Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "Joe Biden"
Following up on that Clinton/Biden question, does Biden have any shot at the Democratic nomination and/or presidency, or will his age bar him from any serious consideration?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

If Hillary Clinton doesn’t seek the Democratic nomination in 2016 (and, don’t get me wrong, she is definitely running in 2016), Biden would begin the primary season as the frontrunner. Name recognition, eight years as Vice President, a consistently solid favorability score, an extensive coalition of former campaign workers and longtime supporters, and a headstart in fundraising would definitely put Biden at the front of the line if Hillary wasn’t in the race.

Biden’s age could be a potential issue, but the ages of Dole in 1996 and McCain in 2008 really didn’t become as big of a problem as many people thought it would be. Same deal with Reagan in 1980 and 1984, although there were a few worries about Reagan during the ‘84 campaign when he seemed sluggish and tired and somewhat confused during a few appearances. Reagan’s opponent in 1984, former Vice President Walter Mondale, saw a possible opportunity by making Reagan’s age an issue but Reagan shut it down with one of the greatest moments ever to take place in a Presidential debate. When asked about the age difference, Reagan said, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” It was such a brilliant comment that even Mondale couldn’t stop laughing and the questions about Reagan’s age immediately disappeared. Biden definitely has the ability to use his verbal talents to disarm any questions about age.

Also, even though Biden will be 74 years old on Inauguration Day 2017, he’s healthy, active, and energetic. When Reagan ran for re-election in 1984 at the age of 73, his events were very carefully choreographed — even more so than regular White House or campaign events, which are already strictly regimented — because he had dealt with some health problems. Of course, he had been shot in 1981 and came far closer to dying from his wounds than most people realized at the time, and Nancy Reagan had been extremely protective of his physical well-being following the assassination attempt. Bob Dole led an active, hard-working lifestyle despite his age and was Senate Majority Leader until resigning during the summer of 1996 to focus on his Presidential campaign, but he had been severely injured during World War II and was disabled, so that was a concern when he faced Bill Clinton since Dole was 73 and Clinton hadn’t even been born when Dole was nearly killed in Italy during World War II. McCain was 72 years old when he faced Obama in the 2008 election, but he was also disabled from his military service when he was shot down, captured by the North Vietnamese, and brutally tortured while being held as a prisoner of war for nearly six years in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton”. So, the three recent major Presidential nominees closest in age to how old Biden will be in 2016 had potentially worrisome health problems. After Biden’s unsuccessful bid for the 1988 Democratic Presidential nomination, he suffered an aneurysm and a blood clot, but there’s been no recurrence of those health scares in the past quarter-century, and I don’t think Biden’s age would be that big of a problem if he did run.

Unfortunately, there are more serious problems that Vice President Biden would face if Hillary Clinton decided not to run in 2016 and Biden entered primary season as the frontrunner. First of all, let me point out that I’m such a big fan of Joe Biden that I would not only fully support his candidacy, but I’d work on behalf of his campaign if offered an opportunity. However, if Hillary declines to run in 2016, the Democratic Presidential nomination process would be a free-for-all. Every Democrat in the country with Presidential hopes would jump into that race if they knew Hillary was sitting 2016 out because they know that Biden is more vulnerable than Hillary. We’d end up seeing debate stages full of potential Presidential contenders doing whatever they could to squeeze in some television time and create name recognition. In other words, it would be like the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Republican Presidential nomination battles.

Believe me, there are numerous Democrats sitting on the sidelines right now, watching from the periphery, and publicly supporting Hillary Clinton’s possible bid for the Presidency in 2016 because they know right now that she’s the frontrunner, the uncrowned nominee, and someone who might end up being able to find them a place in her Cabinet if they are strong enough as surrogates on her behalf in 2016. But many of those Democrats who are “Ready For Hillary” are also “Ready To Be There Just In Case Hillary Isn’t Ready”. They are quietly building organizations that can either be used to support Hillary in that surrogate role in 2016 or to activate into their own exploratory committees if Hillary doesn’t run. 

As I mentioned, Biden would be the frontrunner, and Biden would have significant advantages because of his leadership role in the party over the past eight years, his incumbency (it’s easier to draw a crowd to a thinly-veiled campaign event if you land in Air Force Two, drive through town in a Vice Presidential motorcade, and are already a heartbeat away from the Presidency). But Biden would have disadvantages, too. In case you haven’t noticed, Barack Obama isn’t exactly the most popular boy in school anymore. Biden hasn’t had a separate Vice Presidential agenda since 2009 — he’s connected in every way to the Obama Administration, and that could actually hurt him with voters suffering from Obama fatigue. Now, if you ask me, I personally think that Biden should get a free pass from any controversy or political messes simply because he looks badass with his mirrored aviator shades, bomber jacket, and that Ric Flair-style comb-over that Biden does with his hair. Unfortunately, I’m one of the few people in the world who thinks that the fact that Biden looks like the world’s hippest grandfather translates into Presidential leadership material.

