Biden son booted from Navy. What's the backstory?

Hunter Biden, the vice president's son, reportedly tested positive for cocaine last year, after beginning the process of joining the military in 2012. A few Biden family biographical notes might be apropos here.

Carlos Barria/Reuters/File
Vice President Joe Biden points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue following the inauguration ceremony of President Obama in Washington, January 20, 2009. The son of the Vice President was discharged from the US Navy reserve earlier this year after testing positive for cocaine, sources familiar with the matter said October 16, 2014.

Joe Biden’s son Hunter has been kicked out of the Navy for drug use, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Cocaine was the controlled substance in question: The younger Biden tested positive for the drug last year and was subsequently discharged from the Navy Reserve, where he served as an ensign in a public affairs unit based in Norfolk, Va.

Thus ends an unusual, or at least unusually timed, military career. A lawyer by training who has worked as a lobbyist and currently serves as a managing partner at an investment firm, Hunter Biden began the process of joining the military in 2012, when he was 42. Most reservists sign up when they’re younger and still building families and careers.

In 2013, Mr. Biden was commissioned an ensign through the Direct Commission Officer Program, which each year selects a small number of applicants with civilian skills applicable to military needs. He received a waiver for his age and a second waiver for a drug-related incident in his youth, according to multiple news reports.

In June of last year, Biden failed a urinalysis after reporting to his Norfolk unit. He was formally discharged this past February, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“It was the honor of my life to serve in the U.S. Navy, and I deeply regret and am embarrassed that my actions led to my administrative discharge,” he said in a statement.

A few Biden family biographical notes might be apropos here. The first is that Hunter’s older brother, Beau, has had a successful military reservist career. It’s entirely possible Hunter was hoping to follow in his bro’s footsteps.

Beau Biden, also a lawyer, joined the Delaware Army National Guard in 2003 as a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He was subsequently promoted to major and served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2008-2009.

Currently, Beau Biden is Delaware’s attorney general. He was elected to that post in 2006. In 2008, there was talk in the state that he would run for his dad’s old Senate seat, but the Biden son declined to pursue the position.

Second, VP Joe Biden does not have a soft-on-drugs reputation. If anything, he is seen in the White House as someone arguing against wider legalization of marijuana.

“The former Delaware senator has a harsh record when it comes to the drug war,” wrote Nick Wing of The Huffington Post in 2012.

Third, for those of a certain age in Washington, the Biden boys, both of them, are remembered for the tragedy of their early years.

On Dec. 18, 1972, Joe Biden’s first wife, Neilia, and his year-old daughter Naomi were killed in an auto accident in exurban Wilmington, Del., after Christmas shopping. Beau and Hunter were in the car but survived with injuries. Joe Biden had just won election to the Senate the preceding month.

He considered resigning but did not. Both boys were able to attend his swearing-in. Mr. Biden commuted home from Washington each night on the train to be with Beau and Hunter, a practice he continued throughout his Senate career.

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