Beau Biden, former attorney general of Delaware, lost his battle with cancer yesterday.
The 46-year-old father of two succumbed to brain cancer, a disease he had battled for 2 years. He was once thought a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2016, but Beau Biden’s cancer recurred last year after he was declared free of the disease in 2013.
According to the vice president’s office, Beau Biden underwent surgery in Houston in 2013 and then followed a normal course of radiation and chemotherapy. By November 2013, he had been given a clean bill of health, but after a recurrence this spring, Biden began an aggressive treatment and was admitted to Walter Reed this month.
Biden is survived by his wife, Hallie, and two children.
President Obama released a statement late Saturday saying that he and first lady Michelle Obama were grieving and calling him “a good, big-hearted, devoutly Catholic and deeply faithful man, who made a difference in the lives of all he touched — and he lives on in their hearts.”
“But for all that Beau Biden achieved in his life, nothing made him prouder; nothing made him happier; nothing claimed a fuller focus of his love and devotion than his family,” Obama’s statement said.
Beau Biden became a national political star in 2008 after delivering a stirring introduction of his father at the Democratic National Convention in Denver the night Joe Biden accepted the nomination for vice president. A little more than a month later, Beau Biden deployed to Iraq and served there for one year — except for a trip home in January 2009 to see his father take the oath of office as vice president.
Beau Biden was awarded the Bronze Star.
Say what you will against the vice president — and there’s plenty to criticize — I would not wish to have experienced the series of tragedies in his life that he says informed his public and private personae:
In Denver seven years ago, Beau Biden told the tragic family story that became the emotional foundation for his father’s 36 years of service in the Senate and the past 6 1/2 years as vice president. Shortly after winning his Senate race, in December 1972, Joe Biden received a phone call while in Washington interviewing staff.
His wife, Neilia, and three children had been in a horrible car crash on the way home from purchasing the family Christmas tree. His wife and daughter had died, and his two sons, Beau and Hunter, were clinging to life. Having just turned 30, Joe Biden raced home to Wilmington and considered never taking the oath of office.
Through the support of other senators, Biden agreed to be sworn in the next month at the hospital bedside of Beau and Hunter. Eventually venturing to Washington, Biden decided that he would take the train every morning from Wilmington and return every night.
“As a single parent, he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he’d travel to and from Washington, four hours a day,” Beau Biden told the Denver crowd on Aug. 27, 2008, in the speech that introduced the world to a story that his father had told many times.
In recent weeks, the vice president’s public schedule had declined as he regularly visited his son. Two weeks ago, during Yale University’s graduation ceremonies, he delivered a deeply personal speech to thousands of students and parents who had no idea what the vice president was personally enduring.
Close advisers viewed it as the closest Joe Biden ever came to fully explaining how much his personal life and tragedy informed his own career. Of his Amtrak ride home every night to see his two sons, he said that it wasn’t for them.
Decent, honorable men are hard to come by in politics these days. By all accounts, Beau Biden was one of them. The Biden family loss is America’s loss, and despite everything, our condolences should go out to the vice president for yet another tragic death in his family.