In television appearances Monday, former vice president Joe Biden said he would not have taken Hillary Clinton’s place as the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential nominee even if he had been given the chance.
Donna Brazile, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, claimed in a new memoir that she considered initiating a process to swap Clinton out for Biden last year after Clinton fainted at a Sept. 11 memorial event. On NBC’s “Today” show Monday, Biden told host Matt Lauer that Brazile’s book was the first time he or any of his staff heard of such a possibility.
“I give you my word,” Biden said. “I would never have taken it. I was for Hillary. I did 83 campaign events for Hillary. I think I can say I did more events and worked harder for Hillary, as hard for Hillary, as anyone else. She would have been a first-rate president.”
Biden noted he had already decided, long before last fall, that he was not prepared to run for president. His oldest son, Beau Biden, died of brain cancer in May 2015, and the former vice president repeatedly said last year that he knew he wouldn’t be able to withstand the pressures of a campaign while grieving.
“I was not ready in terms of my family,” Biden told Lauer. “So, no, I would never have done that.”
Biden certainly sounded like a would-be candidate on “Today” as he discussed the changes he felt the Democratic Party needed to make to be successful — and refused to rule out the possibility of running in 2020. He fielded questions from audience members about gun violence, President Trump’s performance and whether voters would be put off by Biden’s age in a presidential race. Biden, 74, would be 77 if he decided to run for president in 2020.
“Look, I think people have a right to ask your age, your health. I think if anyone were to run for president, you should fully disclose your medical records,” he said. “Right now — as my mother would say, knock on wood — I’m healthy. I’m in pretty good shape. But, you know, that’s a way off. If we run, I think it’s a legitimate issue for people to raise.”
In an interview on NBC’s “Megyn Kelly Today,” host Kelly laid out the challenges Biden would face if he did enter the 2020 race.
“The critics will say you are too old — you are going to be 77 in 2020 — you wouldn’t have any new ideas, you have already run twice and lost,” she said. “You would have to promise it would be one term only and … the blue-collar Rust Belters … you would need to get elected already love Donald Trump.”
Biden didn’t miss a beat. “They love me more,” he told Kelly to audience laughter. “But they are right about all the first parts, correct. I am not sure I can overcome the front end, but I understand the Rust Belt. Donald Trump has no notion of what those people are going through.”
When Kelly asked him whether he was “getting any closer” to deciding, however, Biden said no.
“If the Lord came down and sat here and said, ‘Look, the nomination is yours if you accept it now,’ I would say, ‘No, not now,’” he told Kelly. “Because I’m not ready. There’s so much more to do in terms of finishing this book, finishing the ability to try to win back the House of Representatives. And then we’ll see.”
He added: “I’ve become a great respecter of fate. It’s not being blunt — I think I’m qualified to be president, but there’s a lot of really talented people out there in the Democratic Party.”
As The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reported, Brazile would not have had the power to unilaterally replace Clinton with Biden. Nevertheless, the claims Brazile made in her new book, “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House,” prompted a wave of outraged responses from former Clinton campaign officials who said they “do not recognize the campaign she portrays in the book.”
“We were shocked to learn the news that Donna Brazile actively considered overturning the will of the Democratic voters by attempting to replace Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine as the Democratic Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees,” read an open letter signed by more than 100 former campaign aides. “It is particularly troubling and puzzling that she would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda, spread by both the Russians and our opponent, about our candidate’s health.”
Brazile’s book caught the attention of Trump, who used it to launch a string of tweets accusing “Crooked Hillary & the Dems” of stealing the primary election.
Days later, Brazile walked back her claim that the primary was “rigged,” saying Trump had misquoted her.