Mr Joseph Robinette Biden Jr is the first President of the United States to go by the Biblical name Joseph. In the Old Testament, Joseph was a leader in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Through the ministry of Joseph, many lives were saved. In the New Testament, the only man on earth privileged to be foster father of the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was a carpenter called Joseph! Biden is one of the few politicians in the world to spend five decades in politics. He is the oldest American to be president of the United States. He is the first American president to celebrate his 80th birthday in the White House. Biden is one of the few Americans to experience half a century of politics in the nation’s capital, Washington, District of Columbia (DC) from 1973 to 2023 and counting. The only period of political lull was from 21st January, 2017 to 19th January, 2021. During this period, he prepared for the highest office in the United States.
Ranking at the nation’s capital
In 1973, Biden was one of 100 senators; in 2009, he was the number 2 man (vice-president) in the land and on January, 20, 2021, he became the first citizen (president) of the United States. In the 93rd US Congress, Joe Biden was the least in rank of 11 new senators sworn into office on January 3, 1973. Of the eleven, four had been members of the US House of Representatives, one had been a State Governor and five represented states with bigger population. Since Biden represented Delaware (46th in terms of population size) and was neither a former member of the US House of Representatives nor former state governor, he was ranked least of the 11 new senators and by extension, the least in rank of the 100-member US senate in January 1973.
Tragedy after victory
In December 1972, weeks after Biden had been elected US senator from Delaware, tragedy struck. Biden’s wife Neilia and their one-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an automobile accident while shopping for Christmas in Hockessin, Delaware. Neilia Biden's station wagon was hit by a tractor-trailer truck carrying corn cobs as she pulled out from an intersection. Biden's sons Beau and Hunter survived the accident. Joe Biden considered resigning from the yet to be sworn in position of a senator to care for his boys.
Influence of Mansfield
However, the newly-elected lawmaker was persuaded by Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield not to resign. In spite of the deep pain Biden went through, Mansfield encouraged him to carry on. In a way, Joe Biden had similarities with the senate majority leader. Both of them belonged to the Democratic Party and were christened Joseph. Michael Joseph Mansfield spent thirty four years at the Capitol Hill – House and Senate from 1943 to 1977 while Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. spent thirty six years in the senate from 1973 to 2009. Mansfield was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1943-1953 and a senator from 1953 to 1977. For sixteen years, Mansfield was senate majority leader from 1961 to 1977. Mansfield served as US Ambassador to Japan from 1977 to 1988. Biden was chairman of the influential senate foreign relations committee from 2007 to 2009.
Choice of running-mate
Prior to becoming president, Barack Hussein Obama Jr. had a short CV. With less than a senate term at nomination for president in 2008, Barack Obama searched for a vice-presidential candidate with gravitas both in politics and in foreign affairs. In the Democratic Party, he could look no further than Joe Biden who had served at the US senate since 1973, was chairman of the judiciary committee and chaired the powerful foreign relations committee.
Most probably, the greatest forte of the politics of Joe Biden is foreign affairs. In 1998, ‘Congressional Quarterly’ named Biden as one of ‘Twelve Who Made a Difference’ for playing a lead role in several foreign policy matters. Joe Biden was a longtime member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. He was co-chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group in the senate. A partial list covering this time showed him meeting with one hundred and fifty leaders from nearly sixty countries and international organizations. After serving his vice-presidential role, he impacted foreign affairs. Biden led the efforts to pass the United States–Russia New START treaty, supported military intervention in Libya and helped formulate US policy toward Iraq through withdrawal of US troops in 2011.
Position on foreign policy
On June 11, 2019, Joe Biden criticized Donald Trump's ‘damaging’ trade war with China. He also criticized Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, a decision which critics say gave Turkey green light to launch military offensive against Syrian Kurds. In response to Congress refusal to ratify the SALT II Treaty signed in 1979 by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and President Jimmy Carter, Biden took the initiative to meet with Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko. The meeting was to impress on him about America’s concerns and interests and secured changes to address the Foreign Relations Committee's objections. Biden stuck with strict terms of foreign policy instruments. When the Reagan administration wanted to interpret the 1972 SALT I Treaty loosely to allow the Strategic Defense Initiative to proceed, he argued for strict adherence to the treaty's terms. Again, he had issues with the Reagan administration in 1986 over economic sanctions against South Africa. In this instance, Biden received considerable press attention when he excoriated Secretary of State George P. Shultz at a senate hearing. Biden did this because of the administration's support of apartheid South Africa.
On the occasion of his 50th anniversary (golden jubilee) in Washington, DC, there is a challenge. The Democratic Party is known to be friend of minority ethnic groups (including Hispanics) and immigrants from developing countries. As of January 2023, with unprecedented surge in potential immigrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Mexico etc to enter the US at the Mexico border, Biden’s management or otherwise of the crisis may play a role in the 2024 presidential poll.
* This feature is dedicated to former students of Yaa Asantewaa Girls’ SHS, Kumasi: Shulammite Konadu Aboagye, Josephine Afreh Apraku, Keren Kezia Oteng and all 77 girls who offered French in the 2022 WASSCE.
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