Joe Biden conducted the shortest campaign for president in American history.
He also conducted one of the worst.
He declared his candidacy without officially declaring it on Monday, with a remark he made during a speech at a climate change summit.
“I don’t consider Republicans enemies,” Biden said. “They’re friends.”
The line was clearly a dig at Hillary Clinton, who prominently included the Republicans when asked at the Democratic debate in Las Vegas to name who she was most proud to call an enemy.
If Biden were not running himself, why else would he go after the one other electable Democratic candidate?
And Biden repeated the attack on Tuesday during a speech at George Washington University.
“I still have a lot of Republican friends,” he said. “I don't think my chief enemy is the Republican Party. This is a matter of making things work.”
Biden also used the speech as an opportunity to contest a decidedly inconvenient truth that Hillary would likely use to undercut any effort on his part to portray himself as a continuation of the Obama presidency.
On other occasions, Biden acknowledged that he had opposed sending SEAL Team Six in to get Bin Laden without first making further efforts to confirm that target was there.
That version has been confirmed by numerous insider accounts and news reports, as well as by an authoritative book.
But that did not stop Biden on Tuesday from trying to rewrite history in a fashion so brazen that even Hillary Clinton might not have attempted it.
Hillary is usually the liar, liar, pants suit on fire.
And now here was Biden, saying that, actually, he had been in favor of the Bin Laden raid and had expressed his support privately to Obama during the tense lead-up.
Biden’s lie was all the more distressing to witness because it concerned the hunt for the man who had directed the murder of thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11.
The dead included 343 members of the FDNY. Among them were 11 from Rescue 1 whose names were on memorial plaques affixed to the company’s firehouse wall when Biden visited there on the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
A number of firefighters now assigned to Rescue 1 allowed afterward that they did not agree with his politics, but liked Biden himself. He looked them in the eye and listened to what they said and seemed actually interested.
“You’re all right,” a firefighter told him.
Families of the fallen firefighters were also present and Biden sat down with them. He proved to be fluent in the language of loss. A wife and a daughter had died in a car accident years before, when he was first starting out in the U.S. Senate. And more recently a son had succumbed to brain cancer.
“Genuine,” a firefighter said of Biden after he departed the firehouse.
And it had seemed that this quality might make him president. The knock against him has always been that he says whatever pops into his head. Donald Trump has proved that such spontaneity can be a political virtue in an age of polls and spin doctors.
The difference was that Biden invoked what really does make America great and is sure to make it even greater.
But, as too many FDNY families know, along with families of all kinds that have suffered losses, grief can make you crazy.
Perhaps that explains Biden’s lie about the Bin Laden raid.
And maybe the part of him that truly is Genuine Joe then caught himself.
On Wednesday, two days after he declared his candidacy without declaring it, Biden announced that he would not be running after all.
The part of him that is still a little nuts seems responsible for the grandiosity of the Rose Garden announcement and for the speech that accompanied it, as if people did not have more pressing things to do in the middle of a work day.
But Biden then redeemed himself as he spoke about the need for a “moon shot” program to take on cancer.
He is exactly right, as he all too well knows.
And, if he ran what was both the shortest campaign for president in American history and one of the worst, its ending had led to the start of a campaign against cancer whose urgent need nobody can rightly dispute.
“The president and I have already been working hard on increasing funding for research and development, because there are so many breakthroughs just on the horizon in science and medicine, the things that are just about to happen,” Biden said. “And we can make them real with an absolute national commitment to end cancer, as we know it today.”
He went on, “And I’m going to spend the next 15 months in this office pushing as hard as I can to accomplish this, because I know there are Democrats and Republicans on the Hill who share our passion, our passion to silence this deadly disease.”
His talk of having friends among the Republicans assumed another significance. Biden then said something liable to make any of us who have lost a loved one to cancer to wish he had not just run, but won.
“If I could be anything, I would have wanted to have been the president that ended cancer…” he said.
His next words were sunshine through the clouds, Biden at his best.
“…Because it’s possible.”
Among those who surely hope that is true are the families of the hundreds of 9/11 first responders who survived the attack only to be stricken with cancer.
Go, Joe, go!