There’s a lot being written about Vice President Biden’s potential presidential bid. But very little is coming from the man himself.
And that creates ambiguity. As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank points out, depending on which anonymous aide a reporter talks to, Biden is either almost in or almost out of the Democratic primary — or kind of in but first he has to do this and even then … well, you get the picture.
The anonymously sourced chatter really began with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd’s Aug. 1 column detailing Biden’s dying son’s deathbed wish — that he run for president. Though she never revealed her source (which was the subject of debate Wednesday), Dowd’s column almost single-handedly spiked speculation Biden might challenge Hillary Rodham Clinton.
What to make of all this? Our best guess is that Biden is indeed considering running for president but that he’s at the mercy of his emotions. A deciding factor for him is whether the vice president thinks he can manage his still-at-times-overwhelming grief from the May death of his eldest son, Beau Biden.
We write this not based on hearsay but from listening to what the man himself has said this past month. Take a listen and see what you think about whether Biden will run for president.
Making a surprise appearance at a Delaware Democratic jamboree, local news WMDT reported many expected Biden to announce his candidacy there. (He has launched several bids from the favorite home-state event, after all.) Instead, he told supporters:
“If there’s ever anything I can do beyond my official capacity — I’m still here. I’m still Joe. I haven’t gone away.”
The press had been trailing Biden for a few days at this point, hoping for a hint. They got one at an Atlanta synagogue on Sept. 3, where an audience member asked Biden whether he’s running.
A tired-sounding Biden gave his first candid public answer on this decision-making process so far.
“The honest-to-God answer is I just don’t know,” he said. Having lost an infant daughter and his first wife in a car crash four decades ago, Biden said he’s all-too-familiar with the travails of putting a timetable on when grief’s roadblocks to life will subside.
“Unless I can go to my party and the American people and say that I am able to devote my whole heart and my whole soul to this endeavor, it would not be appropriate,” he said, adding a few minutes later: “If I can reach that conclusion that we can do it in a fashion that would make it still viable, I would not hesitate to do it. But I have to be honest with you. … I can’t look you straight in the eye and say, ‘Now, I know I can do it.'”
A few days, later, Biden spoke at a Labor Day event in Pittsburgh, where an audience member at the United Steel Workers event shouted for Biden to run. (This wouldn’t be the first time he’d hear such claims at a public event.)
Biden, at first appearing annoyed by being interrupted, waved the person’s question away. Then he laughed: “You’d have to talk to my wife about that.”
All the hints Biden had been dropping so far about his almost-tormented indecision and the outsize role grief is playing in it were seemingly confirmed in Biden’s remarkably candid appearance on Stephen Colbert’s new CBS show.
It was an emotional roller coaster of an interview. In the two-part sitdown, Biden grinned as audience members welcomed him back from a commercial break to chants of “Joe! Joe! Joe!”
“Be careful what you wish for!” he joked.
Biden choked up several times sharing how he’s processing his grief.
“I don’t think any man or woman should run for president unless, number one, they know exactly why they would want to be president, and two, they can look at folks out there and say, ‘I promise you, you have my whole heart, my whole soul, my energy and my passion to do this. And I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there.”
Biden ended a policy-oriented speech at the Concordia Summit in New York — a meeting of business and government leaders — by quoting a stanza from one of his favorite Irish poems, “The Cure of Troy.”
“Once in a lifetime that tidal wave of justice rises up and hope and history rhyme,” he said. His voice rising, Biden wrapped it up with a line that could easily serve as the bones to a stump speech for a presidential campaign:
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” Biden went on. “Since I was a 29-year-old kid. I have never been more optimistic about the possibilities of this great nation.”
Back in Washington, D.C., Biden gave the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign for the LGBT advocacy group’s annual dinner. As he highlighted his gay-rights bona fides, Biden was again interrupted by calls from the audience to “Run Joe Run.”
“Ha ha, no, don’t say that,” he replied, gathering his thoughts again. “Ha. Um. [Chuckle]. Oh, anyway. All right. What was I saying?”