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President stands by his son in times of trouble

Hunter Biden’s criminal conviction for denying that he was a drug addict when he was one was supposed to damage his father’s reelection chances, or so went the prevailing punditry. Those who hate Joe Biden for God knows what reason — being 81 and having an arthritic spine, evidently — ardently want the damage done.

It may be, however, that the furious campaign to villainize Biden senior is actually undermined by his son’s troubles, which remind Americans of what an excellent father looks like.

For starters, there isn’t anyone in this galaxy or any adjacent one that doesn’t know that Hunter Biden has a deeply troubled intertwined history of emotional problems and substance abuse. He isn’t exactly the only one. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released last year found that 27% of Americans have family members who have been addicted to illegal drugs, and 24% have family who have been addicted to prescription painkillers. Fifty-four percent have family members who’ve been addicted to alcohol.

This isn’t the only reason that those chirping about Hunter Biden may be chirping up the wrong tree. Americans saw their president abruptly alter his schedule after the jury’s guilty verdict in order to go hug his son, the pain etched on both men’s faces. There are Americans who notice that their president is a loving father and is not afraid to show it.

At this time of year, when we honor our fathers, only the partially untethered can deny that Joe Biden is as good a person as we can reasonably expect to get in high office. When his wife and young daughter were killed in a car accident shortly after he was elected the country’s sixth-youngest U.S. senator, Biden’s world was ripped apart. A widower and a single father of two at age 30, he tended to his two surviving sons with rare solicitude, commuting back and forth daily between Delaware and Washington, D.C., in order to look after them.

But the grief he was required to endure did not end there. One of those two sons later volunteered to serve his country in Iraq, when he did not have to. His exposure to burn pits there is believed to have caused the glioblastoma that killed him at the age of 46.

Simultaneously with his older son’s fatal illness, Biden saw his younger one descend into profound addiction and humiliation, and the grandchildren that Biden plainly adores subjected to a nightmare. His political opponents seem gleeful about the leaked father-son messages and the accounts of a father telling his son how much he loved him no matter what. For some this is the stuff of snark. For Americans who haven’t lost their way this is the stuff of moral virtue.

“We have to teach empathy as we do literacy,” remarked social entrepreneur Bill Dayton, and we have failed at both. Biden is a fine model where empathy is concerned, but to say that he receives insufficient credit is an understatement. Biden is naturally empathetic, and it shows.

In Europe twice on two separate trans-Atlantic round trips inside of a week, Biden found himself mocked by some for displays of empathy that were simple sensitivity to the inescapable afflictions of others, whatever their station. In Italy, Biden bent his face close to the forehead of the wheelchair-bound Pope Francis, the 87-year-old Pontiff suffering from the ailments that 87-year-olds suffer from. In England he gripped the arms of King Charles and damn near embraced His Royal Highness, who is being treated for cancer.

These were acts of warmth and humanity and grace. They are what this president does, and who he is. They ought to make us proud. When the history of this troubled time is written, they will.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s poll numbers have begun to tick up in swing states and across the board. There may be people out there who know a good one when they see one.

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