In a recent New York Times column, Maureen Dowd opined that Vice President Joe Biden should run for president and noted that his son, Beau Biden asked him to run from his death bed. Obviously, I do not know Ms. Dowd’s sources but have no reason to doubt the veracity of her column. The Joe Biden candidacy buzz gained steam when the Sunday programs also indicated that the Vice President was discussing that option with long-term advisors and donors.
I have been a fan of Joe Biden for many years and was honored to have his support when I was a county Freeholder, but I would not presume to call us friends; more like friendly political acquaintances. As a Senator from Delaware who rooted for Philadelphia sporting teams and shared South Jersey views on many policy issues, we adopted Joe Biden as our third United States Senator. I was quoted saying as much in a 2007 PoliticsNJ article . In 2007, then Senator Biden did a fundraiser in Cumberland County and we subsequently talked on the train a few times when we happened to share the Acela express and he even called me when he was considering a presidential run and I was Cumberland County Democratic Chairman. He invited me “over to the house” to talk about it and I regret I never took him up on that offer. But at that time Hillary had the support of the New Jersey Democratic establishment and Obama had the magic and although Joe Biden was the smart guy during the primary debates, he could not get any traction, nationally or in New Jersey.
I was one of the last county chairs to endorse Hillary in the 2008 primary. Not that the Clinton juggernaut cared much about the chairman of Cumberland County but Governor Corzine wanted all 21 chairs to support Hillary, and in a situation which was not unique for me, I was not going with the crowd. I loved Joe Biden and was very impressed by Barack Obama. I was just lukewarm on Hillary but at that point had not met her. I owed President Bill Clinton my greatest policy success when he named our county one of only 15 Federal Empowerment Zones and that weighed heavily on my mind when making my decision.
My friend and then State Democratic Chairman, Joe Cryan, arranged a one on one with Hillary and myself when then Senator Clinton spoke at the annual state party conference in Atlantic City. I had my son Joe with me, who was 14 or 15 at the time. In that brief visit, Senator Clinton was not at all like her public image. She was warm and gracious and very interested in my son, which frankly swayed me. Also, she promised to do her best to be a speaker at the next national conference for the National Association of County Organizations where I served on the Board. Mrs. Clinton honored that request, spoke at that conference and had a deep and sophisticated knowledge on local issues. As a consequence of all of the above I endorsed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama then won the nomination. (Future candidates beware!)
But I always felt guilty. Joe Biden was the guy next door, literally. He hosted the fund raiser I referenced above. He knew my area of the state. And he was such a nice person; not always the case with national politicians. When he and I talked about New Jersey he always mentioned three people; former Congressman and Ambassador Bill Hughes Sr., former Senator Bill Bradley; both of whom he respected greatly as former colleagues and New Jersey Democratic Committeewoman June Fisher, for whom he had deep and undying affection. Whenever he mentioned June Fisher, Senator Biden got that wide Irish smile and said; “God love her; if I had ten June Fishers supporting me I would have been President.”
Italian guilt is right up there with Jewish guilt and since I no longer hold any title, I am free to provide my feelings about the 2016 election, and from that perch I say: “Run Joe Run!” I do that not because of any lack of affection for Secretary Clinton but from great respect and affection for Vice President Biden.
So here are five reasons why Joe Biden should run for President.
- Joe Biden would be a great President. Forget the so-called gaffes and the late night comics jokes; Joe Biden is smart and singularly prepared to be President. As a Senator he was in the middle of most of the significant domestic and foreign policy issues of the last 30 plus years. He would also be respected by the Republicans. Senator John McCain called Vice President Biden one of the most consequential Vice Presidents ever. Senator Lindsey Graham gushed to the point of tearing up when talking about his personal affection for the Vice President despite their serious philosophical disagreements. Even Strom Thurmond had Joe Biden give his eulogy. This country is horribly divided. If a President Biden was able to at least talk with the Republican leadership in Congress we could begin to heal as a nation. Internationally, other than President Obama, there is no more respected or beloved figure than Joe Biden.
- Joe Biden deserves it. There has been no more loyal friend and defender of this President. Also Joe Biden provided the needed Washington experience to a very green president in the early years. Both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have credited Vice President Biden for the intstances the Administration was able to work successfully with Congress.
- A Joe Biden candidacy is the best referendum on the Obama Administration. Bernie Sanders is running to the far left of the Obama legacy in a way that will not likely be successful in a general election. Hillary Clinton is picking and choosing where she agrees with the Obama Administration and on some issues, like the Keystone Pipeline, is refusing to take a position. Only Joe Biden would provide a full-throated defense, in logic and spirit, of what arguably has been a Presidency as significant as FDR and LBJ on social programs and as important as Reagan in recalibrating the political debate of this country. Secretary Clinton may try to split the difference in defending this Administration. Both President Obama and the nation deserve better. Once and for all let there be a vote on Obama-Biden versus whoever the Republicans nominate. The best person to lead that debate is Joe Biden. Go look on youtube and she how good he was in the 2008 primary and how he easily dispatched Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan in the vice presidential general election debates. As a bonus, Joe Biden would be a happy warrior in the mold of Hubert Humphrey. In the era of Toxic Trump wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a candidate who talked up America rather than talking down to Americans?
- Joe Biden has no private emails and has not made hundreds of millions over the last eight years. I have no knowledge if Secretary Clinton’s private email was a violation of federal law and I have no knowledge if anything was improper about the Clinton foundation or Bill Clinton’s speaking fees. I have no reason to question the nearly $140 million the Clintons made in the last eight years (of which they paid over $40 million in taxes). However, I am sure that all of the above will be general election talking points regardless of the merits. Both issues simply go away if Joe Biden is the nominee. No Republican nominee would ever credibly challenge Joe Biden’s ethics. And while almost everyone else has profited from politics, Joe Biden has lived a comparatively modest lifestyle. As Beau Biden said, his father never made money a priority.
- Joe Biden will make Hillary Clinton a better candidate if she is the nominee. As a candidate, Secretary Clinton in 2015 has been not much better than Senator Clinton in 2007. However as the 2008 campaign progressed and it became Obama vs Clinton, the warm and gracious Hillary I met was the person before the nation and THAT Hillary almost won the nomination. As that campaign for the nomination progressed and as she was challenged by Senator Obama, Senator Clinton improved dramatically as a candidate. The only way for Hillary Clinton to again connect with the American people is for the real Hillary to present herself; without the cocoon or the rope line. If Joe Biden should lose the nomination to Secretary Clinton, he will make her a better general election candidate in a way that none of the other candidates for the nomination could hope to equal.
At the end of her column, Ms. Dowd asked what would Beau do? I do not presume to know what the late Attorney General told his father, but I hope the Vice President considers my thoughts. Both the Democratic party and the nation need Joe Biden to run for president.
Lou Magazzu was a Freeholder in Cumberland County NJ from 1998-2011 and the longest serving Freeholder in that county in the last 50 years. He also served as Freeholder Director as well as County Democratic Chairman. He served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counties, was the Chairman of the National Democratic County Officials and was President of the New Jersey Association of Counties. He can be reached at Lmagazzu@aol.com.