Joe Biden: Leader of the Free World

“To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents,” declared Winston Churchill. For many, that hour comes early. For some, like the heroic British Prime Minister, it comes later. For others, like US President Joe Biden, it comes even later in life.

As we commemorate today the tragic first anniversary of the murderous onslaught launched by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine, it seems fitting to write about one of the best political biographies I have read in a long time. The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House (Scribner) is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the character of the 46th President of the United States.

In the summer of 2017, the events surrounding the extreme-right manifestations in the streets of Charlottesville convinced former Vice President Biden that Donald Trump “was giving evil a safe harbour”, thus contributing to the Democratic politician’s decision to run. The combat for 2020 was between good and evil. And no one was better equipped than Joe Biden to lead it.

Chris Whipple – whose previous book The Spymasters was reviewed here – fully grasps the persona of a man forged by personal – the tragic death of his first wife and daughter and later of his son to cancer – and political scars – being constantly underestimated throughout his career. It is probably no coincidence that Joe Biden would have preferred to work behind FDR’s desk, which “[…] couldn’t be moved from the Roosevelt estate at Hyde Park, New York.” Like his legendary predecessor, his mettle was forged by confronting domestic evils, as well as tyrants abroad seeking to redraw the map of the world and confine other countries under tyranny’s thumb.

Even though the ink of Joe Biden’s legacy won’t be dry for several more years, his presidential track record is incomparable in contemporary history. Chris Whipple observes that he “[…] delivered emergency COVID relief, created more jobs than any other president in his first year, and placed more judges on the bench than Ronald Reagan.” And he can be credited with a “[…] legislative record that rivalled LBJ’s.” On top of that, the announced “red wave” which was supposed to paralyze him after the 2022 midterms never materialized. All of that was notably made possible by the strong team assembled at the White House.

In a nutshell, Joe Biden has always spent his life winning at being underestimated and being the target of disrespect. In that regard, he reminds me of Ronald Reagan, who, I confess, is one of my favorite Presidents. The author evokes the 40th President on several occasions in the book and compares Jill Biden’s role beside her husband to Nancy Reagan’s. He also compares Joe Biden’s speech in Warsaw on March 26, 2022, when he said “[…] this man [Vladimir Putin] cannot remain in power” to the June 1987 speech delivered by Ronald Reagan just a few meters from the Brandenburg Gate and the Iron Curtain separating the East and the West. 

The big difference with today’s context was that Reagan’s counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, was everything but a warmonger who is said to have been despised by the actual resident of the Kremlin. The context in which the 46th President is engulfed is therefore direr. Like the Gipper, Joe Biden is nevertheless not afraid to put his money where his mouth is. Travelling to Kyiv to the detriment of his safety to meet with President Zelensky earlier this week ranks from now on among the iconic moments of the American Presidency.

Seriously, who would have predicted that?

Anyone doubting Joe Biden’s character, determination or unique political talent should grab a copy of The Fight of His Life. Chris Whipple is one of the most talented political writers and observers of the American political scene. Arguably, the greatest merit of his book is to place Joe Biden in the historical context of the troubled and fateful times we live in. 

There is one reason why he calls FDR, LBJ, Ronald Reagan and even Winston Churchill to the bar by the author. All these statesmen fought tyranny and prevailed. It would be foolish to think that the canons will cease fire in Ukraine anytime soon. But as the easy victory envisioned at the beginning eludes Vladimir Putin, the Russian President is on his way to becoming another name on the long list of those who underestimated the man whose motto has always been to “Get Up!” no matter the circumstances or the bully standing in front of him.

He’s the leader of the free world and, like his hero Harry S. Truman, he never ceded an inch of ground to adversity. Why should he start now?

If only for defeating Donald Trump and confronting Moscow’s nefarious designs, Joe Biden has already earned his place among the gallery of great Presidents.


Chris Whipple, The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House, New York, Scribner, 2023, 426 pages.

I would like to express my gratitude to Noah Van Brenk of Simon & Schuster Canada who provided me with a copy of this book.

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