Biden has always prided himself on his oratorical skills, which he had honed over time despite a childhood stutter. Sometimes, they worked to his benefit — like when he was hailed early in his career as the leader of a new generation of Democrats and presided over the Judiciary Committee during critical Supreme Court nomination hearings. Sometimes, his confidence in them was betrayed by the results, like when he went on a riff about Barack Obama’s articulateness during the 2008 primaries, or the countless other moments when he said something off the cuff that he later had to clarify.

But never, prior to 9/11, had he attempted to apply those skills to a moment of national tragedy.

When he stepped off the train that…

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