Tempted by Power, Joe Biden Takes a Reckless, Legacy-Wrecking Swipe at Hillary

By Peter Daou and Tom Watson

UPDATE 1 (10/21/15): Joe Biden announces he will not run for president. While we praise him for making the correct decision, we are baffled about his unprovoked criticism of Hillary Clinton, knowing he wasn't going to be in the race.

UPDATE 2 (10/21/15): Peter just appeared on CNN to discuss Biden's decision and said what we both believe: the Vice President made the smart and honorable choice. Politics is tough business and hard shots are taken (as you can see below) but in the end, Joe Biden did the right thing. His choice will cement his legacy and it reflects well on the Democratic Party.

ORIGINAL POST (Published before the Vice President's decision not to run): 

The gloves are off.

Out of respect for Vice President Biden and following Hillary Clinton's example, we have refrained from criticizing his extended (and destabilizing) decision-making process. But with Biden taking a cheap, dangerous and unwarranted shot at Hillary, our self-imposed constraint is over.

Here’s what Biden said, per NY Mag:

Either Joe Biden is gearing up for his entry into the 2016 race, or he just thinks Hillary Clinton needs to be taken down a peg. The vice president never mentioned the Democratic front-runner by name, but at an event honoring former Vice President Walter Mondale on Tuesday evening, he took aim at Clinton's boast during last week's debate that she's proud to count the Republicans among her enemies. "It is necessary to end this notion that the enemy is the other party, end this notion that it’s naive to think we can speak well of the other party and cooperate," Biden said. 

Biden also challenged Clinton's oblique suggestion during the debate that she's running for a third Obama term. He claimed that for the past seven years, he's spent five to seven hours a day with the president. "I attend every meeting the president has — at his request," Biden said, adding that they are "simpatico" on every major issue. 

And what about the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, that one very notable occasion when Biden and Obama weren't in sync? Well, Biden spent the day revising that story, so now he was completely behind the decision to send in special forces.  

Calling a popular, powerful, accomplished woman “naive” has troubling overtones. Saying it about the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination is exceptionally reckless. Especially with Donald Trump on track to become the Republican nominee. Not to mention the folly of pretending to play nice with Republicans with the aim of making Hillary look unreasonable and uncooperative. Biden knows very well which Republicans Hillary was referring to when she made her tongue-in-cheek remark at the debate, so his swipe is disingenuous.  

Writing an attack ad for the opposing party is not a way to cement your legacy, it’s a surefire way to wreck it. But Biden has sought the presidency his entire adult life and the temptation to try again seems to be clouding his rational judgment.

We’ve always expected Biden to run, for this simple reason: he could have just said no. If he didn’t intend to run, allowing the expectation game to drag out would be cruel and unfair to the Democratic electorate. We would never accuse him of being that cynical.

If Biden’s idea has been to reinforce the Democratic bench, fine, but lobbing a direct, unprovoked grenade at Hillary’s integrity undercuts that mission.

The lure of power and its capacity to destroy good men is the story of human history. We hope that Biden has the self-control to resist the temptation to join the legion of Hillary detractors whose actions, wittingly or unwittingly, bolster the gender barrier blocking women from the U.S. presidency.


Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.