Jill Biden says her husband was authentic before it was a buzzword, and when Joe Biden talks about “ordinary people like us who do extraordinary things,” it rings true. He would have liked to be his party’s nominee, and we’ll never know if he could have defeated Hillary Clinton.
He called the man who named him vice president “one of the finest presidents we have ever had. This is a man of character,” he said. “And Michelle, I don’t know where you are, kid, but you’re incredible.”
Hands down, he told Barack, nobody’s talking about who will give the best speech.
His son Beau’s death from cancer in May of last year sapped the energy he would have needed, ending his presidential aspirations. Still, his ability to rally ordinary people to the fight that lies ahead was on full display in the Convention hall from the moment he bounded onto the stage and took a victory lap from one end to the other.
It was his valedictory from public service, and “kind of a bittersweet moment,” he said. Eight years ago, Beau put his father’s name in nomination as Barack Obama’s vice president. “You got a glimpse of what a fine young man Beau was,” he said, commending his son’s military service and noting that his widow and two children were in the arena.
Quoting Ernest Hemingway—“The world breaks everyone, and some are made strong at the broken places”—he said others have gone through much more than he has.
“That’s the unbreakable spirit of the people of America,” he said. “That’s who we are.”
Then he got down to business. He was there as yet another character witness for his party’s nominee. He’s known Hillary Clinton for well over 30 years, he said, and when she was secretary of state they had breakfast once a week in his home, the vice president’s residence.
“Everybody knows she’s tough and smart. I know what she’s passionate about. I know Hillary,” he said, extolling her passion for reducing college costs and expanding health care and declaring that when she is elected, she will bring change simply because of who she is.
“When Hillary Clinton walks into the Oval Office as president,” it will change the lives of daughters and granddaughters, he said. If you’re a caregiver, he added with a flourish, “There’s only one person who can help you. That’s Hillary Clinton’s life story. She’s always there, she’s always been there.
“I’m not trying to be a wise guy here, but that’s not Donald Trump’s story,” he said.
Anticipating that the mere mention of Trump’s name would get the delegates chanting, he pleaded, “Look at me for a second without booing and cheering. Think about it. His cynicism can be summed up in the phrase he made famous: ‘You’re fired.’
“How can there be pleasure in saying ‘You’re fired’? He’s telling us he cares about the middle class. That’s a bunch of malarkey,” the same old-timey word Biden used four years ago to demolish then vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan in their debate.
Checking the box on Clinton didn’t get Biden or the delegates nearly as roused as his case against Trump. “Let me say something that has nothing to do about politics—something I am deadly serious about,” he said. “This is a complicated and uncertain world we live in. The threats are too great and the times too uncertain to let Donald Trump be president.”
No major party nominee in the country’s history has known less about national security, Biden said. “We cannot elect a man who has no plan, who endorses torture and religious intolerance. That’s not who we are,” a refrain Obama uses and that has become a staple for Clinton’s campaign.
“Donald Trump with all his rhetoric would literally make us less safe,” Biden declared. Trump is a man “who confuses bluster with strength… We simply can’t let that happen in America. Period.”
Biden reinforced the convention theme of an optimistic 21st American century, challenging Trump’s vision of a nation tearing apart and the perceived weakness he’d professed about the country’s military.
“It’s never a good bet to bet against America,” he said, noting we’ve had candidates before “who attempted to get elected by scaring people, but they never win because we don’t scare easily.”
He said he is more optimistic about America’s chances today than he was as a 29-year-old kid more than 40 years ago when he was first sworn into the Senate.
“And God willing Hillary Clinton will write the next chapter in that journey. We are second to none and we own the finish line.”
It was a bittersweet moment too for many in the arena knowing that the speech marked the end of a remarkable career in elected office. But as Biden demonstrated tonight, he remains a man of boundless energy who will continue the cause inspired by his son’s death to lead a moon shot for cancer, and for that he’s got everybody’s vote.