Joe Biden Relives His Childhood in the Way You'd Expect

Flickr user Adam Fagen

GQ's July issue profile of Vice President Joe Biden is a funny, deeply detailed sketch of the veep's idiosyncrasies. In it, we don't learn much about Biden's 2016 aspirations. But we do learn that his staff says things like, "Well, he would be crazy not to keep his options open," and that he has portraits in his Naval Observatory office of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, "both vice presidents who became presidents," and that GQ's Jeanne Marie Laskas says he likes to "look at their very satisfied expressions."

But this is not why the profile is an entertaining read. Much of the text takes up capturing Biden touring his hometown of Wilmington, Del., and telling Shailagh Murray, his communications director, stories about old Wilmington that she can't possibly find interesting. It's like taking a living history tour of a place with your dad. But your dad is Joe Biden.

This is the duo, along with Secret Service escort, inspecting Biden's childhood home:

"You can see the old porch, Shailagh, see it?" ... "This deck wasn't here," he says. "Oh, I used to come out here and put pebbles in my mouth, try to shout against that wall."

And Dominic, who could forget Dominic?

We worked for a guy named Dominic. Dominic talked like this, "Hey, Joe, get over here." You think I'm joking, but I'm not.

Why would we think he was joking about that?

A great scene is when they go visit his old high school, the Archmere Academy. It's the last day of school. No one is expecting the vice president of the United States to show up. Here is Biden at his best, seamlessly telling the story of how, as a boy, he used to do groundwork for some extra cash, all the while glad-handing with the future voters of America. Did you know that he was class president? Go figure.

The girls, maybe 20 of them, giggle, hold up their phones, and he pauses for pictures. He moves into the manor house, everyone following like fish swirling. "And I washed every window in this building," he says, reaching toward the stained-glass dome of the rotunda. "Most of the summer. I swear to God. With water and vinegar and paper." He spins, works all angles of the crowd. "My kids went here. My oldest son, he's the attorney general of the state of Delaware. We have a rugby team now? I want a picture! Ho ho ho, where's the White House photographer? And where's the class president? Can I have a class-president picture? Kate? Hello, Kate! I was class president, too, Kate! Folks, folks—"

It's  amazing how quickly he can pivot with his words. And this is a guy who used to stutter.

"We played in that gym, that's how ancient I am. I used to weed that garden. Hey, how you doing? I'm Joe Biden."

However, the most intimate moment in the profile comes when Biden takes the reporter and his whole team, through the mud, to Biden and his sister's "Bridge to Terabithia" playland of woods:

"My sister and I thought this was the enchanted forest." There's mud, wet leaves. Shailagh's in her pointed heels. He's in his tassel loafers. He doesn't care, doesn't notice. He's chasing ghosts in Wilmington, and there might be some more back here.

We get to the stream, wide, meandering around a jumble of boulders under the canopy of hardwoods, the sun piercing in patterns. It's picture-perfect, nothing to worry about but bugs. "Can you believe this?" he says, lifting his arms as if to say "Ta-dah!" ...

"This used to be the dam, right here. It's all filled in now. You're looking at the pool, but it was four times as wide. You could dive off. The edge, it went all the way out here, you follow me? That's how wide it was! You follow me? It was that far over. Where these trees are? The most magical place in the world! Can you imagine? You're 13 years old? It was a fairy tale!"

Read the whole thing at GQ.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.