It was a summer afternoon in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012 and for the first time in my life I was in the same room with the sitting Vice President of the United States of America, Joe Biden. As he entered the room a spontaneous cheer of “BFD, BFD” erupted from the crowd. Just as quickly an “ah, shucks” grin broke out on Biden’s face. Meeting the Vice President was a privilege and today I have the privilege of enshrining him in tellthetruthonthem.com’s Progressive Hall of Fame.
Joe Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972 and served in that body until he resigned in 2009 to take his newly elected post as Vice President. One of the rules for induction into the Hall is that a politician has retired. Biden, as he often does in life, has issued conflicting statements on his retirement, but I think Joe’s days of elected public service are over. Like all other denizens of the Hall he is not a perfect person, but should my retirement call be wrong, based on his track record I don’t think I’ll have to consider reconsidering the enshrinement.
Biden is as regular of a guy as anyone who has served at a high level of government in my lifetime. He is by all accounts a genuine good guy. That may not necessarily be a progressive trait but it certainly is an admirable and refreshing one. During his time in the Senate, Biden commuted via Amtrak earning the nickname Amtrak Joe. Literally rubbing elbows with your constituents on a train is certainly great retail politics. Biden never forgot that he was just an Irish kid from Scranton, Pennsylvania despite his success and the people loved him for it.
In my opinion (and his) Biden’s greatest achievement during his 36 years in the Senate was the sponsorship and passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Joe ticks off a lot of other progressive boxes. He was an advocate for consumer rights, civil rights, a clean environment, and of course, health care.
He is perhaps best known for his long time service on (including chairing) the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Biden has probably personally met with every major world leader of the past forty years not named Kim Jung-un. That personal knowledge served America and President Obama well.
A Syracuse University Law School grad, Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee through two of its most contentious Supreme Court nomination hearings: Robert Bork in 1987 and Clarence Thomas in 1991.
One last notable Senate achievement was the passage of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994; unfortunately it sunset in 2004 without renewal. That Senate failure has cost many American lives.
Biden stood behind President Obama during the fight to get Obamacare passed. It was not an easy task and when the full story is told I’m willing to bet that Biden’s behind the scenes efforts make him one of the heroes. It is the conclusion of that endeavor that gave birth to the BFD chant. Just as President Obama was about to sign the Affordable Care Act into law an open microphone caught Biden telling him it was a, “Big Fucking Deal”; a man of the people using the language of the street.
There has been much personal tragedy in Biden’s life and he left the Senate as one of the least wealthy members of Congress. While perhaps not financially rich Biden has a wealth of character. To date I have only met one Vice President and probably will never meet another; at least I met a great one! It is without the slightest reservation that I induct Joe Biden into the Progressive Hall of Fame!
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