‘Joe Biden Reeks of Decency’

U.S. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware addresses Drexel University Alumni. Biden was the youngest U.S. Senator at that time. (Getty Images)

In Kitty Kelly‘s 1974 profile at Washingtonian, you’ll meet a 31-year-old Joe Biden, not long after two critical events in his life: getting elected to the senate and the deaths of his wife Neilia and baby daughter in a 1972 car accident. The profile is a chance to step back in time and learn about Biden’s commitment to family, his approach to politics, his then-views on abortion, healthcare, and legalizing marijuana as well as his clear presidential ambitions.

Joseph Robinette Biden, the 31-year-old Democrat from Delaware, is the youngest man in the Senate, which makes him a celebrity of sorts. But there’s something else that makes him good copy: Shortly after his election in November 1972 his wife Neilia and infant daughter were killed in a car accident. Suddenly this handsome, young man struck down in his moment of glory was prey to scores of hungry reporters clamoring to write soul-searching stories.

Biden was devastated. He wanted to resign. Majority Leader Mike Mansfield persuaded him to stay, promising him several prestigious committee assignments. The Senate passed a resolution allowing him to be sworn in at the hospital bedsides of his sons. That was more than a year ago, and at the time he wasn’t sure he’d be able to stay in the Senate through 1973. He said he would resign if his Senate duties took too much time away from his sons. “They can always get another Senator, but my boys cannot get another father.”

My wife said I was the most socially conservative man she had ever known. I’m a screaming liberal when it comes to senior citizens because I really think they are getting screwed. I’m a liberal on health care because I believe it is a birth right of every human being—not just some damn privilege to be meted out to a few people. But when it comes to issues like abortion, amnesty, and acid, I’m about as liberal as your grandmother. I don’t like the Supreme Court decision on abortion. I think it went too far. I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body. I support a limited amnesty, and I don’t think marijuana should be legalized. Now, if you still think I’m a liberal, let me tell you that I support the draft. I’m scared to death of a professional army.

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