But of his shaky reception with some families in Dover, Ms Murray said: “I’m sure he understands the reaction he got better than many people.”
In his public meetings with world leaders, doctors, military officials and families, more often than not, Mr. Biden shares how his experience of sending his son to Iraq or battling brain cancer affected his family. Recalling Beau’s memory during Afghanistan’s violent collapse, following the most politically unstable decision of his presidency to date, provided a rare moment for critics to tend to praise his son.
“Mr. Biden is not a Gold Star dad and should stop playing one on TV,” William McGurn, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Biden has never claimed that his son was killed in battle, but he has often spoken of his son’s deployment abroad and the toll it has taken on his family. Mr Biden’s supporters say military families have a right to their grief , but that the president is also entitled to his own.
“The families who are grieving, they are free to feel how they feel,” Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in a 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and who has received periodic calls from Mr Biden, said in an interview. “But for anyone who has criticized the president’s children, those who live and those who don’t, have shaped who the president is.”
They have also influenced Mr Biden’s presidency from the beginning. In January, before Mr. Biden left Delaware for Washington, he told his advisers that he wanted to deliver a farewell address at the Delaware National Guard headquarters. It is a building named after his son.
“I only regret one thing,” Mr Biden said when he made tearful comments that day. “That he’s not there, because we should propose him as president.”
As Commander in Chief, Mr. Biden has no critical political advisor on whose advice he relied more than anyone else. He talks daily with his other children, Hunter and Ashley, assistants said, but he did speak with his oldest four times a day, comparing notes and discussing next steps.