No, not in my books. Though I can see the appeal: it’s just nice to see some sort of engagement beyond a fake flag hug and no fear of multisyllabic words that aren’t “tremendous”. This fella in the Guardian talks about being won over by the quotes, though. I suppose that’s fine, if a bit simplistic. I mean, he’s a centre-right placeholder, folks. Better than what we have? Yes. The best case scenario? No. Regardless of who he quotes. I hope he proves me wrong. (Secret: I see a scenario in which Biden passes while in office, we get Kamala for the next four years (after she defeats Ivanka or Jr.) and then AOC runs in 2028. But I’m playing political fantasy football here.)
There is a depth in Biden’s response to Heaney that clearly goes beyond mere political convenience. He has suffered terrible losses in his life and perhaps he finds particular solace in this poet who voyages into the underworld and speaks with the departed. This appreciation of one of the wisest and subtlest of poets marks out Biden as a truly rare politician.
In general it is a good thing that poets are not, as Shelley claimed, the true legislators of the world. Would you want the antisemitic TS Eliot, Mussolini-supporting Ezra Pound or petty racist Philip Larkin influencing politics? But Heaney was that truly rare thing: a great imaginative artist who was also a wise and noble human being.