Hunter Biden book – live: Memoir reveals Obama prophesied Trump’s ‘fear-mongering cult’ at Beau’s funeralavril 6, 2021
Hunter Biden opens up about relationship with brother Beau’s widow
Hunter Biden, the son of US president Joe Biden, publishes his new memoir Beautiful Things on Tuesday in which he recounts his long-running battle with drink and drugs, the grief of losing his mother and infant sister as a child and later his elder brother Beau and the attacks he suffered from Donald Trump and his conspiracy-minded supporters.
In its opening chapters, Mr Biden recalls his sibling’s tragic death from a brain tumour in 2015, aged just 46, and Barack Obama’s foresight in a eulogy in which he appeared to predict the coming of Trumpism in declaring: “Anyone can make a name for themselves in this reality-TV age, especially in politics. If you’re loud enough and controversial enough, you can get some attention. But to have that name mean something, to have it associated with dignity and integrity – that is rare.”
In his latest interview to promote the book, Mr Biden told the BBC of his fight against alcoholism and crack cocaine: “There’s something at the centre of each addict that’s missing, that they feel that they need to fill… Nothing can possibly fill it. And so you numb yourself.”
Hunter and Beau ‘raised on politics like farm kids raised on sweetcorn’
Chapter Three finds Hunter describing a childhood steeped in the Senate, sitting on his dad’s lap in meetings, regarding staffers “like surrogate aunts and uncles” and meeting such DC characters as Ted Kennedy, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms and the astronaut John Glenn.
And it also hosts his attack on South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, once a friend of the Biden clan – even seen in a viral video with tears in his eyes speaking fondly of what a decent man his old congressional adversary is – but described here as having “morph[ed] into a Trump lapdog right before my eyes, slandering me and my father in the coldest, most cynical, most self-serving ways.”
Despite that justified dig, Hunter talks about his father’s faith in bipartisan compromise and refusal to engage in personal attacks, the loss of which, he says, “blew the door wide open for somebody like Trump” and calls Trumpism “a fearmongering cult”.
He describes an “almost idyllic” childhood in Wilmington of BMX rides, throwing acorns at cars, playing Space Invaders at the mall, BB-gun wars, sneaking into the X-rated video section at Gandalf’s rental store and big family gatherings on Christmas Eve, making the case for Delaware as a microcosm of the American experience, but says that he and his brother “never really grieved the loss of our mother and sister”.
He does say that tragedy left him feeling “always alone in a crowd” but refuses to blame it for his later personal problems.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 15:10
Barack Obama foresees Trumpism in Beau Biden eulogy
Chapter Two descibes Beau’s funeral at St Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, attended by the Obamas, then-US attorney general Eric Holder and Republican senator John McCain, who would subsequently die of the same form of cancer as Beau.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin sang “Til Kingdom Come” and the deceased was presented with a posthumous Legion of Merit medal.
Thousands would pay their respects over the coming days.
He describes his father in tears on the porch of his home, where the veep had taken calls of commiseration from a queue of world leaders, but says the family pulled together and were united in their grief.
“Beau was someone who charmed you, and disarmed you, put you at ease,” Barack Obama said in his eulogy.
“Anyone can make a name for themselves in this reality-TV age, especially in politics. If you’re loud enough and controversial enough, you can get some attention. But to have that name mean something, to have it associated with dignity and integrity – that is rare,” he added, eerily foreshadowing the coming of Trump.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 14:50
Brother’s seizure ‘was terrifying, like something out of The Exorcist’
Hunter jumps to the horror of witnessing his brother, then Delaware’s attorney general, suffering a seizure at the family summerhouse on Lake Michigan in August 2013, the onset of the health problems that would ultimately claim his life but which had first surfaced following his return from Iraq in 2010, where he had served with the US military.
Hunter, then with the US Naval Reserve, records his attendance on Beau throughout his subsequent treatment, reporting that the brothers binge-watched Curb Your Enthusiasm and Eastbound and Down to stay cheerful.
He also marvels at his brother’s positivity, saying he visited a specialist hospital in Houston, Texas, everyday “like a pilgrim visiting some sacred site, convinced only good would come of it.”
After an initial improvement in his condition, he was again taken ill back in Wilmington, where Hunter joined his family to take care of him and sharing in the rollercoaster of emotion until his brother passed away on 30 May 2015.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 14:30
President’s son describes brother’s passing and mother’s fatal car crash in flashbacks
And all of that was just the prologue.
Chapter One opens with Hunter’s memories of his brother’s death at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the same hospital that was briefly the site of world interest in October last year when Donald Trump was treated there after contracting coronavirus.
The author explains that his book’s title, Beautiful Things, was Beau Biden’s mantra for positivity while he was suffering from the Glioblastoma that would kill him.
