Former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. has been called both the luckiest man and the unluckiest—fortunate to have sustained a fifty-year political career that reached the White House, but also marked by deep personal losses and disappointments that he has suffered. Osnos ponders the difficulties Biden will face if elected and weighs how political circumstances, and changes in the candidate's thinking, have altered his positions
The book is an easy read and contains a number of insights — though it’s still a quickie book ... Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now recaps a lot of what people who’ve been following the campaign already know ... Joe Biden ably takes the measure of the man and the politician, presenting a picture of the Democratic nominee that is in a few ways unexpected ... Osnos also makes a point of granting the sincerity of Biden’s appeals to unity — both party unity and national unity ... Osnos doesn’t dismiss the prospect of a legislatively productive Biden presidency altogether. He points out that Biden’s fluency in the language of moderates could make it easier for him than it was for Obama to build a consensus behind a liberal agenda.
Osnos’s concise biography treads back along the trail of horrendous tragedies, dashed hopes and dramatic implosions that preceded Biden’s improbable third run at the presidency, and gives at least some clues to the kind of leader he will become if he wins ... It is impossible to come away from the Osnos’s biography without a sense of awe at what Biden has overcome to arrive at this point, so late in life and so close to achieving a prize he had assumed was lost ... Osnos has written a fast-paced biography that draws on extensive interviews with his subject, as well as with Obama and a host of Democratic party heavyweights. In pursuit of brevity it races through the many personal dramas of a tumultuous life and deals only perfunctorily with Biden’s surviving son ... This book suggests Biden has the capacity for self-reinvention.
... it’s refreshing—even cleansing—to be here again, to read an admiring biography about a normal politician. Of course it is dull too ... Here we see the journalist in sync with the aspirations and craft of the politician, admiring, often in awe of, his subject’s driving ambition to rise in the political structure, and his skills in accomplishing this. There isn’t, traditionally, much of an ideological basis to such political portraiture. All winners are due their attentive books, and such special-access tracts (Osnos is granted quite a bit of one-on-one time with Biden the candidate) tend to be produced by those who have shown their relative deference. Only the most gullible reader might miss the clear partnership between the politician and political writer in a traditional campaign biography ... Osnos is an old-fashioned political writer ... Osnos the younger is not setting out to look for deficiencies or expose scandal but to set out virtues. And not, mind you, ideological virtues but political ones: his subject’s astuteness, acumen and fortune as a politician ... Osnos’s lacklustre prose suggests he didn’t know he had such a big story, even as Biden began to prosper in the primaries, and in fact there is a sense of the author feeling somewhat lumbered with the Biden beat. His subject emerges as a worthy but default figure, the best all-purpose, anybody-but-Trump candidate.