issues - stem cell research, banning abortions on military bases, etc - Biden supported the pro-choice position.

Now for the ratings:

Biden got a 60% rating from the National Abortion Right Action League in 2007 and a 36 in 2003. (NARAL's ratings for Biden are very confusing. One part of the website lists him as having a 60% rating, another part says he has a 75% rating but was absent for five of the six votes. ) In 2006 he apparently got a 100% .

The National Right to Life Committee gives him a consistent zero.

Democrats for Life gives him a 33%

In earlier years, he got lower ratings from the pro-choice groups and higher ratings from the pro life groups, for instance , he got 34% in 1997 from NARAL and a 41% from the National Right to Life Committee.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 23, 2008

Biden's Rosary

For those who don't have time to read the full Christian Science Monitor piece on Joe Biden's faith, here are the most salient parts.

He went to high school at a Catholic boys school called Archmere, and goes to mass almost weekly. "I get comfort from carrying my rosary, going to mass every Sunday. It's my time alone," he says.

He carries a rosary. When he had brain surgery for an aneurism he asked the doctors if he could keep the rosary under his pillow.

In Junior high he briefly considered entering seminary to be a priest but his mother urged him to wait until after he'd had some experience dating girls. "I told him: 'Wait until you start dating girls, then go,' " said Mrs. Biden

When he faced unspeakable tragedy - his wife and daughter were killed in a car accident - he turned heavily to faith. The Monitor reports:

His spiritual crisis was not so readily resolved. "I never doubted that there was a God, but I was angry with God," he says. "I was very self-centered: How could God do this to me?"

Friends close to Biden during this time credit his faith for helping pull him through the despair. "In times of crisis, he goes to church a lot," says Ted Kaufman, a former chief of staff who was with Biden for 22 years.

What also helped break his rift with God was a cartoon his father, Joe Biden Sr., gave him. It showed "Hagar the Horrible" blasted by lightning. The bubble read, "Why me, God" - and the answer: "Why not." Biden says: "I realized, who am I to think that I'm so special?"

He was as Vatican II Catholic, meaning he was encouraged to question and discuss Church doctrine. "Questioning was not criticized; it was encouraged," Biden says. He recalled a question in ninth-grade theology class at Archmere:


"How many of you questioned the doctrine of transubstantiation?" the teacher asked, referring to the teaching that the bread and wine change into the body and blood of Christ during the Eucharist. No hands were raised. Finally, Biden raised his. "Well, we have one bright man, at least," the teacher said.

The teacher didn't say criticizing the church was good. "He led me to see that if you cannot defend your faith to reason, then you have a problem," Biden says.


More thoughts soon on how Biden's Catholicism has affected his views on public policy.

This article is cross-posted from Steve Waldman's blog at Beliefnet.

August 23, 2008

Obama chooses Biden

The guessing games are finally over, and Sen. Barack Obama's campaign sent the official text message at 3 a.m. declaring Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has a nice site set up giving a brief bio and links to articles on Biden's Catholic background.