“He pays a lot of attention to the columnists,” Osnos added, citing Thomas Friedman, who was also on the program.
Friedman recently spent an hour on the phone with Biden, and recapped it in this column for The New York Times.
“The other thing that really came through to me,” Friedman said, “is that we are really lucky, I think, to have a president who is just really hard to hate at a time when our politics is so infused with hate. That’s one of the things that I think is going to do him and the country well, I hope, in the coming months.”
To be honest, I’m not nearly as optimistic as Friedman. Maybe that’s because my media diet contains a lot of far-right, anti-Biden content…
How much does Biden read about himself?
This will be another big difference between the Trump and the Biden years. “One thing I know from experience that’s interesting is, [Biden] doesn’t parse every word that is written about him,” Osnos said. “He doesn’t pay all that much attention to it. With one exception: You go back to 1988, it was a great, classic portrait written of him by Richard Ben Cramer in the book ‘What It Takes.’ It was not altogether flattering. But he took it on board. He then ended up giving a eulogy at Cramer’s funeral, in which he said that if somebody tells you something about yourself that’s insightful, you have a responsibility to pay attention to it.”
The books on Biden’s nightstand
“If you read just the first chapter,” Biden said, “talk about how guys like Walter Lippmann were telling Roosevelt, ‘We have to have a dictatorship to get it right.’ … There’s nothing automatic about this. We’ve got to earn it every single generation. And I used to hear that all the time and think, ‘That’s not true. We have it permanently.’ No, see what’s happening now.”