You are vacationing with your family on South Carolina’s beautiful Kiawah Island in this summer of what has been a very sad year. You have a very big decision to make, and this week, it seems to have gotten even bigger.
You are Joe Biden. You are weighing whether or not to run for president. And the more you think about it, the more things happening far outside your realm have become part of your innermost considerations.
The decision isn’t really about you. It is, first and foremost, about those you love most of all: your wife, Jill; your children and grandchildren. In a special way, your inner circle, whose thoughts you are now seeking, will always include your late son, Beau, who tried to get you to make a certain promise when he knew he was not going to survive the brain cancer that took his life at age 46 in May.
The New York Times’ excellent columnist Maureen Dowd recently shared with us the poignant moment when Beau, who served as a soldier in war and as Delaware’s attorney general, sat with you and tried to make you promise to run for president. Working to express himself despite the difficulties caused by his cancer, Beau said he was worried about you (it’s a scene and sentiment that profoundly moves every parent who reads it). Beau reportedly made the case to you that America will need a leader with, as Dowd phrased it, “Biden values.”
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Biden values. As you Bidens have been vacationing, and as you have been discussing with family and friends the decision you must soon make, news broke in the outside world that surely brought increased meaning to the message Beau expressed with such compassion and conscience in his final days.
That message takes on special importance given that, thanks to Dowd’s reporting, we also know that throughout Beau’s ordeal, you and your family wore blue bracelets lettered WWBD, for What Would Beau Do?
▪ NEWSBREAK/Tuesday: Hillary Clinton reversed her long-held position and agreed to give the FBI the private email server she used to conduct all her public correspondence in her four years as secretary of state and a thumb drive containing copies of emails she has since given to the State Department.
Her presidential campaign announced the decision to give the server and thumb drive to the FBI, which is investigating whether any security violations occurred. Clinton maintained she didn’t send classified information in her emails and saw no need to hand over her private server or thumb drive.
▪ NEWSBREAK/Tuesday: The intelligence community’s inspector general informed congressional leaders that two emails containing information classified “top secret” – the highest security classification – traveled across the server. The top-secret information reportedly originated with the CIA and was classified by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
▪ NEWSBREAK/Tuesday: For the first time in the still-early presidential campaign, Vermont’s Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders pulled ahead of Clinton in a New Hampshire Democratic primary poll. Sanders led by a significant margin of 44 percent to Clinton’s 37 percent in a Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll.
You know well that one poll means little. Also, we are so early in the runup to 2016 the polls will probably change many times before anyone votes.
But you also know Clinton’s poll numbers for honesty and trust questions have become a major concern to Democratic leaders. Some 60 percent of independents – who may well decide the next election – have been telling pollsters they don’t think she is honest or trustworthy.
Your Democratic Party’s presidential frontrunner damaged her reputation by making a series of wrong choices on her emails. And those choices perpetuated a controversy that never had to exist in the first place – then should have been resolved long before this campaign season began.
Now, as you savor the Atlantic breezes while weighing all the questions before you, at least you have no doubt about the answer to one of them: WWBD?
It’s late, but not too late.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.