Rolling Stone's Douglas Brinkley recently sat down for an hourlong interview with Vice President Joe Biden, who Brinkley says "rambles like Thomas Wolfe" in contrast to President Obama's "Hemingway-esque sparseness."
Brinkley says he left the interview convinced that Biden "must be considering a presidential run" — which, judging by recent polls that show the vice president trailing only Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, could actually happen come 2016. Biden didn't directly talk about his presidential ambitions, but he did discuss everything from the Senate's failure to pass gun-control legislation to his personal relationship with President Obama. A sampling:
1. On publicly supporting gay marriage
In May 2012, Biden made what was widely considered a gaffe by saying he was "comfortable" with same-sex marriage, which was more than President Obama had been willing to say before that point. Biden explains his thinking during that time:
I just decided I couldn't be quiet about it anymore, and everybody was stunned that that's where the public is. And I'm not stunned; it's where the public's been for a while. Talk to any of your kids, for God's sake.
2. On Obama's response after Biden backed gay marriage
Biden's avowal put pressure on Obama — who had described his stance on same-sex marriage as "evolving" — but the president took Biden's announcement in stride — and ultimately followed suit:
I got blowback from everybody but the president. I walked in that Monday, he had a big grin on his face, he put his arms around me and said, "Well, Joe, God love you, you say what you think."
3. On why the push for expanded gun background checks failed
In April, the Manchin-Toomey bill, which sought to extend background checks to gun shows and online sales, failed in the Senate after a number of moderate Republicans and red-state Democrats voted against it. The vice president sheds some light on the behind-the-scenes discussions:
In one form or another, they all said the same thing: "Joe, don't ask me to walk the plank, because the House isn't going to do anything, anyway."
4. On opposition to Obama's energy policy
The vice president touted the 2009 Recovery Act, which provided funding and tax credits to clean energy projects, as a success for the White House's global warming strategy. But Biden admits that passing energy legislation was hard in the face of high unemployment after the 2008 crash:
It was easy for the energy-interest guys to make the case that anything we would do to deal with global warming would be a job-killer. You'd see ads all over the country, an African American or a hard-hat guy — classic Democrat, you'd think — saying, "I'm an energy voter, and this idea the Obama administration has is going to cost you your jobs."
5. On McCain criticizing Obama for not taking military action against Syria
Recently on Fox News Sunday, John McCain said that Israel's airstrikes in Syria were a clear sign the White House has to take "game-changing action" by creating a "safe zone" and supplying the Syrian rebels with weapons. Biden, along with the rest of the administration, doesn't agree:
Now, I love John McCain — I just went out to do an event for him. We used to be close friends, and we're trying to get that back a little bit. Campaigns have a way of causing those things to wane.... But here's where we are with regard to Syria: With all the credibility we've gained in the world, we don't want to blow it like the last administration did in Iraq, saying "weapons of mass destruction."
6. On when Obama asked him to be vice president
Biden says he originally refused to be Obama's running mate, but changed his mind after talking it over with his family:
When I first got asked to do this job, I said, "No, thank you. I'll do anything I can to help you, but I'm not interested."... When the actual offer came forward, he asked me what portfolio do I want, and I said, "I don't want a portfolio; I don't want to be Gore" — who was a great vice president — "I don't want to be Cheney. You said you wanted me here to help you govern, and I have a lot of experience." I wanted a commitment that I get to be the last guy in the room on every major decision — not generally, but specifically."
7. On how he and Obama get along
Biden says he spends four or five hours every day with Obama:
We have very different styles, but we are simpatico. At all the debates we had — trying to get the nomination in '08 — we're the only two who never disagreed on a single substantive issue. He has a great line. He said, "We're the ultimate odd couple," he says. "We make up for each other's shortcomings."
Read the entire article at Rolling Stone.
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