What many people like about Joe Biden is that he has never been afraid to speak his mind. Often, he’s been unpredictable, occasionally uncouth and always unstoppable. That’s the Joe Biden we’ve seen in Congress, as vice president and in two previous presidential campaigns. Even his boss – President Barack Obama – couldn’t contain Biden’s penchant for speaking his mind.
Perhaps that’s why so many were hoping he’d enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Those folks were undoubtedly disappointed Wednesday when Biden announced he would not be a candidate, saying it was too late. He knew he would have been a very long shot in the face of the Hillary Clinton juggernaut.
Many were left considering what might have been. Biden has the most impressive credentials of any candidate in either party – former chair of both the Senate Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees, author of the Violent Crime Control and Violence Against Women acts as well as the federal assault weapons ban; he was a particularly effective in two terms as vice president.
In the end, Biden could not overcome his grief over having lost a third member of his family prematurely. In 1972, shortly after he was elected to the Senate for the first time, his wife and daughter were killed in a car crash. In May, Biden buried his son Beau, the former Delaware attorney general who died of brain cancer.
But in speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Biden said something of critical importance: “While I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent.”
We hope he means it. Biden’s voice could be enormously important over the coming months as the field narrows and we focus on issues. In fact, it’s important now for those willing to listen.
Biden is well known for speaking his mind. He’s never really had a strong filter; the New York Times once said he was “capable of blurting out pretty much anything.”
It was Biden, after all, who forced his boss to confront the issue of gays in the military, perhaps before President Obama was ready politically. It is Biden who has spoken eloquently and forcefully on measures to end gun violence, perhaps giving the president room to speak with greater passion. He hasn’t always been right, but he is always sincere.
If his quick wit has sometimes tripped him up – that’s how he came to be labeled a “gaffe machine” – at least he hasn’t been afraid to speak. We hope he continues speaking as this unending presidential campaign plods along. We’re going to need some clear-eyed, fearless and honest brokers on both sides.
In stepping out, Biden had some wise words. “Washington … has to begin to function again,” he said. “Instead of being the problem, it has to become part of the solution again.”
He even offered some advice on how to do that: “(Republicans) are our opposition,” Biden said. “They are not our enemies.”