Every time a president moves into the White House, the new occupant tweaks the place to their own personal style and preferences. Gerald Ford brought in striped couches. George W. Bush had the walls of the Oval Office painted ecru. Barack Obama replaced much of the “19th-century still lifes, pastorals and portraits that dominate[d] the…public rooms” with “bold, abstract art works.” The latest transition, however, apparently required more extensive modifications than simply swapping some color schemes here and art choices there. That’s because, according to Joe Biden’s sister, they basically needed to rid the place of Donald Trump’s demon spirit.
In a new memoir published Tuesday, Valerie Biden Owens, the sister and closest confidante of the 46th president, wrote that as part of the team decorating the Oval Office, she wanted “everything Trump had touched out of there.” That meant getting rid of the former guy’s “chosen portrait” of 19th-century populist president and ethnic cleanser Andrew Jackson and replacing it “with one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt,” as well as adding “busts of MLK, Cesar Chavez, RFK, Rosa Parks—all of which reflected Joe’s understanding and reverence for the soul of this nation.” Biden Owens said that she wanted to ditch the Resolute desk Trump used and bring in FDR’s in its place, but was unable to do so as the latter “resides at FDR’s family home in Hyde Park…. Thus, the desk Trump had sat behind remained.” Still, the fact that the desk was used by both JFK and Obama made her feel better about her brother having to sign documents behind a piece of furniture where the worst president in history also conducted business. “So that was certainly good enough, and went a long way toward exorcising from my mind the repugnant image of its previous occupant,” she wrote.
Speaking of exorcisms and Biden Owens’s thoughts on Trump, the president’s sister, like many Americans, appears to view the last inhabitant of the Oval Office as being on par with the devil, a characterization some people might say is unfair to Satan. In her book, Biden Owens said, “If ever there was a force of anti-empathy in the world, it is Donald Trump. He is a bully, pure and simple—a narcissistic, incompetent, and incomplete man. He is the embodiment of resentment. His power comes from tapping into our baser instincts.” She observed that Trump, “appealed to our lowest common denominator” and “didn’t just represent policy failure or erratic personal behaviors; he represented something darker, more primal, more insinuating, striking deeper into the heart of what made us who we are.” Biden Owens was initially hesitant about her brother running, she said, because she “could see the campaign Trump would run. It was as vivid as a movie. Brutal. Crass. Classless. And every time I saw that movie, I would feel sick.” (Incidentally, she wasn’t wrong. Among other things, Trump suggested his 2020 opponent was taking performance-enhancing drugs, and during the first presidential debate—the one where we later found out Trump showed up after secretly testing positive for COVID-19—the then president interrupted Biden talking about his deceased son to call the one who’s still alive a deadbeat.) “He had the mind not of a President, but of a vengeful dictator, and running against him felt almost degrading,” Biden Owens wrote.
Elsewhere, Biden Owens said she wasn’t surprised in the slightest that Trump chose not to attend her brother’s inauguration because, essentially, he’s a little bitch. “A small man does not rise to the occasion,” she wrote.
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— Inside the Virus-Hunting Nonprofit at the Center of the Lab-Leak Controversy
— Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Probably Won’t Be Splitting a Milkshake Anytime Soon
— CNN Leaves the Drama Behind With Focus on War in Ukraine
— Trump’s Truth Social Is an Even Bigger Humiliation Than Previous Business Failures
— The Clock Is Ticking on the January 6 Investigation
— The Washington Post Checks In, Finds Trump Is Still a Lying Sociopath
— A Ukrainian Woman Explains the War to Europe’s Skeptics
— From the Archive: How Playboy Imran Khan Became the Prime Minister of Pakistan
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.