26.01.2022

President’s son explains why marriage to wife ended as he recalls first drink aged 8

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.”

Kathleen refused to have Hunter at home until he was 100 per cent sober.

As he underwent treatment he eventually moved into an apartment alone in Washington, DC and only saw his daughters outside of the family home.

During this time he spent more time with Beau’s children and Hallie, his sister-in-law.

He resolves that he will get better, but no longer beg Kathleen to be her husband.

Hunter was blindsided by the end of his marriage

A traditional anniversary walk for Hunter and Kathleen, a mile for every year of their marriage, ends with two very different takes on their honest and frank conversation.

In a couples therapy session the next day, Hunter says he saw it as cathartic and hopeful. Kathleen counters that he could apologise for the rest of his life, but that it wouldn’t matter and she would never forgive him.

Hunter writes that it felt like Kathleen had made the decision after Beau had died.

He bought a bottle of vodka, drained it, and within weeks was back in rehab.

A national calamity follows a family tragedy

Shortly after Beau’s funeral, a retreat to South Carolina was planned. The family arrived in the state days after the massacre at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Joe Biden attended the memorial with President Obama, but then also went back for the regular Sunday service that week with Hunter.

He notes that strong bond between his father and the late South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn — who went on to become a key figure in Joe Biden’s success in the 2020 Democratic Primary.

Hunter writes about his father’s speech that day, the mourners, and loved ones of those lost, and cross-commiseration with their own loss of Beau.

On his relationship with his father after his brother’s death, he says: “If we weren’t the three of us anymore, what were we?”

Once again, Beau was there for him

Beau is described as “always supportive, never judgmental” and never asked Hunter, “Why?” when it came to his addictions.

Hunter writes that Beau made his recovery part of his own daily routine, attending AA meetings with him and planning biking, kayaking, and climbing vacations to motive him further.

Beau’s death rocked every relationship in the family, and cracks began to form in Hunter’s marriage to Kathleen. Hunter describes his father as quiet and sad during this period, but that he “soldiered on” as vice president.

Work pressure takes its toll, ending seven years of sobriety

Once his father had joined the Obama ticket, Hunter’s time as a lobbyist came to an end. He started a consultancy firm, Seneca Global Advisors, that later became Rosemont Seneca when he began advising private equity contacts.

Taking endless meetings and being constantly on the road, Hunter found that “you need to be as dedicated to sobriety as you were to drinking” and that you cannot ease up on that.

In November 2010 the toll of work led him to fall off the wagon while flying home from a business trip to Madrid. When asked if he wanted something to drink he replied “without even thinking” that he would like a Bloody Mary. He had three and writes how the world didn’t end.

A few days later he bought a single beer. Then later a six-pack. That soon led to vodka. Hunter writes that he would drink a whole bottle of vodka at night watchingGame of Thrones in his garage on his laptop.

He hid his return to drinking until it became obvious to those around him and he eventually had to admit to himself that he once again needed help.

Hunter says sense of duty inspired father to accept Obama’s offer to be running mate

After surrending his passion to creative writing to take a law degree at Yale (he admired Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski, John Fante, Aldous Huxley and Lao Tzu), Hunter Biden began his career in corporate law in earnest with a young family to support.

However, his drinking increasingly became a problem and he remembers trying to stop in 2003, managing 30-days sober before binging for three. “I couldn’t get control of it,” he laments.

His brother soon accompanies him to his first AA meeting.

“Politics is not the family business – service is,” he says, moving on to explaining why his father accepted the chance to become Obama’s vice president rather than carrying on leading the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

While his father enters the White House in 2008, the wheels begin to come off Hunter’s own affairs as he allows his sobriety to slide.

Hunter Biden recalls first drink aged eight

Chapter Four, entitled Loaded, finds the author tracing the origins of the alcoholism that would later dog him, beginning with his first glass of champagne aged eight.

HIs earliest flirtations with drink began as a teenage and his first brush with the law came after his high school graduation when he was busted for cocaine possession during Beach Week (think Spring Break) in New Jersey.

“It scared me straight – for a while,” he says, speaking of his shame at letting his senator father down while his own health was poor.

We then race through his arrival at college in Georgetown, his work with the Jesuit International Volunteers and meeting his first wife Kathleen Buhle, who swiftly becomes pregnant with their first daughter Naomi, named after his late sister, a development that led to a hastily arranged marriage in Chicago.

Hunter recalls hurt at dad’s 1987 presidential humbling and hero-worshipping his brother

In the same chapter on his teenage years, Hunter recalls his anguish after his father was accused of plagiarising a speech by UK Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock in 1987, thereby ending his presidential run, and recalls “trying to punch out some hecklers” at a football game the family attended.

He records being held upside down out of a window by his dad to paint the house in summer and his first job mowing lawns at 11.

This early entry on the CB was followed by early stints shovelling llama dung and cleaning the otter pool at Brandywine Zoo and unloading cold-storage freight delivered by train.

Throughout all of these reminiscences, Beau Biden is at his side and plays a starring role as a heroic older brother.

“The biggest difference between us: I drank and Beau didn’t,” the chapter ominously concludes.

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 “morphed 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.

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.

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