Let’s just get it out of the way: Former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t use his stop in Austin Friday night to announce a bid for president.
Biden’s visit, the second to the city in as many months, was centered around the contents of his memoir “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose,” which largely focuses on the year after his oldest son Beau, a former Delaware attorney general and budding political star, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. The title of the book references Beau’s request to his father to continue “to stay engaged” after his death. Beau died in 2015 at the age of 46.
During his hourlong talk at the Paramount, Biden fielded mostly deferential questions from Canadian business journalist Amanda Lang as the crowd would break into raucous cheers whenever the possibility of his running for president came up.
Biden never entertained the question but spent a chunk of his time explaining why he didn’t run for president in 2016. Although he thought he was the most qualified to continue the work the Obama administration had started, he said his son’s diagnosis forced him to realize that he couldn’t give a presidential run his all.
“I’m not being falsely humble and think, ‘Oh God, I never thought I could be president.’ I thought, ‘I’m qualified to be president,’ but that’s different than being in a situation where you aren’t prepared to give the country every bit of your energy.”
Biden also touched upon losing his first wife and daughter in a car crash shortly after he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972 and juggling life after as a single parent and lawmaker. He recounted a political opponent running a campaign ad about his congressional voting record. “If I have a choice between going to a parent-teacher meeting or going to a baseball game, I’m going to that unless the vote is consequential,” he said.
He later spoke of turning down then-presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s request to be his running mate and his mother convincing him to take the job. “She said, ‘Joey, let me get this straight. The first black man in the history of America has an opportunity to be president, he’s said he needs you to win Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida and Michigan, and you said no, honey?’ That…took care of that.”
He boasted about his brother-like relationship with Obama, describing it as one based on honesty. “All those memes are basically true.”
When asked about his evaluation of the current White House administration, Biden said President Donald Trump never thought he would win and wasn’t prepared to govern. Biden admonished Trump for his remarks after the deadly Charlottesville white nationalist rally and suggested that the “vast majority of” Americans are better than some of what he considers concerning rhetoric today.
“We wanted to give (Trump) as much time you could give him but there are certain things that you’re just not able to remain silent on, he said. “There’s this effort going on to undermine the moral fabric that holds up our society and it’s dangerous and we have to speak out about it.”