But, seriously, a Biden candidacy will be automatically linked to the Obama Administration and, for those with Obama fatigue, it’s easy for Biden’s opposition to claim that he’d be nothing more than a continuance of the current Administration — basically a third term. If Obama’s popularity continues to plummet, that could be dangerous. And I don’t see Joe Biden pulling an Al Gore and running as far away from the President he served diligently for eight years in hopes of distancing himself enough to win the election. Biden’s too loyal and too invested in what Obama has done. In 2000, Gore was so worried about the Lewinsky scandal and Clinton’s impeachment that he all but stood on the roof of the White House and shouted, “No, I don’t know anyone named Bill Clinton,” or invited Clinton to go golfing with him, brought the press along, and then pushed Clinton into a pond while screaming, “You are a dirty liar and I did all of the good things during this Administration while you were being a dirty liar, you dirty liar.” Distancing himself from Clinton — the best pure politician of the last 40 years — ended up costing Gore the 2000 election. Biden wouldn’t distance himself from Obama, and his opponents wouldn’t allow the voters to forget that.

If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run, Biden will begin the primary season as the frontrunner and it’s not impossible for him to win. The difficult part would be getting the Democratic nomination; I think Biden matches up just as well as Hillary does against the major contenders rumored to be seeking the GOP nomination. Biden’s toughest match-up against any of the potential Republican nominees would be Jeb Bush, but I think that Bush is Hillary’s toughest match-up, too. But Biden would have to win the Democratic nomination first in order to get to that general election, and I just think it would be such a chaotic nomination process without Hillary, that Biden could run into trouble. Elizabeth Warren has sworn up-and-down that she’s not running, but if Hillary doesn’t, the clamor for Warren and the encouragement for someone to break that glass ceiling that Hillary has frequently referred to may urge Warren to make a bid for the White House (although I think it’s still a little early for her and that she doesn’t match-up quite as well with many of the possible GOP candidates). Brian Schweitzer, the former Governor of Montana, has been putting his name forward and visiting early primary states for the past few months, so he might be testing the waters for a run even with Hillary in the race. Governor Schweitzer has a populist attitude which might appeal to some groups, particularly moderates straddling the center of both parties, but he’d find out quickly enough that he’s not in Montana anymore. I can’t see Governor Andrew Cuomo or Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, two popular New York Democrats, making a strong enough connection nationally to put together the impressive showing in early primary/caucus states necessary for launching a full-blown Presidential campaign.

So, who would be Vice President Biden’s biggest challenge in 2016 if he didn’t have to worry about Hillary Clinton running for President? It’s Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Governor O’Malley doesn’t have significant name recognition right now, but he’s been accepting speaking engagements throughout the country — and, for some strange reason, a lot of those speeches tend to be in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Governor O’Malley is dynamic, charismatic, and a popular two-term Governor of Maryland about to be term-limited out of office. Until last year, O’Malley had spent two years as the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association — a position that gives Governors like O’Malley the opportunity to make trips to dozens of states, speak to tons of potential voters and possible delegates and surrogates (fellow Governors, Mayors, State Legislators, unions, local party organizations, etc.), raise money for other candidates (an important role since that often inspires loyalty and offers of future support from grateful candidates across the country), and introduce himself to scores of Americans — usually fellow Democrats — while gathering their information (names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, the issues they care most about, etc.).

O’Malley has long been a supporter of the Clintons — both Bill and Hillary — but he’s also extraordinarily ambitious and the fastest rising star in the Democratic Party that most people don’t know about. If Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016, Martin O’Malley will be one of he strongest surrogates, most influential advisers, and a powerhouse fundraiser. If Hillary doesn’t run, nobody besides Vice President Biden has a better built-in campaign organization than Governor O’Malley. It’s been done on the down-low because of his close ties to the Clintons, but I guarantee that O’Malley could have a campaign on the ground and running full speed within hours of Hillary’s decision if she chooses not to run. Without Hillary, Biden could win, but Governor O’Malley would probably beat him. And once the American people who are unfamiliar with Governor O’Malley get to hear him speak and know him better, he’s going to be a rock star like the 1991-1992 version of Bill Clinton and the 2007-2009 version of Barack Obama. That’s how talented Martin O’Malley is — and he’d beat any of the Republicans we often hear bandied about as 2016 contenders.

