What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but it looks as if somebody forgot to give Joe Biden the memo. While the former vice-president was there giving a talk to the SkyBridge Alternative Conference, the subject turned to the 2016 election–and what he said raised more than a few eyebrows:
Joe Biden on Hillary: "I never thought she was the correct candidate. I thought I was the correct candidate." pic.twitter.com/gh50IsDL0r
— Hamilton Nolan (@hamiltonnolan) May 19, 2017
Biden also added this:
No man or woman should announce for the presidency unless they genuinely believe that for the that moment in the nation’s history they are the most qualified person to deal with the issues facing the country,
More suprising, though, was his comment about the current state of affairs in Washington:
It’s gotten so personal but it’s going to come back because you can’t govern this country no matter who you are without generating a consensus. It is impossible. The public is sick of it.
That he made such a statement without taking a swipe at Donald Trump is truly amazing. Could it be that Uncle Joe is the most reasonable Democrat of all these days? I don’t know–but I do hope that he means it. He could use some redemption for telling a crowd during a 2012 campaign rally that Mitt Romney wanted to put people “back in chains”–and we need people of good faith from both sides to tell DC to stop the insanity.
Biden’s remarks about Hillary Clinton are also refreshingly candid, coming from a Democrat, and pretty much dovetail with what I’ve read about his dilemma over whether to seek the nomination in 2016. The book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign actually goes into quiet a bit of detail about the subject, with some aides wondering if Biden’s heart was in the race. Doubts about that–about whether this really was his moment in history–likely contributed to Biden’s own decision not to run.
But there was a lot more to it than that, according to the book. Even before Biden had made up his mind, Clinton had already outmaneuvered him by bottling up most of the campaign talent and almost all of the money:
Running like an incumbent from the outset, Hillary had geared her whole campaign toward depriving any other Democrat of the institutional support necessary to mount a challenge, from donors to superdelegates. She wanted other Democrats to be afraid to run against her, or to support any would-be rivals. It had worked with most of the Democratic Party, but Biden wasn’t going to be easily intimidated. The presidency he had been seeking for three decades was within his grasp, and he wanted to keep his options open as long as possible.
Even so, Clinton was worried about the possibility of Biden entering the race, and did her damnedest to make sure it didn’t happen.
Hillary had always seen Biden as a serious threat to run. From the moment Barack Obama won reelection in 2012, the news media focused on her, and Biden was, at best, an afterthought. This disinterest allowed him to operate under the radar and without the pressure of being a candidate-in-waiting. But Hillary knew that Biden still harbored presidential ambitions. After all, he had run twice before and certainly saw himself as the person with the most logical claim to Obama’s mantle.
The greatest danger Biden posed was his potential to strip away black Democrats in southern states and Latinos in the West from the strongholds Hillary was counting on. With Sanders firing up wild-eyed white liberals, independents, and millennials, Clinton couldn’t afford to cede delegates in the Deep South or the West. And Biden, as Obama’s vice president, might be able to make a credible case to African American and Latino voters that he was the true and rightful heir to Obama’s legacy. Plus, Biden was relatively popular with working-and middle-class whites who had backed Clinton over Obama in 2008 but were now flocking to Sanders—and to Trump on the Republican side of the race
That last part is pretty telling when you consider what happened on election night when the famous Blue Wall crumbled. A lot of those working-class white voters that the Democrat Party had ignored during the Obama years had no taste for Hillary–and with no other outlet for their populist yearnings, they went for Trump.
Could Biden have changed that? We’ll never know. But Shattered does give us an ironic twist, reporting that it was ultimately the Benghazi hearings that convinced Biden to stay out of the race. And it was, of all things, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s big mouth that precipitated the decision:
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping,” McCarthy had said in late September. The remark was such an incredible gaffe—an outright affirmation that an entire congressional committee had spent millions of dollars politicizing the deaths of Americans to hurt her presidential hopes—that it factored heavily in the GOP’s deciding not to elevate McCarthy to Speaker of the House after John Boehner retired. “Between Kevin McCarthy and Bernie Sanders they bookended her on that, and may have just made it to where it would be really difficult to do anything,” one Clinton ally said after the debate. “I think that may have shaken Biden.” Whatever effect it had, the die was cast. On October 21, the day before the Benghazi hearing, Biden went to the Rose Garden, with Obama and Second Lady Jill Biden at his side, to announce that he wouldn’t seek the presidency. The collective sigh of relief from Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters was almost audible on the White House lawn.
So it’s very possible that McCarthy–the same guy who’s now in trouble for joking about Donald Trump geating paid by Vladimir Putin–may have tipped the election away from Clinton by keeping Joe Biden out of the race.
You couldn’t make something like that up if you tried, folks.
As to Biden’s political future, will he run for president again?
“Could I?” he asked. “Yes. Would I? Probably no.”
I guess he’ll be keeping us in suspense until 2020.