It could have been a whole different political ballgame. He wanted to do it. His family urged him to run. Instead of Clinton vs. Trump, it might have been Biden vs. Trump.
In a talk at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York Sept. 21, US vice president Joe Biden, 73, said he “had planned on running” for president this year. But after his son, Beau, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014–”a death sentence”–and died a year later, Biden couldn’t sustain the emotional fortitude to do so. “Part of my soul was gone,” he said. “And no man or woman should run unless they are capable of giving every ounce. I wasn’t healthy enough to pour my whole heart and soul into the effort.”
Still, Biden sounded like a candidate with a grasp of the issues, commenting on everything from Syria, Ukraine, domestic competitiveness, and the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Heavy hitters in the audience, representing what Biden called “trillions” of dollars, included BlackRock CEO Larry Fink and Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein.
On Syria, Biden took issue with president Barack Obama’s “red line” approach. In August 2012, Obama said a “red line” for American military involvement in Syria was “when we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons” being used. But the US did not become involved even after it appeared that chemical weapons were deployed.
“I am not a big fan of red lines,” Biden said. “I am not a proponent of laying down markers unless you’ve thought through the second and third and fourth step that you’re going to have to take, and almost assuredly will have to take in order to accomplish your initial goal.” Nonetheless, he said he had supported not putting troops on the ground. “There was not a clear path to military use,” he said. No one “in Congress would support troops on the ground in Syria.”
Biden said TPP had a “less than even chance” of passing, given that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are opposing the trade pact, but he felt the lame duck administration might get it through. He also warned that the EU may very well abandon Ukraine and allow Russia to continue exerting its influence if Ukraine doesn’t live up to promises on reforms. “We know that if they give an excuse to the EU, there are at least five countries right now that want to say ‘We want out'” of sanctions against Moscow, Biden said.
Lastly, Biden celebrated America. Globalization has left people behind, he explained, and the US needs to develop programs for retraining them. “I’m more optimistic about America’s chances than I have ever been. We are better positioned than any other country to own the 21st century.”
Everyone stood to applaud.