Hunter writes movingly and with precision about Beau’s care before jumping in flashback to earlier tragedy that defined their young lives: the death of their mother and infant sister Naomi in a car accident a week before Christmas in 1972.
Naomi was nicknamed “Caspy” he tells us, after Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Recalling their Chevy station wagon colliding with a tractor-trailer, Hunter then remembers waking up in hospital and looking across at his brother.
“That’s our origin story,” he says.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 14:05
Hunter says kicking drugs ‘unthinkable in early 2019′
After outlining his broad and varied career – from studying at Yale Law and Georgetown, to serving on the board of Amtrak, volunteering for the World Food Programme in Syria, Kenya and the Philippines and lobbying on behalf of Jesuit universities – Biden Jr writes of his experiences trawling for drugs on the streets of Los Angeles, the impact of his brother’s death on him in 2015 and how unthinkable his recent recovery would have been without the love and support of his new partner and immediate family.
He also offers positive takeaways from his tales of addiction, saying he experienced “extraordinary things” and that: “Generosities were extended to me by people society considers untouchable.”
“I want those still living in the black hole of alcoholism and drug abuse to see themselves in my plight and then to take hope in my escape, at least so far,” he writes.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 13:45
Hunter answers Trump: ‘I’m right here’
In answer to the former president’s sneer of “Where’s Hunter?”, the author writes:
“I’m right here. I’ve faced and survived worse. I’ve known the extremes of success and ruin. With my mother and baby sister killed in a car accident when I was two, my father suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm and emolism in his forties, and my brother dying way too young from a horrible brain cancer, I come from a family forged by tragedies and unbreakable love.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
He distances himself from Don Jr and Eric Trump by pointing out that “I’ve worked for someone other than my father.”
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 13:20
Hunter describes Trump supporters gathering outside his house with ‘Where’s Waldo?’ placards
Dipping into Beautiful Things, the president’s son begins by describing Donald Trump’s efforts to profit from his “Where’s Hunter?” catchphrase, including by selling T-shirts on his official campaign merchandise website.
He describes the alarming site of Trump supporters “in blood-red MAGA caps” gathering outside his rented home in Los Angeles to taunt him while his pregnant wife Melissa was inside the house and his daughter receiving an anonymous threatening texts at school.
He says the president’s tactics were out of “the playbook of his dark-arts mentor, Roy Cohn” and immediately launches into an attack on Trump “henchman” Matt Gaetz for attacking him on Fox.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 12:55
How tragedy shaped Joe Biden’s politics
Alex Woodward has this on the car accident that killed Neilia Hunter Biden on 18 December 1972 and her infant daughter, an event that would shape the lives of both Hunter – who was in the vehicle at the time and survived – and his father, whose outlook would forever be changed thereafter.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 12:25
Hunter Biden tells Marc Maron Republicans targeted him as family’s ‘weak link’ to discourage his father from running
The author’s other big interview in the last 24 hours was with the WTF podcast host Marc Maron, himself very open about his own history with narcotics and no stranger to the recovery programme.
Maron proves a highly sympathetic listener, having initially feared Hunter would prove a “sociopathic douchebag” intent on self-sabotage, but said he became fascinated by his story of having to endure being treated as a “whipping boy by the right” while fighting to get clean of drugs.
“How does a human deal with that?” the host wonders.
The pair get on famously, Hunter joking about his Irish roots (“We’re a bunch of Finnegans”) and laughing at his late brother, who was nicknamed “the Sheriff” for being so straight-laced.
He talks about his youthful dream of being a creative writer and describes his life as “between a Raymond Carver and a Stephen King short story, to tell you the truth”.
On addiction, he says, “Getting sober is easy: all you’ve got to do is change everything”, and recounts feeling unable to get out of bed to take a shower without reaching for the pint of Smirnoff vodka he kept hidden beneath the bed.
On Republican conspiracy theories about his time in Kiev, he laughs off the idea that he was in any state to organise the web of corruption he has been accused of and says President’s Trump’s cronies targeted him because they recognised that family was the most important thing in his father’s life and that they saw him as the “weak link” and a way to try to discourage Biden Sr from running for the presidency.
“The essence of their attacks are literally the… there’s zero truth to them, but knowing you’ve got a son who’s just died and your other son who’s near-death in many ways and, if you just keep pounding on him… how does a guy survive that?” he says.
It’s great stuff and very much worth your time.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 11:55
Hunter Biden pays tribute to stepmother over intervention efforts
Also on his drugs battle, the author credits Dr Jill Biden with helping him get sober – as well as his new partner, South African filmmaker Melissa Cohen.
Danielle Zoellner has this on his telling of the story to CBS.
Joe Sommerlad6 April 2021 11:35