Nov 10, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Exclusive: Valerie Biden Owens previews brother’s governing style

Mike Allen

Valerie Biden Owens, her brother's closest political adviser for 49 years, told me in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that President-elect Joe Biden plans to ignore the distractions of President Trump while building and launching a government.

Driving the news: "He's never going to see Donald Trump again," Owens said Sunday in Wilmington, in her first on-camera interview since Joe Biden became president-elect. "Donald Trump is going off the stage on January 20th. ... That's history, that's past."

Why she matters: Owens stays behind the scenes, and rarely gives interviews.

  • She's the ultimate gatekeeper, adviser and confidant — Biden's "judgment barometer," as one friend told me. She was the last word on some of the campaign's biggest decisions, and a voice always pushing him to "Just be Joe."

Reflecting the soaring confidence in Biden's camp, Owens replied, "Sure" and "Absolutely" when I asked her if he would run for a second term:

  • "He's transitional in that he's bringing in all these young people and bringing [us] back again [so] we're not a divided country. ... But sure. He's going strong."

Owens said that despite the current celebrations, the president-elect recognizes the scale of the calamities he faces — and the constraints of a narrowed House Democratic majority, and possible Republican control of the Senate.

  • "He is the most experienced person to ever enter the White House in American history, because of his 36 years in the Senate and then his eight with President Obama. So he's very clear eyed," she said.
  • "But ... he really, really believes that where we are now in this country, we have such a tremendous opportunity to make things better for all Americans."

Owens sketched a radically different governing style than the past four years:

  • She said Biden will engage "progressives or conservatives or Republicans or liberals or Democrats and independents. ... He will bring respect back to governing."
  • "We all know him as a great talker," she said with a laugh. "I mean: There goes Biden again — as I'm doing right now — talking and talking. But my brother's even a better listener."

I asked her what she'll call him when he's in the White House.

  • "Joey. Joe," Owens said. "If he calls me First Sister, I'll call him Mr. President."
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