Feeling “burnt” by her husband’s first run for president, Jill Biden resisted advisers including Ron Klain, now White House chief of staff, who pushed him to mount another campaign in 2004.
“All these men – and they were mostly men – were coming to our house,” she said. “You know, ‘You have to run, you have to run.’ I didn’t want to be part of it.
The First Lady was speaking to Julie Pace and Darlene Superville, co-authors of Jill: A Biography of the First Lady, which will be released next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.
“I didn’t even know if I wanted Joe to do it again,” Jill Biden said. “I mean, I had been so burnt out.”
Joe Biden first ran for president in 1987, stepping down amid allegations he plagiarized UK Labor leader Neil Kinnock in campaign remarks.
Jill Biden was describing a meeting at the Bidens’ home in Delaware more than 15 years later when Joe Biden met with longtime adviser Mark Gitenstein and Klain joined the speaker.
John Kerry, then a senator from Massachusetts, was favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge George W Bush. But, write the authors, “some party leaders thought that Joe could face [the] president … in the general election”.
“There were always so many people trying to run Joe,” Jill Biden said. “You have to run again. You must try again. Still. It was constant.
“He knew I was not supportive of his race.”
The authors cite Jill Biden’s 2019 autobiography, Where the Light Enters, in which she describes “‘smoking’ by the pool” while the encounter with Klain and Gitenstein continued.
Jill Biden writes that she finally interrupted the meeting by drawing “NO” on her stomach with a Sharpie pen and “walking[ing] across the room in my bikini.
“Needless to say, they got the message.”
“Joe and Gitenstein did it, anyway,” write Pace and Superville. “Klain, still passionately engaged on the speakerphone and unaware of what had just transpired in the room, kept the brainstorming on the sidelines.
“’I don’t understand,’ a bewildered Klain later said when Gitenstein called to explain. “The conversation was going so well and all of a sudden it stopped.”
Joe Biden mounted a second run for the White House in 2008, with Jill’s backing, but dropped out early, unable to compete with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
He served as Obama’s vice president for eight years, spent four years in apparent retirement, then beat Donald Trump in 2020 to become, at 78, the oldest president sworn in for the first time. Pace and Superville describe how Jill Biden supported her husband’s second and third White House runs.
Klain was appointed to oversee the Ebola effort in 2014 and remains one of Joe Biden’s closest and most powerful advisers. Last year, The New York Times reported that “Republicans have taken to calling him Prime Minister Klain,” a characterization Klain disputed.
Gitenstein, a lawyer who worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden chaired it, served as ambassador to Romania under Obama. He advised Biden in 2020 and is now United States Ambassador to the European Union.
Jill Biden’s longest-serving male aide is Anthony Bernal. He has been described, by Politico, as both “an influential figure” and “one of the most polarizing people” in Biden’s White House.