After endless months of speculation, Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination. He did so in grand fashion, presenting his decision from the White House Rose Garden, flanked by the president and his wife, Jill. Reporters, upon hearing of the surprise speech and its location, unanimously predicted that he was going to jump into the race. Because, after all, why set up this ceremonial spectacle just to announce that you’re not running?
But that’s exactly what he did. And he flummoxed reporters even more by delivering a speech that – given an edit or two – could have easily been used to launch a campaign. A long, policy-specific speech that even found room for a couple of sideways shots at Hillary Clinton.
“I don’t think we should look at Republicans as our enemies,” Biden said. “They are our opposition, they are not our enemies.”
At the Democratic debate, Hillary said she was proud of making enemies in the Republican Party.
But again, it comes back to the question: Why announce you’re not running while taking shots at the woman who is almost certainly going to be the Democratic nominee?
There are two ways to think about this. It’s all speculation, but these are the two explanations that make sense, absent some bombshell insider scoop.
The first possibility is that everything is just as it seems. This is the story most of the media is going with. Biden waited too long, he was too torn up about losing his son, and he simply ran out of time to launch an effective campaign. And as a consolation prize, Obama and the DNC said, “Joe, go out there and give the speech of your life. You’ve earned that much.”
Eh, it’s too pat. Too smooth. This is politics, and when things look funky, there’s usually a reason.
So there’s the second possibility. That Biden was determined to run, he wanted to run, and he was going to run…but Hillary sent a warning to Obama that scared him off. You have to remember who the Clintons are. These are a couple of the most ruthless political players to ever get in the game. We haven’t seen a lot of that this year because Hillary’s out there pretending to be this sweet grandmother who just wants what’s best for women. But you can bet that she and Bill have some secrets that Obama does not want them to share. She was inside this administration for four years and she knows where a few of the bodies are buried. She might have just told Obama that unless he wanted to end his White House tenure under a cloud of scandal, he’d better talk some sense into his VP.
That would also explain why Obama was out there with him in the Rose Garden, nodding as Biden warned Democrats not to run away from his record. This was Obama conceding political defeat but also reminding Hillary that he’s not going to go quietly.