The Rationalist Papers (29): The story of Joe Biden and Lt. Peter F. Morrison Jr.

Here’s a Biden story I bet you’ve never heard.

Joe Biden was US Senator from Delaware starting in 1973. Pretty much from the start of his term, he took the Amtrak train from his home in Delaware to his office in Washington every day.

Around 1980, he began to notice a woman who took the same train commute that he did, and typically sat in the same train car. The woman was Black and much shorter than Biden, who is six feet tall. There was no particular reason to get to know her. But politicians are naturally gregarious, so he introduced himself.

The woman’s name was Mildred Morrison. She told Biden that people called her Millie, but Biden insisted on calling her Mildred, because it reminded him of the name of a beloved great aunt of his. They did have a few things in common. Mildred Morrison worked in the Department of Agriculture and would typically walk to and from there or take the Metro, while Biden would take the much shorter walk to his office in the Capitol Building. Both of them had lost their spouses — Biden’s wife Neilia had died in a car accident while Morrison’s husband had died in a fall while working as a telephone lineman. And both took the long commute because they wanted to be home for their children — Biden’s sons, Beau and Hunter, and Morrison’s son, Peter Jr, named for her late husband.

On most of his daily commutes, Biden would be deep in concentration on paperwork. But he’d occasionally chat with Morrison, who always sat across the aisle from him. Morrison would tell him about her boy Peter, who, after a rough start in school, was diagnosed with dyslexia, and how he was making friends and doing better now that they knew how to teach him properly. Biden, who’d been a stutterer as a child, certainly understood that, and told Morrison that Peter could be anything he wanted to be, just as Biden himself had risen above his own disability.

Biden learned that Morrison was partial to caramel creams candies, and took to carrying some in his battered briefcase. He’d dig around and pull a few out, which delighted Morrison as she sleepily prepared for her very long workdays.

Their relationship would have stayed that way — a casual friendship — except for what happened a decade later.

Peter had grown well and strong and enlisted in the Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant when he was called to the Gulf War in late 1990. While fighting in Kuwait, he was killed in a friendly fire incident. Biden learned this when he noticed how distraught and red-eyed his friend was on one of their daily commutes, and she told him what had happened. He sympathized as best he could, remembering the pain of losing his daughter Naomi in the accident that killed his wife.

Mildred Morrison was adamant that she wanted her son buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His remains were due back from Kuwait just a few days after their conversation, but some sort of bureaucratic red tape was preventing her from being able to secure a spot for him in Arlington.

Senator Biden said little, but as soon as he arrived at his office in the Capitol, he started to set wheels in motion. The Senator’s call embarrassed the military, and the people responsible for the problem cut through the red tape. The people in charge of Arlington Cemetery called Mrs. Morrison at her office in the Department of Agriculture the same day and told her that they’d solve any remaining problems, so she could go forward with planning the military funeral at Arlington.

The funeral was small, with less than 20 people at the graveside. Nearly all the mourners were Black. Biden also attended, hanging back from the group. After she had been presented with the flag from the coffin, Morrison rose and sought out Biden to thank him. But he was nowhere to be found. Wishing not to intrude, he had left the graveside.

If you drive on Route 95, the only interstate highway in Delaware, you may notice a bridge over a small creek called “Leatherman’s Run.” It’s just past the Biden welcome center. On the bridge there is a sign. The sign says “Lt. Peter F. Morrison Jr Bridge.” Hardly anyone notices it. But Mildred Morrison knows it is there, and so does Joe Biden, since he made that sign happen. Next time you drive past Wilmington, keep an eye out. Because that bridge and that sign tell you a little bit about who Joe Biden is and what people mean to him.

About that story

What an amazing story. There’s a reason you’ve never heard it before.

It’s because there is no Lt. Peter F. Morrison Jr Bridge in Delaware.

In fact, there is not a Lt. Peter F. Morrison. There never was. There is no Mildred Morrison either. I made them up.

Joe Biden really did commute by Amtrak, and he really was a stutterer, and he really did have a wife and daughter die in an accident, and he really did live in Wilmington, not Washington DC, to be home for his sons every day. But the story is fiction.

I apologize for misleading you. Biden has, of course, never told this story. I’m responsible for the whole thing. It was a deeply reprehensible thing for me to do. If you are outraged, I understand. Remember how this feels for just a moment.

The problem is, we all want to believe a good story. Especially when it comes from someone we trust.

I created this story for a reason.

You see, there is one candidate in this campaign who regularly makes up stories. They are called “sir” stories. Trump tells them all the time.

As documented by Daniel Dale of CNN, when Trump tells a story about someone calling him “sir,” the story is likely completely made up. According to Dale, “A ‘sir’ is a flashing red light that he is speaking from his imagination rather than his memory.”

In January of 2019, Trump described the farmers, ranchers, and builders who stood behind him as he signed an executive order on water regulation. “Half of them were crying,” he told the American Farm Bureau Federation. One man was so tough he might not have cried when he was a baby, but according to Trump, “He was crying. He said, ‘Sir, you gave me back my life. You gave me back my property.’ “

Never happened. You can watch the video. No one is crying.

Here’s how Trump described his role in the Veterans Choice Health Program: “I said, ‘I have the greatest idea. We’re going to do this. If a veteran has to wait, we’re going to send them to a private doctor. We’ll pay the bill.’ What a genius — I said, I said, how good is that? They said, ‘Sir, we’ve been trying to get it passed for 44 years.’ “

Never happened. The Veterans Choice Health Program was passed in 2014, backed by John McCain and Bernie Sanders and signed by Barack Obama.

Trump claimed people have tried to follow him on Twitter but Twitter has blocked them. Trump’s comment: “I have people come up to me: ‘Sir, we want to follow you. They don’t let us on.’ “

Twitter doesn’t block anyone from following anyone.

It enrages me that President Trump invents people and events and pretends that they happened — that he tells fairy stories that are not only exaggerated, but are wholly fabricated.

It’s fun to write fiction. It’s fun to read fiction. But that only works when the people reading it know it is fiction. If you are the President, you cannot invent people and conversations that never existed. We cannot have a President who behaves like this, because we will never know the truth about events.

I’m sorry I misled you. If it makes you mad, I deserve that. Liars and fabricators deserve your anger, not your trust.

Throw this liar out.

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  1. You had me hooked. So easy to be led down a path if it appear plausible (and you have a predisposition to believe the storyteller.)

  2. Wouldn’t it be great if politicians didn’t lie Josh. You know this already. They all lie. Your candidate Biden is no different. I recall you prefer your commenters provide independent verification of their comments before posting which I’m happy to do. See this link as just one example. You only have to watch the first 2 minutes to learn what you need =>. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2590150344631575

    The point is Josh – they all lie. And it’s shameful and a disservice to all Americans regardless of party.


  3. I think the true moral of this false story is that nobody who’s met Joe Biden, except possibly Donald Trump, would doubt that it is true.

  4. Learn the distinction between less and fewer. Fewer than 20 people attended the funeral not less.