Perhaps for the first time since taking office, Joe Biden has had to face tough questions about his decisions when the media decided to act like real journalists and call him out over his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.
And with almost every public statement he’s made about his decision, he has bizarrely invoked his late son, Beau Biden.
“So, when I hear that we could’ve, should’ve continued the so-called low-grade effort in Afghanistan, at low risk to our service members, at low cost, I don’t think enough people understand how much we have asked of the 1 percent of this country who put that uniform on, who are willing to put their lives on the line in defense of our nation,” Biden said on August 31, when he announced the war in Afghanistan was now officially over. “Maybe it’s because my deceased son, Beau, served in Iraq for a full year, before that.”
Biden also alluded to Beau when he spoke to the nation after the terror attack at Kabul airport. “Being the father of an Army major who served for a year in Iraq and, before that, was in Kosovo as a U.S. attorney for the better part of six months in the middle of a war,” Biden said. “When he came home after a year in Iraq, he was diagnosed, like many, many coming home, with an aggressive and lethal cancer of the brain — who we lost.”
Referencing his late son has become a habit for Joe Biden—particularly when it comes to him making consequential decisions. For example, when he first announced his plan to withdraw from Afghanistan in April, he said, “And throughout this process, my North Star has been remembering what it was like when my late son, Beau, was deployed to Iraq — how proud he was to serve his country; how insistent he was to deploy with his unit; and the impact it had on him and all of us at home.” He similarly invoked his son’s service during a joint session to Congress to help sell his plan to Republicans.
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But this is hardly a new strategy for Biden. In fact, throughout the campaign, Biden would reference his late wife and infant daughter, as well as Beau’s death from cancer, to maximum political advantage.
In the wake of the fake story that alleged Trump had called American troops who are buried at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018 “losers” and “suckers,” Joe Biden blasted Trump. “Let me be real clear,” Biden said. “When my son was an assistant U.S. attorney and volunteered to go to Kosovo while the war was going on as a civilian, he wasn’t a sucker. My son volunteered and joined the United States military as the attorney general, went to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other commendations. He wasn’t a sucker.”
While some would argue that Biden’s constant invoking of his late son is an attempt to connect or gain empathy, it actually feels more like he’s weaponizing his grief—like when he attacked Trump—or using his grief as a shield to protect him from criticism. Even though his son didn’t die in combat, Biden brought him up while visiting with the fallen service members’ families, which didn’t sit well with the Gold Star families.
“When he just kept talking about his son so much it was just — my interest was lost in that,” said Mark Schmitz, whose 20-year-old son Jared died in Kabul. “I was more focused on my own son than what happened with him and his son. I’m not trying to insult the president, but it just didn’t seem that appropriate to spend that much time on his own son.”
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The family of fallen Marine Rylee McCollum also reported that when they met with Biden, “he kept checking his watch and bringing up Beau.”
Even Jen Psaki has invoked Beau Biden to the same ends. “[Joe Biden] knows firsthand that there is nothing you can say to a family member. There is nothing you can say to someone who loses a child that is going to fill the black hole,” she said about Biden’s visit with the families.
Facing the families of soldiers who died because of his mistakes is not easy, but the only reason to keep bringing up his late son, who again did not die in combat, is to make an insincere attempt at empathy. The Gold Star families saw right through it. And frankly, so do the rest of us.
No one questions Biden’s grief for his late son, but constantly referencing him is a disingenuous attempt to get sympathy and deflect criticism. But Beau Biden isn’t like the 13 U.S. service members who died in Kabul, Afghanistan. He died of cancer. Joe Biden won’t be absolved for his decisions because he lost a son back in 2015 to a disease.