Biden's personal grief comes to forefront amid mass shootings

Biden's personal grief comes to forefront amid mass shootings
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Joe BidenJoe BidenPerry delegation talking points stressed pushing Ukraine to deal with 'corruption' GOP senator airs anti-Biden ad in Iowa amid impeachment trial Biden photobombs live national news broadcast at one of his rallies MORE has a unique perspective when it comes to grief: He's been there.

As Democratic candidates for president released impassioned statements in the wake of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this weekend, Biden shared his own experience dealing with the loss of his wife and two of his children.

“It really takes a part of your soul,” a teary-eyed Biden said during a sit-down interview Monday evening on CNN's Anderson Cooper. “What I tell people is that it's going to take a long time, but the person you lost is still with you, still part of you.”


Biden’s wife Neilia and his 1-year-old daughter Naomi were killed in a 1972 car accident weeks after his election to the Senate.

“I just remember being so angry, angry at everything,” Biden told Cooper while discussing the accident, which became ingrained in Biden’s own political story.

“And I remember — and people would come up to me and say meaning well after that, ‘I understand.’ And you feel like saying, ‘you have no idea, you have no idea.’ You know they mean well. But the people who in fact have been through it, you know they understand.” 

In 2015, Biden’s son Beau died of cancer, and the death contributed to the former vice president’s decision to not run for the White House.

In an interview with CBS’s Stephen ColbertStephen Tyrone ColbertBiden: 'I sure would like Michelle to be the vice president' Investing in our people to get the most out of our city Yang: I've received about 12 apologies from media networks during campaign MORE, Biden discussed how the grief over his son’s death was at times too much to bear.

“Nobody has a right, in my view, to seek that office unless they're willing to give it 110 percent of who they are,” he said of the presidency. “And I am, as I said, I'm optimistic, I'm positive about where we're going. But I find myself — you understand it — sometimes it just overwhelms you.”

As President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Don Lemon explains handling of segment after Trump criticism NPR reporter after Pompeo clash: Journalists don't interview government officials to score 'political points' Lawyer says Parnas can't attend Senate trial due to ankle bracelet MORE flies to Dayton and El Paso on Wednesday, Biden is showing he can play the role of consoler in chief at a time when the nation is more divided than ever. 

It’s a subject that Biden is familiar with, and one that journalists covering his career have long documented; earlier this year, a headline in Politico stated: “How Grief Became Joe Biden’s 'Superpower.' ”

Democratic strategists and political observers say it’s a personal history that makes Biden more relatable.

“When the vice president speaks about his son or knows someone else hurting, it isn’t an act. It’s gut level humanity,” said Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo. 

“Whenever anyone, friend or foe, can show their human side, we all relate. This includes the relationship between candidate and voter. Not every household has a bankruptcy or college loan to pay off, but all of them understand grief and losing a loved one too early.” 

Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said Biden’s ability to relate is one of his strengths as a candidate. 

“The nation is so polarized and in such anguish that Biden’s ability to relate to people is a great asset,” Bannon said. “Many Democrats value Biden as the only candidate in the race who has the personal feel to comfort Americans and bring them together again.” 

Since launching his campaign in April, Biden has scored points for directly going after Trump. The strategy has helped boost Biden's candidacy as Democrats have labeled him as being most electable in polls. 

But at the same time, as the country mourns the string of shootings and considers what measures to take, Biden is also revealing his more compassionate side. 

“A consoler in chief like Biden is the perfect antidote to a divider in chief like Trump. After tragedies like the mass murders in El Paso and Dayton, Biden can go on national TV and begin the healing process; something Donald Trump can't or won't do,” Bannon said. 

Democratic strategist Basil Smikle agreed, adding that “voters expect presidents to lead our forces into battle as well as embrace our nation in collective healing.” 

“Trump’s instinct seems to inflame passions rather than ameliorate grief so his behavior in the wake of these shootings could create enough of a contrast to become a major talking point in this cycle,” Smikle said. 

Other candidates have joined Biden in sharing their stories of dealing with grief. 

In an interview on Tuesday, Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockBrent Budowsky: Bloomberg should give billion to Democrats Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Kamala Harris dropped out, but let's keep her mental health plan alive MORE (D) shared the story of his 11-year-old nephew, Jeremy, who was fatally shot by a 10-year-old classmate on a playground. 

Bullock explained that the 1994 tragedy was the youngest schoolyard shooting in the country’s history. 

“There were two victims that day, Jeremy, my nephew, but also this 10-year-old,” the governor said.

Bullock said the 10-year-old involved in the shooting changed the way he thinks.

“When he was asked, he said ‘No one loves me,’ so it’s changed the way I think about how every child ought to have an opportunity so that they don’t grow up to that point at 10 or in their 20s to feel ostracized and left out,” Bullock said. “It’s changed how I think about public safety.”

In the CNN interview, Biden recounted a conversation he had months before Beau Biden’s death where his son made him promise that his life would continue on. 

“He just wanted me to make sure that the things that animated my life, my whole life I didn't walk away from,” Biden said. 

Biden also quoted Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who said “faith sees best in the dark.”  

“Sometimes it’s really dark, but there is hope,” he said.