Joe Biden, a colorful politician with deep experience in foreign policy and criminal justice issues, was forced today to scuttle a lifelong ambition to occupy the Oval Office. The 72-year-old Biden — a lawyer and one-time Delaware county council official — has been on the national stage since he first won election to the Senate in 1972 as the sixth-youngest senator in U.S. history.
“I believe we’re out of time — the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination,” Biden said Tuesday. “But while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent. I intend to speak out clearly and forcefully, to influence as much as I can where we stand as a party and where we need to go as a nation.”
Biden has exerted such influence for more than four decades in national politics. He won reelection to the Senate six times, and made his mark as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, where he opposed the Gulf War in 1991 but pressed for U.S. and NATO intervention in the Bosnian War in 1994 and 1995. He also voted in favor of a resolution authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002, while opposing the surge of U.S. troops in 2007. Biden chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and is known for championing anti-crime and drug measures and civil liberties.
With his irrepressible Irish charm and willingness to broker deals, he made many friends in the Senate, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the current Majority Leader — a friendship that paid off years later when the vice president turned to McConnell to negotiate last-minute budget deals with the Republicans.
Although Americans know Biden best as the straight-talking but sometimes blooper-prone vice president, here are 14 facts about the vice president you may not know.
- When he was a child, Biden’s classmates teased him for stuttering when he spoke. He overcame his speech impediment by himself, reading long poems out loud in front of a mirror.
- While Biden attended Syracuse University College of Law in the late 1960s, he and his wife Neilia Hunter Biden purchased a puppy and named him “Senator.”
- Biden has said thought of himself as a Republican in the first few months after he graduated from law school. He resisted formally affiliating with the GOP due to his distaste for Richard Nixon, choosing instead to register as an Independent. He later became a Democrat.
- In his first-ever Senate race in 1972, Biden beat Delaware’s best-known politician, a well-funded, three-term incumbent Republican. He was 29 at the time he won the election, too young to be in Congress, but he turned 30 before being sworn into office.
- He’s endured many tragedies. His wife, Neilia, and his infant daughter, Naomi,were killed in a car accident while shopping for a Christmas tree in 1972. His two sons, Beau and Hunter, were in the car as well, but survived after suffering serious injuries.
- Biden, who had been elected just before the tragic accident, took the Senate oath of office at his sons’ hospital bedsides. Committed to his sons, he commuted to Washington from Wilmington, Del. every day by train throughout his career in the Senate.
- Biden remarried schoolteacher Jill Tracy Jacobs in June 1977 and has a daughter, Ashley, with her.
- In 1988, Biden had to have brain surgery after being diagnosed with two life-threatening cranial aneurysms. Before surgery, the surgeon told him that he had a 35 to 50 percent chance of living a normal life afterwards.
- Before becoming vice president, Biden was Delaware’s longest-serving senator, serving for six terms.
- Like Donald Trump, Biden does not drink alcohol. He has said that alcoholism runs in his family.
- Biden became the highest-ranking government official to endorse same-sex marriage in 2012 during an appearance on “Meet the Press.” Soon after, President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage as well.
- If he does decide to run for president, this would be Biden’s third try. He ran in 1987, but withdrew after he was accused of failing to credit a British politician, Neil Kinnock, for remarks he made in a speech. He also ran in 2008.
- Biden, the son of a car salesman, apparently does not own a 1981 Pontiac Trans Am, though he told Car and Driver that he has a 1967 Corvette that the Secret Service would not let him drive.
- A Catholic, Biden has said he finds comfort in the rosary beads he carries. "He has a rosary with him all the time and he uses it," a longtime friend told People earlier this year. "He'll never do it in front of people, though. Faith, family and character are what has enabled him to survive these incredible tragedies."