Asker chrisdelberk Asks:
Clinton/Biden 2016 Thoughts?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, definitely not.

After spending eight years as Obama’s Vice President, I’m positive that Biden would have no interest in settling for the Vice Presidency again; he has his eyes set on the White House. If that’s not a possibility, I would not be surprised to see Biden attempt to reclaim his old seat in the U.S. Senate. Biden loved his time in the Senate, he is perhaps more knowledgeable about the inner workings of the Senate than anyone else alive right now, and another stint in the upper chamber of Congress would keep him far more active than continuing as Vice President under another Administration. Biden hasn’t been shy about teasing a possible Presidential run in 2016, but that’s going to be tough (and likely not winnable) if Hillary Clinton indeed runs. However, Biden has also openly said that he has no interest in retiring once his term as Vice President ends on January 20, 2017.

Another big obstacle to a Clinton/Biden ticket in 2016 are the ages of both candidates. Hillary Clinton is already going to face questions about her age if she runs in 2016. If elected, she’ll be the second-oldest President in American history on Inauguration Day 2017; Hillary will be 69 years, 86 days old — just 263 days younger than Reagan was when he was inaugurated. Biden will be 74 years, 61 days on Inauguration Day 2017, so he’d be the oldest President in American history (nearly five years older than Reagan was in 1981) as well as the oldest Vice President in American history (a full three years older than Alben Barkley, who is currently the oldest VP in history and was 71 years, 57 days old when he became Truman’s VP in 1949).

So, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will undoubtedly face questions about their age if they run for President in 2016, just as Bob Dole did in 1996 and John McCain did in 2008. In fact, Biden will not only be older than either Dole or McCain was when they ran for the President, but if he were elected President in 2016, he’d be older on Inauguration Day than any other President was upon LEAVING office. Political parties prefer to balance their tickets during Presidential elections geographically, ideologically, experience-wise, and by age. If Hillary or Biden are nominated for President by the Democrats in 2016, the age issue will attempt to be addressed by nominating a running mate who is younger. There’s no way that the Democrats would nominate a 69-year-old President alongside a 74-year-old Vice President. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I've honestly been wondering this for so long. Why do people give Biden so much crap, and make him the butt of a lot of jokes?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Vice Presidents always tend to be easy targets and since Biden is so affable and open, people seem to underestimate him. Quite frankly, I don’t know where the Obama Administration would be without Vice President Biden. It’s no secret that Obama has been terrible with building relationships with Congress (and that’s certainly not solely his fault), and can be aloof at times because that’s just one of his personality characteristics — he’s not cold, he’s just a very serious, focused, cautious person. On the other hand, Biden is open and candid — sometimes to a fault — and it makes it easy to poke fun at him. Biden lacks a filter and often says things that he probably shouldn’t say — not necessarily because he’s saying something inappropriate, but more so because he’s so authentic. Like I said, some people find that to be a fault, but I find that to be incredibly refreshing, especially in a political leader who has basically spent his entire adult life in elective office.

But Biden has built bridges between the White House and Congress that have helped accomplish the big things that the Obama Administration has actually been able to get done. That’s because of Biden’s masterful political skills and the relationships and connections that Biden forged through nearly 40 years in the Senate. Biden likes to be underestimated because Biden knows exactly how gifted he is. He has never lacked that confidence — not even when he first ran for the Senate. I mean, Joe Biden is a guy who was so confident in himself that he ran for the Senate (and won) even though he wasn’t yet Constitutionally eligible to actually take his seat until a few weeks after the election.

Plus, a lot of people don’t truly know Joe Biden’s story. They know that he’s been around forever and that he spent decades in the Senate, but he’s never been the stereotypical fat cat incumbent clinging to his spot on Capitol Hill. Biden has always been active, always been a fighter, and always been straightforward. Biden earned everything that he has ever obtained and he worked for the people of his constituency in Delaware every day since his 1972 election, and he’s continued that work on behalf of the people of the United States every single day since he was elected Vice President. I wish that everyone would read more about Joe Biden, learn his story, and see how much he has overcome and how hard he has worked to get to where he is today — Jules Witcover’s Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (BOOK | KINDLE) is a great place to start.

On a personal basis, I don’t hesitate to stay that Vice President Biden is probably my favorite politician alive today; it’s a close race between Biden and Bill Clinton. But from a professional standpoint — removing any of my personal biases or political beliefs from the equation — I think Joe Biden is probably the best Vice President in American history. Dick Cheney was a more powerful Vice President, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence. Al Gore was the most influential VP up to that point, but his relationship with President Clinton wasn’t as symbiotic as Biden and Obama’s. Barack Obama is the mind and the conscience of the Obama Administration, but Joe Biden is the heart and soul.  

