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The Very Real Problem with Joe Biden's New 'Deeply Personal' Healthcare Ad

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | August 28, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | August 28, 2019 |


I didn’t pay much attention to Joe Biden’s 1988 run for President because I wasn’t old enough at the time to pay attention to politics. And in his failed 2008 bid, Biden didn’t make a lot of headlines, except when he said something dumb, like when he said that Barack Obama was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” or when he suggested that “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.”

Like most people, I only got to know Biden well in 2008, after Obama chose him as his running mate, which is when we learned that Uncle Joe took the Amtrak to work every day and that in 1972, he tragically lost his wife and daughter in a car accident that also left his other two sons, Hunter and Beau, badly injured. It was a compelling and heartbreaking story. To be honest, back in ‘08, I often wished that Biden would lean on it a little harder because I really wanted Obama to win and I thought it would help. But I also respected the fact that he didn’t milk his personal tragedy for political gain.

Joe Biden has said a lot of dumb things, he was on the wrong side of the Anita Hill hearings, he’s handsy, he can be very tone-deaf, and I don’t agree with most of his policies. But I don’t dislike Joe Biden personally. I don’t want him to be President by any stretch, but because of the Obama halo effect, I’m never going to wish ill on Biden, particularly given all the very real tragedy he has suffered.

It’s also why I really wish he hadn’t decided to cut a new ad tying his family tragedies to his pitch for health care.

It’s an affecting and effective ad for a minute, but long-term, Joe is gonna get killed for it. Here, already, is the headline on Vice:

Screen Shot 2019-08-28 at 9.00.33 AM.png

I don’t think that headline is particularly fair, but it’s not untrue. You can logically extrapolate that message from the ad, which rejects the position of “others” (Democrats) who support Medicare for All, which would give healthcare to everyone, as opposed to Obamacare, which not only leaves a lot of gaps, but those gaps are getting wider thanks to the way Trump has chipped away at it. Biden seems to suggest in the ad that, starting from scratch would lead to a lapse in coverage for millions of Americans, which simply isn’t true.

By making this ad, he’s also made his family tragedies fair game. People are now going to reexamine the car accident, and they’re going to see that Biden used to outright lie and say that the tractor-trailer driver who ran into his wife was drunk, which was absolutely not true. It was a straight-up fluke of an accident and the family of that driver — who died back in 1999 — were very hurt back in 2008 when Biden suggested the driver had “drank his lunch” before the accident.

More to the point, however, there’s a huge flaw in that ad as it pertains to the death of his son, Beau. Joe says that he had no idea what he would’ve done without health insurance. The thing is: Joe had health insurance. Beau had health insurance. And yet, according to Biden himself — who earned, along with his wife, $388,000 a year in 2014 — Obama offered to cover the medical expenses because Biden nearly had to take out a loan on his home to pay for healthcare. From The Guardian:

Biden said Obama was the only person he kept updated on his son’s condition outside of the family, because he wanted the president to know what state he was in.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need, I’ll give you the money. Don’t, Joe - promise me [you won’t sell your house]. Promise me.’ I said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to have to anyway.’ He said, ‘Promise me,’” Biden said.

I mean, look: What does it say about the state of healthcare — even under Obamacare — that a guy whose family makes $400,000 a year is being offered a loan to by the President of the United States to pay for the healthcare of Beau Biden, himself a state attorney general who also had insurance? Under Medicare for All, no such loan or second-mortgage would have even been on the table.

I hate the fact that, if this comes up in the next debate, the other candidates would be able to use the death of Biden’s son against Biden’s healthcare proposals, but by cutting this ad, Joe opened himself up to it.

Biden: “Let me be plain, folks. Healthcare is personal to me. When my son, Beau, was diagnosed with cancer, I don’t know what I would have done if he hadn’t had access to affordable healthcare.”

Bernie: “Joe, isn’t it true you nearly took out a second mortgage to pay for the cost of his healthcare?”

Biden: “Yes it is, and Barack was even generous enough to offer me a loan.”

Bernie: “All due respect, Mr. Vice President, but under my and Elizabeth’s plan, the President never would’ve had to even make that offer.”


Speaking of the debate, the stage is set for the September debates: There will be ten candidates: Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris, Yang, Booker, Castro, O’Rourke and Klobuchar. No one else, including Gabbard and Williamson, managed to qualify.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.

Header Image Source: Getty Images