Financial TimesFinancial Times

Joe Biden’s claim to presidential greatness

By Gideon Rachman

09 Jan 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

Like Truman and Johnson, Biden is an underestimated former vice, argues this FT columnist, and he too is excelling in power, despite his razor-thin Congress majority and the rise of authoritarianism.

What does it take to be a great US president? The leaders that Democrats revere have strikingly similar characteristics. Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Barack Obama were brilliant orators with a Harvard education and an aristocratic bearing.

The vice-presidents they picked also had a lot in common. Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Joe Biden all made their careers in the Senate — and lacked the charisma and ivy-league gloss of the presidents they worked for. As vice-presidents, all three were sometimes treated with barely disguised disdain by the staffs of FDR, JFK and Obama.

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