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Who's Behind Joe Biden's Leftward Lunge?

A Commentary by Michael Barone

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."

Whom does he have in mind? Which members of younger generations does he have the most contact with? His children and grandchildren, I'm guessing, whom he gets to see or remember back in Delaware most weekends.

The third clue comes from a possibly unreliable source, and I advance it only as a possible explanation -- and as one likely to be overlooked by sympathetic press that have been uninterested in how Biden has accumulated prime real estate and that dismissed the New York Post's October 2020 Hunter Biden laptop story on the preposterous excuse that it was "a Russian information operation."

Actually, now even the New York Times admits the laptop contents have been verified, and the Washington Examiner reported extensively last month on the contents. "He'll talk about anything that I want him to, that he believes in," Hunter Biden says in a tape recorded in December 2018. "If I say it's important to me, then he will work in a way in which to make it part of his platform. My dad respects me more than anyone in the world, and I know that to be certain, so it's not going to be about whether it affects his politics."

Is Hunter Biden a reliable source? Not necessarily. He has admitted he's a former crack addict who has been in rehabilitation programs and has had a tangled personal life. And is Hunter Biden, at 52 years old, the next generation?

Well, maybe to "my dad." A parent looking at an adult child sometimes in his mind's eye sees a younger person, even a child. Joe Biden, in looking at him, may see the 2-year-old Hunter in the hospital after the terrible accident with his 3-year-old brother Beau, who died of cancer in 2015.

You'd have to be a hardhearted person to doubt that Biden has a poignant affection for Hunter and for his daughter Ashley, 41, who has had her own drug problems.

So are Biden's two surviving children or his grandchildren behind his unpopular leftward lunge? I don't know. I just advance a hypothesis. But have you seen a more plausible one?

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.


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See Other Commentaries by Michael Barone.

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