Vice president Joe Biden doesn’t like Hillary Clinton that much anymore, that is, if he ever liked her in the first place. You remember sometime last year when Beau Biden, his dying son, allegedly pleaded with him to run for the White House because he, the son, thought the Clinton values were bad for America? It was reported that that death-bed wish was leaked by dad to Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, who in turn used it to slime the Clintons as has been her nasty, disgraceful wont for several decades now.
Now you remember when Biden publicly rebuked Clinton last October for having joked during her first Democratic debate with opponents in Las Vegas that the Republicans were her enemies? Remember how that public putdown by the vice president sat oddly with his announcement that he was not mounting a run for the White House after all? And you remember also that that was the second time in as many days the vice president was dissing Clinton?
Well, fast-forward to now. Biden is out there again sticking the knife into the soft underbelly of Clinton and giving it a gentle, if deadly, twist. In a recent interview with CNN, the vice president, once again, ripped the mask off his face and openly hugged Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic race for president. Biden described Sanders as more authentic than Clinton on economic inequality, and then went on to defend the Vermont senator’s record on gun control, an issue on which Clinton has ratcheted up her criticism of the Vermonter. According to Biden, Sanders speaks to “a yearning that is deep and real” and that “Hillary’s focus has been other things up to now… no one questions Bernie’s authenticity on those issues.” Biden then went on to add that he “never thought that she (Clinton) was a prohibitive favorite” for the nomination.
The vice president also volunteered himself as a shill for Clinton’s opponent on gun-control. “Bernie Sanders has said that he thought the president’s approach is the correct one. Bernie Sanders said that he thinks there should be liability now,” Biden said. President Barack Obama had warned in an op-ed piece in the New York Times that he would not campaign for a Democratic nominee who does not support sensible gun-control laws like the type he put into effect recently by executive action. In the past, Sanders hadn’t been a supporter of such measures, and Clinton currently sees that as his Achilles’ heel especially as the Democratic race enters a critical phase.
Sanders is surging in the polls, leading Clinton with comfortable ease in New Hampshire, and slightly edging her in Iowa where she had consistently maintained supremacy over him for months. Coming on the heels of current anxieties for the Clinton campaign, Biden’s remarks would definitely be interpreted by that campaign as a deliberate attempt by the vice president to sabotage it. The Clinton folks would be right to think so. Now the question should be why is the vice president doing all that, considering that Hillary’s husband went to bat fully for him and Obama in their re-election campaign?
The answer may not be too far to seek. Biden isn’t happy, nor are/were members of his family, that Clinton, long presumed to be the sure-fire nominee of the party even before she had thrown her hat into the ring, was already positioning to usurp a spot that was both logically and naturally reserved for the vice (Biden) as heir-apparent to the serving president (Obama).
But at no time in the past had Biden himself particularly been a promising presidential candidate, and only God knows what would have happened had he entered the race. Second, against Clinton early on, his poll numbers were in the latrine. Finally, undisciplined on the campaign trail, Biden is prone to unremitting gaffs, such as would have provided endless fertile material for the Republican attack machine, had he entered the fray and made it to the general election round. As I once wrote in THISDAY, Biden would be a far easier candidate for the Republican machine to take down.
A week is a lifetime in American politics. It is still some three weeks before the first votes are cast. Events move rapidly, and with such a bewildering fluidity, too. Therefore, prospects that look dim today might brighten up tomorrow, and vice versa. That said, the relationship between the Clintons and Biden, no matter who becomes the Democratic nominee, may already have been poisoned beyond remedy by Biden’s invidious remarks. And Biden bears the sole blame for that.