Vice President Joseph Biden said today he has discovered the secret to unending public admiration: not running for the White House.
President Barack Obama’s eight-year understudy appeared at the SAP Global CEO Summit at Lincoln Center today to discuss his “cancer moonshot” to eliminate the disease. Introduced by SAP head as “the most popular elected official in America,” Biden reflected briefly on his decision almost exactly a year ago not to make a third attempt at the highest office in America, and the overwhelming ugliness of the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“That’s true, I learned how to do it: announce you’re not running for president. The moment you announce you’re not running for president, things skyrocket,” said Biden, who served as senator from Delaware from 1973 until 2009. “If I had known I could be this popular, I would have announced every two years I wasn’t running for the U.S. Senate, or I wasn’t running for president. And it is, the worst part of it is, I have no illusions, I have genuine humility and it’s well-earned. I know why: it’s because I’m not running. And, in this year, if you’re not running, you look better—no longer who you are.”
As Clinton—Obama’s former secretary of state—struggled last year with weak approval ratings and an escalating email scandal, Biden flirted openly with entering the Democratic primary contest, particularly after the loss of his son Beau to brain cancer in January 2015. Ultimately, he resolved that the window for him to muster the funds and support for a worthwhile bid had closed.
The vice president ultimately delivered a fierce speech in support of Clinton and against Trump on the third night of the Democratic National Convention this July.
But he claimed his comments in the Rose Garden that afternoon last October, with the president beside him, inspired Obama to assign him to the effort of curing the illness that claimed his son in year’s State of the Union address.
“I said I had one regret: that I wasn’t going to be president to preside over ending cancer as we know it,” he said.
Biden also recalled how, in 2008, he refused Obama’s invitation to become his running mate.
“I didn’t want to be vice president. Because the vice presidency is an office with absolutely no power,” he said. “Anything a vice president does is totally—and it should be—reflective of the confidence or the power the president suggests that vice president has.”
The vice president boasted to the room of Fortune 1000 company leaders that he and Obama had personally crafted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and alluded to third-party studies finding the anti-recession stimulus had bolstered the economy with little waste.
“When Barack and I sat down and wrote the Recovery Act—and we really did: I mean, he and I, sat down in that 80-foot-floor tower or whatever it was in Chicago for three months—not just having experts come in, but we’re pretty good at what we do to begin with,” he said. “The great thing working with the president is he’s given me responsibility and I don’t have to check back. I have the total absolute authority to act as if I were in his stead.”
That responsibility extended to the battle against cancer, as Biden noted that the president had ordered all executive agencies—from the patent office to the space program—to coordinate with the vice president and follow his directions toward hitting the moonshot.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.