Joe Biden could win if the Democratic Convention were tomorrow

Vice-president Joe Biden's extraordinary interview with Stephen Colbert may show why he shouldn't run for president.

Vice President Joe Biden’s frank and emotional interview with Stephen Colbert last night made me wonder how American history would be different if presidential primaries hadn’t taken hold, and party conventions still picked nominees in the Internet Age. The loud, sometimes angry speeches that once characterized political conventions (those barn-burners from William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech to Barry Goldwater’s defense of “extremism in the pursuit of liberty”) would surely be out of fashion today at any rate. Booming voices and waving arms don’t play well on the cellphones on which many would follow the latest developments at deadlocked conventions.

But one can easily imagine delegates tuning in to Colbert’s “Late Show” and tearing up at the vice president’s remembrances of his son Beau, who died of cancer this spring, as well as the death of his first wife and his daughter in a car accident more than 40 years ago. “No one owes you anything,” he said of his determination to not to be overtaken by grief. “You've got to get up. And I feel like I was letting down Beau, letting down my parents, letting down my family if I didn’t just get up.” While talking about his son and the rest of his family, Biden repeatedly interrupted himself to acknowledge how many other people (including people “in this audience,” he said, looking past the camera to those in the television studio) worked through tragedy and continued to make a difference for their families and for larger society.


Biden, deliberately or not (you get the benefit of the doubt when you’re not an active candidate), also reminded viewers of Hillary Clinton’s reputation for being too controlled, and too cautious, as a candidate for president. “Why in God’s name would you want the job,” he asked, without naming names, “if you couldn’t say what you believe?” He added, “If you can’t state why you want the job, there are a lot more lucrative opportunities.”

By the end of the interview, Biden’s combination of openness and empathy had Colbert practically begging the vice president to seek a promotion—a notable contrast to the talk-show host’s snarkily generous comment to Jeb Bush on Tuesday that there was a “non-zero chance” he’d vote for the former Florida governor.

If we were a few days from a Democratic convention with no presumptive nominee, Biden’s interview with Colbert could have struck the perfect note for delegates looking for an “authentic” candidate—someone they could be proud to support, win or lose.

Unfortunately for Biden, presidential nominees are now chosen over several months of debates, caucuses and primaries, and nonstop media coverage that prizes the new and unexpected. If he ran for president, Biden would not be able to keep having quiet and powerful conversations like the one he had with Colbert. Repetition would cheapen his tribute to his son, and voters can take only so much contemplation about the purpose of life before they get distracted by attack ads and boasts about “making America great again.”

For better or worse, our long campaign season rewards candidates who know how to package themselves and are adept at changing their message to suit whatever headlines are bubbling up at the moment. Joe Biden, perhaps to his credit, has not proven that he has the right stuff to win.

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Tom Fields
3 years 7 months ago
Joe Biden is one of those Catholics who tries to explain why abortion is OK---the worst kind of Catholic. He is a "goof" who regularly puts his foot in his mouth. Joe Biden was not able to get the Dem nomination before----especially when it came out that he committed plagerism in Law School.
Mary Pearlman
3 years 7 months ago
Just because Hillary doesn't gush, cry at will, or wear her emotions on her sleeve, doesn't mean she's not authentic. I think she's naturally cautious, careful, and usually measured - at least in public. We used to call those attributes Statesmanship. I still do. Hillary Clinton has spent a lifetime serving her country while advocating for the needs of children and families - especially women - I have every reason to respect, support, and give her my vote, and I will be proud to do so.
william lupinacci
3 years 7 months ago
The comment that Joe Biden believes abortion is OK is not truthful. Not at all. Biden believes abortion is a mortal sin and has stated so publicly multiple times. He has also opposed public funding of abortion throughout his career. He sponsored a constitution amendment to overturn Roe v Wade and he worked quite hard to stop partial-birth abortions. Critics can and do truthfully accuse him of opposing government attempts to impose Catholic beliefs on others. For example, on defining when life begins precisely, he personally accepts that it begins at conception, but won't support laws criminalizing a morning-after pill. Another example is that he believes that if a hospital performs an abortion to save the life of the mother, the mother and the doctor shouldn't have to worry about the possibility of having to face a jury that gets to decide if what they did was moral or not. But, if we must reduce the man's beliefs, political positions and public policy actions to a one-word label, pro-life is much more accurate than pro-choice.
Bill Collier
3 years 7 months ago
There are many things I admire about Biden, but his reliance on the Mario Cuomo ND speech on Catholic politicians and abortion is not one of them. What he and other Catholic politicians who invoke the Cuomo rationale fail to see (or perhaps intentionally refuse to see) is that one can be opposed to abortion for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. For, example, there are humanists/atheists who are opposed to abortion and who do not invoke religion as a basis for their opposition: The real issue for Biden is that the hierarchy of the Democratic Party is now so unequivocally pro-choice that they would never support a pro-life Democrat who wants to run for the presidency. I find Biden's sorrow over the loss of his son to be genuine, but until he also gets beyond the flawed Cuomo reasoning on Catholic politicians and abortion, I'm afraid I can't support him if he decides to enter the presidential race.
3 years 7 months ago
You may not be supporting Joe Biden or any other candidates nominated by the Democrats becasue they do not support a legal rememdy for ending abortion, but neither will any of the Republican candidates you may support, although the Republican candidates will talk-the-talk of pro-life to con Catholics and other folks of faith to vote for them. What I do not understand about the so-called pro-life politicians and those who vote for them is why there has been no real quest for remedies to abortion other than the legal approach, especially in light of the Supreme Courts continued support of so-called abortion rights. Why, for examplem, has there been so little effort to make abortion less attractive by providing a very strong "safety net" (something much stronger than TANF) for all children conceived by those that are unmarried and financially unable to feed, clothe, house, educate and provide life-saving medical care for their children? For the Republicans (the so-called party of Lincoln that is now dominate in the former slave-owining states), life begins at conception and ends at birth, and their quest to advance life issues that makes for flourishing at all stages of life terminates when the child is born. Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. sums up the hypocrisy of many in the 'pro-life' movemen in this wayt: "I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is."
Bill Collier
3 years 7 months ago
Robert-- I don't necessarily disagree with anything you've said. I'm a consistent-ethic-of- life/seamless garment Democrat who understands that much more than a change in the law is needed to decrease the incidence of abortion. For many presidential election cycles in the past I've swallowed some of my pro-life Democrat principles and have voted for the party nominee, in the hope that pro-life voices would again be listened to within the party. But I've reached a certain stage (and age) in life, and, if truth be told, enough accumulated disenchantment with the DP hierarchy and the way it continues to treat its pro-life members, that if I hear a Republican candidate during the debates or elsewhere adopt a broader vision of what being pro-life encompasses (perhaps Ben Carson?), then I'll give serious consideration to voting Republican for the first time in my life.


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