When most people think of Vice President Joe Biden they think “loveable goofball” the kind of personable public figure with whom one could have an insightful and natural conversation. This is the man, after all, who told President Obama the night Osama Bin Laden was killed “This is a big f-----g deal” to a room full of reporters. He’s everybody’s uncensored and brutally honest uncle, while also being second in line to arguably the most powerful leadership position in the world. That makes his potential candidacy a pretty big deal.
About a month ago, Biden made what many would assume to be an uneventful interview with CBS Late Show Host and all around-dressage enthusiast Stephen Colbert. Both agree on many of the same talking points, there was expected to be some “Joe Biden says” jokes and of course the occasional “What the hell does the Vice President even do?” sort of questions. The interview turned out to be anything but, and has since catapulted Biden into a position to enter the presidential race on the Democratic side and become a serious contender.
Colbert, addressing the elephant in the room almost at the start, brought up the recent death of Biden’s eldest son Beau to brain cancer in May of this year. Where many would expect the traditional politian to shrug off the question in favor of “preserving integrity” and “composure” and all of that other nonsense, Biden did what we all deep down knew he would do. He was genuine “Uncle Joe.” Paraphrasing a quote that his own father used to tell him while he was growing up, Biden said even President Obama has referred to Beau Biden as “Joe 2.0.” He said, “You know you’re a success as a parent when you turn and look at your child and realize they turned out better than you. I was a hell of a success. Beau was better than me.” This struck a cord with not only the audience but myself as well.
For a man who has done so much for so many people across this nation, to hear him speak with such compassion, faith and heart where most politicians would run away at such humility is telling of Biden’s character. There was such a sense of empathy in Biden’s voice, not just as a father who has lost a son but as a voice for anyone who has lost in their lives. At one point in the interview both Biden and Colbert choked up and bonded over their shared losses. (At a very young age, Colbert’s father and three brothers were killed in a car accident. Biden also lost his wife and daughter in a car crash years ago.)
For two men who have experienced such loss in their lives, such terrible suffering and sorrow and yet to not hold spite, be angry or even question why it had to happen to them, was as genuine a moment as there could have ever been. Un-staged. Unscripted. Genuine.
With so much talk of death the subject matter was quickly lightened up (this is Stephen Colbert after all). Colbert asked about the pertinence of the vice presidency as an institution, stating, “People make jokes about (the vice presidency) all the time.” Biden quickly quipped, “Well, people should.” Once again, Joe was being Joe. And like clockwork the elephant in the room was addressed, or rather as Colbert put it “the donkey.”
With many pushing for Biden to enter the presidential race, he produced a simple two-point answer. For anyone to run for the presidency, he believes he or she needs to have the “emotional preparedness” for the job and the ability to know exactly why he or she would want to be president – not just for the title itself, but something more. Moreover, Biden made a point that a candidate in running for the presidency should make a promise to not only the American people but within him or herself to have passion for the job, something that Biden is unsure that he has.
With the polls ever more shifting away from Hillary Clinton due in part to being perceived as not being relatable and the inner-party turmoil surrounding Bernie Sanders, I’d urge Biden to reconsider. With CNN offering Biden a spot on their debates should he choose to run, we’ll hopefully learn even more about Biden. One thing is for certain, though: He would have my vote in November. And that’s coming from a Republican.
Nick Guarna is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.