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When Greek American Dennis Mehiel Grabbed Joe Biden by the Lapels to Run for President

Dennis Mehiel with President Joe Biden
Dennis Mehiel with Joe Biden. Credit: Dennis Mehiel handout.

Greek-American entrepreneur Dennis Mehiel revealed on Tuesday that he had to grab President-elect Joe Biden by his lapels in order to convince him to run against Donald Trump for the White House.

Speaking to Greek Reporter, Mehiel, a longtime friend of Biden, recalls that in 2016, just a year after he lost his son Beau, Biden gave “a lot of thought” about running for president, as vice presidents “generally do,” he says, “when the sitting president completes his term.”

At the time, however, “many felt that it was time for a woman to be the nominee, and Hillary had obviously been working toward that goal for many years,” Mehiel notes. So, Biden “stepped aside, it was the right thing to do,” he admits.

Biden’s opinion toward running for office began to change, however, after Trump’s election:

“During the course of the Trump administration, he was observing what was happening to our country, to our public discourse, and thought that he should run, but he really wasn’t sure,” Mehiel recalls.

Harry Truman or Franklin D. Roosevelt?

A longtime friend of President-elect Biden, Mehiel recalled a defining moment in their friendship and in Biden’s decision to ultimately run for president which occurred in late 2018.

Both men were involved in Congressional campaigning, and began to discuss the possibility of Biden running for the nation’s top office in the upcoming elections.

On the road together, Biden told Mehiel that “he just doesn’t know quite what he’s going to do,” Mehiel said, and, frustrated, Mehiel grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket, and began “shaking him,” he recalls, saying, “do you realize that you are the Harry Truman of our time?”

Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, resembles Biden in that he was of a “working class background… a common man,” the Greek-American states, and that he also took office after serving as vice president for an influential president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

However, Mehiel changed his mind about Biden’s historical counterpart shortly before the election. After seeing the state of the country, especially in terms of Covid-19, which has left millions sick and “tens of millions of people out of work,” Mehiel sent a stronger message to his friend:

“it was not good enough to be Harry Truman, he was going to have to be Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

By comparing Biden to FDR, Mehiel has placed the bar for his friend’s term as President extremely high.

Although the country reached some of its lowest points during his presidency, namely the Great Depression and the Second World War, FDR was so popular that he became the only President to have been elected to four consecutive terms (now presidents can only serve two).

Due to his leadership and vision, FDR is consistently ranked by scholars as one of the best US Presidents of all time, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

The right man for the job notes Dennis Mehiel

From their many years of friendship, Mehiel has deduced that President Biden has the ideal “temperament and character,” as well as what he calls his “honesty and humility,” qualities in a leader that he says the country needs at this moment.

Consistently commended for his kind heart and dedication, even by those on the opposite end of the political spectrum, like Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, Biden is “exactly what he appears to be… he’s extremely straightforward,” Mehiel tells Greek Reporter.

Without dismissing the many challenges that Biden will undoubtedly face as the president, Mehiel expresses his high hopes for the the incoming administration.

He contends that the United States is optimistic that Biden is “the right person” to serve in this role at this point in history, which was the most contentious and divided in recent memory.

When describing Biden’s choices to fill key cabinet positions, Mehiel characterizes them as “competent, experienced, and honest,” and stressed that they are all public servants, not taking the position for any personal profit or gain.

Biden on Greece/Turkey Relations

Biden’s longstanding connections to the Greek American community have been widely noted, and his commitment to Greek causes is humorously embodied by his nickname “Joe Bidenopoulos.”

Dating back to the ’70s, when Biden first ran for senate, Mehiel notes that the “small but wonderful” population of Greek-Americans in Delaware were some Biden’s staunchest supporters.

This is due to the fact that Biden’s stated values of faith and humility are seen to align with those cherished by the Greek community.

Additionally, Mehiel says, Biden and his foreign policy team are committed to making “progress on some of these serious concerns that we have with Turkey,” as well as the country’s acts of aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Although he is hopeful for progress on the particularly contentious issues of Greek-Turkish relations during the incoming administration, Mehiel admits that “It’s going to be tough, you can’t unwind this knot with a magic wand in five minutes.”

In Biden, however, the US will “have a leader who shares our vision of how the world should work,” and who looks toward forging strong relationships with international allies.

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