Joe Biden -- a life's work in Washington

Washington (AFP) –


A stalwart of American political life for decades, Joe Biden, 77, has experienced many ups and downs during his long career in Washington. But in the end he won the biggest prize of all -- the presidency -- after edging out President Donald Trump.

- Senate at 30 -

Active in local politics in Delaware, Biden scored a major surprise aged just 30 when he ousted a well-established Republican senator in the 1972 election.

Just few weeks later, Biden's wife and daughter died in a car accident. He thought of resigning to take care of his injured sons Beau and Hunter, but he was persuaded to stay on and was sworn in on January 5, 1973.

He was reelected to the upper house of Congress continuously until 2008.

- Against 'busing' -

In the 1970s, he opposed a government policy known as "busing," which organized buses to transport Black children to predominantly white schools to promote co-education.

Senator Kamala Harris attacked him over his stance during this year's Democratic primary race. Nevertheless, he chose her as his running mate.

- Presidential flop -

In 1987, Biden joined the race for the White House for the first time, buoyed by his image as a dashing man in his 40s and starting as a favorite among many in his party.

But he crashed out in humiliating style after making a series of exaggerations about his past and a scandal over plagiarized passages in his campaign speeches.

- Women and the law -

As chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden supervised the 1991 process of confirming judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court when accusations against the nominee of sexual harassment emerged.

Biden organized a televised hearing of Thomas's accuser, Anita Hill, which turned into a fiasco. Hill, a young law professor, was grilled in graphic detail by an all-white, all-male panel in scenes that shocked many observers.

Biden later apologized. Three years afterwards, he made up some ground by overseeing the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. He has described it as his "proudest legislative accomplishment."

- Prison numbers -

Biden was also a key architect of broader criminal justice reforms that have drawn much criticism.

At a time when crime was ravaging sections of American society, legislation under Bill Clinton's presidency marked a consensus between rival political parties on adopting a tough approach.

The 1994 "crime law" is considered by some to be responsible for the explosion in US prisoner numbers and also for the over-representation of African Americans in jail.

Its negative impact was due in part to severely punishing crack users, a drug more often consumed in poor neighborhoods.

"It was a mistake," Biden admitted during his final debate with Donald Trump.

- War in Iraq -

When serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in 2002, Biden voted to back the war in Iraq, after holding hearings of numerous witnesses who suggested -- wrongly -- that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of destruction massive.

He again has said that his stance was a mistake in hindsight.

- Obama's number two -

Biden was chosen by Barack Obama as his vice presidential candidate and entered the White House with him in January 2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis.

Biden secured Congress's adoption of a huge $800 billion stimulus package, which the president entrusted him to implement.

The plan was largely deemed a success as the US economy rebounded.

Biden may have run for the presidency in 2016 but for the death of his elder son Beau from a brain tumor. Obama and Biden have remained close allies.

- White House bid -

In 2019, he launched his campaign to beat Donald Trump and win the White House at last.

After a difficult start, he bounced back to victory in the Democratic primaries boosted by his support among African Americans and became the party's presidential candidate. In the end, after a campaign like no other, held amid the coronavirus pandemic, he went on to deny Trump a second term.