There was a short note in Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt yesterday which might shed a bit more light on what’s going on between Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton these days. When Biden made his Rose Garden announcement about not running, analysts were trying to read the tea leaves and figure out why he not only failed to mention Clinton by name but seemed to even go out of his way to take a few thinly veiled shots at her.
As to not mentioning her, that part seemed rather obvious to me. You’re not supposed to use the Rose Garden (or other government property or resources) for politicking. It was rather unusual for that to be the setting for a non-campaign announcement to begin with, but since he wasn’t running he probably gets a pass on that. But if he’d turned around and endorsed Hillary (or Bernie or anyone else for that matter) it definitely would have been a campaign maneuver and drawn fire. Still, some of his comments, such as reminding everyone that the Republicans were not his enemies, clearly seemed like a jab at some of Clinton’s debate comments.
For her part, Hillary was out there praising Biden right and left (video) to make it look like they’ve been on the same page all along. Something seems wrong with this picture, doesn’t it? Some background digging by the New York Times may hold the answer, since aides to the Veep have been telling a few stories which indicate that their boss was never Ready For Hillary at all.
As he watched Hillary Rodham Clinton’s relentless march toward the Oval Office over the past several months, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was privately churning.
Meetings with his foreign policy aides veered into lengthy discussions about Mrs. Clinton’s hawkish stance. At dinners with donors, Mr. Biden expressed astonishment at her handling of the controversy over her private email server. Those close to him say the mere mention of her name could make him fume, and he viewed her family’s potent, sometimes punishing political machinery with growing resentment.
The decades-long relationship between Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton has included many public expressions of warmth, but in private, it has been marked by an intense rivalry as they both imagined ascending to the highest office in the land. And as the Democratic establishment this summer increasingly fell into line behind Mrs. Clinton as the party’s best chance of winning the presidency, Mr. Biden felt slighted and hurt.
The two had not spoken for months, their last conversation occurring at a breakfast shortly after Mr. Biden’s son Beau died in late May.
We tend to parse the remarks of political figures to the Nth degree looking for deeper meaning (something I’m guilty of myself far too often) so some of the points brought up by Michael Shear and Amy Chozick in the linked article may be a stretch. For example, they latch on to Biden’s effusive comments about the Obama legacy and how Democrats should not only defend it, but run on it. On one level you can understand how Hillary has actually been running away from it on at least a few points, so that might be seen as a backhanded dig at Clinton, but sometimes the more obvious explanation turns out to be the true one. Biden has been joined to Obama at the hip and supported his boss on every policy front no matter what he might have thought about it privately. He’s part of the Obama record for better or worse, so he can’t very well go out and start trashing their agenda while he’s still got more than a year left to live with the man.
But at the same time it’s not too hard to see how Biden would have some lingering resentment of Hillary. After all, she was one of the ones fighting against him during his last run for the Oval Office and the Clinton machine isn’t exactly known for being kind to their enemies. Even more than that, however, is the very believable idea that Joe just resented Clinton’s presumptuous nature and the way that another loser from the 2008 primary (and one who had far less experience than him) was being considered the presumptive nominee when he was sitting there with six years under his belt as part of the Executive branch. Is it so hard to believe that there was some, “what about me” bubbling to the surface when Biden looked in the mirror?
As the campaign winds on, assuming Hillary is the nominee, I’m willing to bet that Joe will be out there propping her up for the good of the team. But he might not be all that enthusiastic about it. Exit question: if it were to turn out that Hillary gets hauled into a trial by the FBI and the Justice Department (which is looking less and less likely), effectively ending her campaign, would the Democrats run back to Joe Biden as a last minute, brokered convention tactic to save them from running a socialist at the top of the ticket? Or is he still just done and on his way out the door even in that scenario?