I’d like to think that as someone was taking this photograph of a beautiful sunset, Vice President Biden jumped in the cockpit of the plane on the left (which is the aircraft often used as Air Force Two) and put the plane in reverse in order to pull off an elaborate photobomb.

(via kaiyves)

Asker kaiyves Asks:
Re: The telling-people-in-1937-that-JFK-would-become-president question-- would most people have been surprised to hear that a Catholic would be elected President given how big of a deal was made over it in the 1960 election?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I think it would have been surprising to people in 1937 because the first Catholic to be nominated for President by a major party — Al Smith — had only been nominated a few years earlier, in 1928.  Smith lost the 1928 election badly to Herbert Hoover (Popular vote margin: 58%-41%; Electoral vote margin: 444-87).  Smith’s loss to Hoover wasn’t solely because of his Catholic faith, but it certainly played a part in his defeat, especially in parts of the South, which was solidly Democratic at the time.  In 1928, Smith had to battle claims that he would be a pawn of the Pope and rule with the Vatican’s guidance — allegations which Kennedy had to face to lesser extent (but still had to face) in 1960.

The Catholic issue doesn’t seem like as big of an issue to us today until we look at the fact that a Catholic wasn’t nominated for President by a major party until Smith in 1928 and that only one Catholic (JFK) has ever been elected President.  And Joe Biden is the first Catholic Vice President in American history. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If someone ran for the U.S. Senate at 29 and won the election, could that person still be sworn in? I know Biden turned 30 right before he was sworn in, but what if he would have turned 30 in February, after the official swearing in in January. Would they have let him wait to be sworn in after he turned 30 or do they check all this stuff when you apply to run?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Today they certainly check.  If someone was elected to the Senate at 29 and didn’t turn 30 until after the new Congressional session started, the Senator-elect would just have to wait until he or she turned 30 and became Constitutionally eligible before they could take their seat.  You mentioned Biden, who was 29 when he was elected, but turned 30 prior to the date he was scheduled to be sworn in.  In the 1930’s, a Senator-elect from West Virginia won his seat when he was 29 and didn’t turn 30 until after the Congressional session started, so he had to wait until his 30th birthday before he could take his seat. 

Back in the nation’s relatively early days it was a bit easier to slide into a Congressional seat before hitting the required age, but that could have just been due to the fact that it was easier to fudge the records at a time when record-keeping wasn’t as thorough.  Or it could have simply been that the rest of the Senate didn’t make a fuss about it.  Henry Clay actually took his seat in the Senate when he was still 29 years old and two other Senators in the early 19th Century — Virginia’s Armistead T. Mason and Tennessee’s John Eaton — joined the Senate when they were just 28 years old.

Listen, I know the odds, I respect Hillary Clinton, and I understand how formidable an opponent she would be in 2016, but I’m going to say it right now: I’m a Joe Biden guy.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
How was Joe Biden able to be sworn in as a Senator at 28 if you have to be 35?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

You have to be 30, not 35, to be a Senator. Biden was 29 when he was first elected to the Senate, but his birthday was a couple of weeks after Election Day, so he became old enough prior to being sworn-in.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
could Biden have any success against Hillary in 2016?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Joe Biden could absolutely win the Iowa Caucus.  That’s 100% retail politics and Biden is one of the two-best retail politicians in the United States.  Of course, the other one is Bill Clinton, but I think Biden could definitely beat Hillary in Iowa.  After that, things would get tough.

What will be interesting to see if Biden and Hillary both run in 2016 is how their campaigns are built.  Even though Biden has been his Vice President for two terms, Obama will almost certainly sit the primaries out and remain neutral.  Will some of the people who helped build the Obama political machine jump in early and, if so, who will they join?  Will Hillary open things up and bring in outsiders who are new to Clintonworld?  The nominating process isn’t about winning votes; it’s about winning delegates.  That’s a mistake Hillary Clinton made in 2008 and I doubt she’ll make it again if she decides to run in 2016.

Asker ultra-pop Asks:
Do you think Joe Biden (aside from his age) would make a good Chief Justice?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Listen, I love Joseph Robinette Biden more than any other American politician alive today not named “Bill Clinton”, but he is not made for the Supreme Court. And I think Vice President Biden would be the first to agree with that.

Joe Biden belongs in front of a big microphone and a camera with a red light on. He belongs at the table making deals, cracking jokes, knocking heads, and rocking his aviator shades. Joe Biden belongs in the Senate, in that nice little residence at the Naval Observatory, and, if there is justice in this world, maybe even the Oval Office. That’s where Joe Biden should be.

