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Joe Biden in his own words

A cut above the average campaign bio, Biden's book tackles personal tragedy, politics, and those plagiarism charges.

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Joe Biden's Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics is the most unlikely of campaign biographies: It's a ripping good read.

Forget all you've heard about Delaware's six-term US senator – that he's a policy wonk (apparently that's a bad thing), or that he doesn't know when to stop talking, or that he has just been around too long.

None of that explains why a first book with no sex scandals – and whose author/candidate has poll ratings in the single digits – quickly hit The New York Times Bestseller list. Here's why: Biden is a master storyteller and has stories worth telling. From conversations with President Bush and world leaders to overcoming personal tragedies and a childhood stutter, the book is paced to keep the pages turning.

Take the story that's a highlight of his current book tour: the cuff-link gambit. Biden is getting ready for an eighth-grade dance, but he's wearing his father's dress shirt and can't find cuff links. No problem: His mother, Jean, runs down to the basement and comes up with two pairs of nuts and bolts and fastens them to the borrowed French cuffs. Biden balks. "The kids will make fun of me," he says.

"Now look, Joey," his mom says, "if anybody says anything to you about these nuts and bolts you look them right in the eye and say, 'Don't you have a pair of these?' "So, is any kid mean enough to make fun of the new kid with nuts and bolts for cuff links? Duh. Recalling his mother's advice, Biden looks his tormenter in the eye. "You don't have a pair of these?" There's a silence, then the bully replies, "Yeah, yeah. I got a pair of these."

When he told this story at the National Press Club this month, he ended by holding up his own French cuffs to show a pair of nut-and-bolt cuff links. But this time, they were sterling silver from Tiffany's – a gift from his sister and longtime campaign manager, Val. Call it the "oooaaaah" moment of the speech.

If you felt as if you just saw that scene in a movie, it's because the book is framed like a documentary film. It's not a political science thesis with a few stories thrown in for color. The stories tell the story.


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