Joe Biden’s Sister Valerie Must Tell Him to Go With Dignity: Dem Insiders

Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Erin O’Flynn/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

A beleaguered Joe Biden was holed up in Camp David on Sunday, reportedly preparing to discuss the future of his re-election campaign with close family members—although not, perhaps, with the one he should actually be talking to.

Three days after a disastrous performance in Thursday’s first presidential debate against Donald Trump, the 81-year-old faces a torrent of calls—including from friends and former supporters—to drop out of the race for the sake of the nation.

But even those considered genuine Bidenworld “insiders” cannot agree on who might be best-placed to counsel the president as he faces the most consequential decision of his life: his wife of 47 years, Jill Biden; or the woman who has been at his side throughout his long political career, younger sister Valerie Biden Owens.

It was Jill who escorted a shellshocked Biden from the stage after the TV debate in Atlanta on Thursday and who has been at his side ever since at a series of campaign stops and a big-dollar fundraiser in the Hamptons that was brutally overshadowed by speculation on his future. The first lady is with her husband at the presidential retreat in Maryland this weekend, along with their kids and grandkids.

But for many Democrat insiders, Dr. Biden is simply too close to her husband to ever bring herself to wield the knife on his career. The only people with any real chance of persuading him to bow out now, some suggest, are sister Valerie and best friend Ted Kaufman.

One Democratic official, briefing Axios on condition of anonymity, said the only way to ease Biden out of the race would be to let him to go with dignity, persuade him that he has achieved what he set out to achieve as president and should hand over to a new generation. Only Owens and Kaufman enjoyed the family trust enough to be able to do that.

“This is not about him submitting to the will of others yelling at him that he failed. Joe Biden is too proud for that argument. He will not be dragged off the stage,” said the official, whom Axios described as being “outside the White House and campaign.”

“You’ve got to give him the dignity to walk off on his own. The idea that it would happen in the immediate aftermath [of the debate] is clueless,” the official added.

But NBC News, which first reported on the Biden family huddle at Camp David, suggested Jill Biden remained her husband's most trusted adviser.

“The decision-makers are two people—it’s the president and his wife,” one source told the network. “Anyone who doesn’t understand how deeply personal and familial this decision will be isn’t knowledgeable about the situation.”

Publicly, at least, Biden's key aides and officials are standing by him, saying he should be judged not on one bad debate but on his record over the past three and a half years. They agree with Biden himself, who declared at a rally in North Carolina on Friday: “When you get knocked down, you get back up.”

But the calls for him to step down from previously sympathetic quarters continue to grow. Biden’s longtime friend, Thomas Friedman, wrote in The New York Times that he had cried watching Thursday’s debate. On Saturday, New Yorker editor David Remnick published a column titled “The Reckoning of Joe Biden,” calling on him to end his campaign. “It’s just become more and more evident, and the debate was just the kind of breakthrough moment,” Remnick told The Daily Beast.

The latest Democrat to break ranks was Jill Biden’s former press secretary, Michael LaRosa, who took issue with his former White House colleague Kate Bedingfield after she told CNN that the data suggested Biden’s tongue-tied debate had not affected the “fundamental head-to-head.” LaRosa respondend on X: “The data!? If there is data that counters the impact of what we all saw then WHERE THE HELL IS IT???”

Valerie Biden Owen, 78, is more than just the president’s sister. She served as his campaign manager in seven straight Senate races from 1972 and in the 1988 and 2008 presidential elections.

Kaufman, who at 85 is four years Biden’s senior, volunteered on Biden's long-shot Senate campaign in 1972, when he upset a Republican incumbent in Delaware, and later served as his chief of staff before inheriting Biden’s Senate seat after his election as vice president in 2008.

According to The New York Times, it was Kaufman that Biden turned to when he found himself caught up in a plagiarism scandal in 1987 during his first tilt at the presidency.

“There’s only one way to stop the sharks, and that’s pull out,” Kaufman said. Biden did what he suggested.

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