Oh, and he should also be Batman.

Because you’re a terrorist!

Joe Biden, to Muammar Qaddafi, when Qaddafi asked then-Senator Biden why the United States still classified Libya as a nation that supported terrorism

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Were there any non WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) presidents (other than Obama [not white] and Kennedy[not a protestant])?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Nope. 

But two Vice Presidents were non-WASPs: Charles Curtis (Herbert Hoover’s VP) was 1/4th Native American was the first President or Vice President with non-European ancestry and Vice President Biden is the first Roman Catholic VP in history.

Can you give any examples on how Joe Biden is one of the most "active and influential" VPs?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The Vice Presidency is unique in that its power and prestige is largely a modern development.  Now “modern” is used in different ways for different things.  Many historians say that the first “modern” campaign was the 1800 campaign between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  Some say that the first “modern” Presidential election was the 1824 contest between John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and William H. Crawford that was decided by the House of Representatives.  But when I say that the Vice Presidency’s importance is a largely a “modern” development, I mean within the lifetime of most of the people reading this.

Garret A. Hobart, McKinley’s first Vice President, was probably the first Vice President with any power or responsibility outside of the VP’s Constitutional role as president of the Senate.  President McKinley had a lot of respect for Vice President Hobart and they were friends, and Hobart served in a role not too different from that of a present-day White House Chief of Staff.  Hobart was an anomaly, though.  After he died in office, the VP once again became “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”, as the first Vice President, John Adams, described it.

To a certain extent, Richard Nixon (as Eisenhower’s VP from 1953-1961) and Lyndon Johnson (as JFK’s VP from 1961-1963) expanded the duties a bit.  Nixon was a bit more visible partly because he was a rising young star in the GOP, but also because President Eisenhower, who was the oldest Chief Executive in history upon leaving office, suffered a heart attack, a mild stroke, and serious intestinal problems during his term.  LBJ despised the Vice Presidency but he was one of the first VPs regularly invited to Cabinet meetings and was given a highly-visible and important role as chairman of the National Aeronautics and Space Council during the space race with the Soviet Union and participated in the tense deliberations throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis.

It was Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter’s VP from 1977-1981) who helped mold the Vice Presidency into what we know it as today — an integral member of the President’s Administration with a spot in the Cabinet and National Security Council, and an office in the White House itself.  George H.W. Bush (Reagan’s VP from 1981-1989) and Dan Quayle (Bush 41’s VP from 1989-1993) weren’t quite as powerful as Mondale, but still much more involved in the workings of the Executive Branch than most of their Vice Presidential predecessors.

Al Gore (Bill Clinton’s VP from 1993-2001) and Dick Cheney (Bush 43’s VP from 2001-2009) took the Mondale model of the Vice Presidency and, with the blessing of their Presidents, made the position into one of the most powerful posts in the world.  Clinton and Gore, both Southerners, close in age, and not too far apart politically, changed the idea that running mates should be different from one another and balance each other out.  Once elected, Clinton gave Gore tons of responsibility and power — not quite a co-Presidency, but something more than second fiddle to the Oval Office.  

Cheney, of course, was so influential that many people considered him the power behind the throne — a dark force who was the instrument pushing through the most controversial policies of George W. Bush’s Administration.  Now, that isn’t quiet correct.  It’s clear now that George W. Bush had far more control of his Administration than people gave him credit for and that Cheney’s power and influence was largely neutralized in Bush’s second term as Cheney’s allies were forced out of the Administration and Bush became more confident in his duties.  

As for Vice President Biden, he took the role as Barack Obama’s running mate with the promise that he would have the President’s ear.  Biden wanted to scale back some of the seemingly limitless power that Cheney supposedly held at the beginning of George W. Bush’s term, but Biden also wanted a real role in the Obama Administration and he has had one.  Because of his lengthy experience in the Senate and political connections, and Obama’s relative inexperience, Biden has been called upon time-after-time to close the deal on important legislation from the Affordable Health Care Act to the negotiations over the debt ceiling and economic policy.  Biden is the Mariano Rivera of the Obama Administration — a superstar legislative liaison with a unique skill set that most Vice Presidents have lacked.  Vice Presidents Mondale, Bush, Quayle, Gore, and Cheney all served in Congress, but none of them had the experience on Capitol Hill that Biden had.  And none of them built relationships with Senators and Congressmen like Biden did for nearly 40 years.  He has been more than active and influential — Joe Biden has been invaluable to the Obama Administration.