Yesterday Joe Biden finally did the inevitable and announced he is not running for president. It was fine for him to consider running, and it would have been fine for him to decide to run.
But his announcement speech yesterday gave a glimpse of the campaign he would run -- and the petty score-settling he was involved in with Hillary Clinton -- and after hearing it we should be glad he is not running.
In particular, it was Biden's claim that Republicans "are not our enemies" that opened up a window into the toothless, clueless, hopelessly-reaching-out-across-the-aisle strategy he would pursue. It's a strategy that is not only unsuccessful with this extreme GOP -- and he has only to look at the first years of Obama's presidency for that, and the time wasted on so-called "compromise" that never happened -- but it's an insult to those of us who have been viciously targeted by the GOP, whether we be women, LGBT, people of color or working people trying to make a decent wage.
The rivalry between Clinton and Biden has been long-noted, and in of itself it's not remarkable. But it was remarkable, and, frankly, beneath Joe Biden to take it to the White House Rose Garden with the president by his side in an event covered as breaking news by all the major television networks.
Without naming her, Biden aired his differences with Clinton on foreign policy, and chastised her and other candidates for supposedly not running on President Obama's accomplishments. (The truth is, they are actually doing so for the most part, knowing the president is popular among the base. But no, they can't and shouldn't agree with Obama on everything, and that certainly includes the Trans Pacific Partnership, if they want to win the Democratic primary race. And Biden knows this only too well, having run for president himself twice.) And most notably he took a swipe at Clinton when he said, "I don't think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are our opposition, they are not our enemies." This was a veiled reference to Clinton's half-joking answer at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas when each of the candidates was asked which enemy he or she is most proud of:
Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians. Probably the Republicans.
It should be noted that Clinton added "the Republicans" at the end, after a pause and with a chuckle, and it should also be noted that she answered a question about which of your enemies you're most proud of, not which of our enemies you're most proud to have. It may seem like a minor point but Hillary Clinton has been a target of the GOP on the most deeply personal levels for over 25 years, and once again today she's before yet another GOP committee orchestrating yet another witch-hunt against her. She's earned the right to call them her enemy in a joke at a debate in a way that Joe Biden -- who voted for the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act -- has not, especially having had Dick Cheney urging him to run in recent months.
Was it an unwise off-the-cuff remark during an otherwise seamless debate performance and one that will be used against Clinton in an attack ad? Probably. Will it, on balance, really hurt her, and was it bad enough to rise to the level of a Rose Garden breaking news slap down? Absolutely not.
But more than that, Joe Biden insulted so many of us and gave the GOP legitimacy and credibility when it claims Democrats unfairly criticize Republicans. The GOP is a party that has stripped the rights of voters across the country through voter ID laws that target minorities. It's a party that has been on a brutal campaign to shut down Planned Parenthood -- a campaign pushed by state governors and legislators as well as by every one of the GOP presidential candidates. It is a party that has been using the distorted idea of "religious liberty" to halt LGBT rights, and, again, whose candidates for the presidency, from Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson to Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, have given legitimacy to this religious liberty distortion at best, and engaged in blatant homophobic attacks at worst. And it is a party whose GOP frontrunner in the presidential race wants to deport 11 million brown people.
You might say that Joe Biden, as a straight white guy, doesn't feel the brunt of that, even though he speaks of LGBT rights and attacks on immigrants -- and did so in his speech yesterday -- and isn't sensitive to these issues. But Biden also considers himself Joe Middle Class and a champion of workers, and yet this GOP is a party that has declared all-out war on organized labor, has refused to help working people on a broad range of issues -- from raising the minimum wage to offering paid sick leave --and is still trying to dismantle Obamacare.
So yes, the Republicans are our enemies simply because they'd decided we are their enemies, targeting our rights, our livelihoods and our families. And for 2016, we need a candidate -- whether it's Clinton or Bernie Sanders or whomever -- who will not pull any punches on that. And we certainly need a president who clearly understands that. Let's thank Joe Biden for his service, and also thank him for deciding not to run.