Vice President Biden Talks to CBS News About Decision Not to Run for President
(CBSNews) The following script is from "Vice President Biden" which aired on October 25, 2015. Norah O'Donnell is the correspondent. Michael Radutzky and Guy Campanile, producers.
On Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden stepped back from the 2016 presidential campaign. Standing in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, and President Obama, the vice president seemed reluctant, even regretful, as he passed up a third try for the presidency.
[Biden: Unfortunately, I believe we're out of time, the time necessary to mount a winning campaign for the nomination. But while I will not be a candidate, I will not be silent.]
And he certainly wasn't Saturday afternoon, when we joined the vice president and Dr. Biden at their official residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory for his first television interview since the announcement.
Norah O'Donnell: It's been a big week. How are you feeling about this decision?
Vice President Biden: Ah. Good. It's the right decision for the family, it's the right decision for us.
Norah O'Donnell: Is it that you think you couldn't win or that you didn't want to run?
Vice President Biden: Couldn't win. I'll be very blunt, if I thought we could've put together the campaign that our supporters deserve and our contributors deserved I'll-- I would have gone ahead and done it.
Norah O'Donnell: But, why did it take you until Tuesday to figure that out? Tuesday night?
"I'll be very blunt, if I thought we could've put together the campaign that our supporters deserve and our contributors deserved I'll-- I would have gone ahead and done it."
Vice President Biden: Because it took that long for us to decide as a family. Look, dealing with the loss of Beau, any parent listening who's lost a child, knows that you can't-- it doesn't follow schedules of primaries and caucuses and contributors and the like. It just-- you-- and everybody grieves at a different pace.
Dr. Jill Biden: And we had such hope, that you know that he was going to live. And so I think it really wasn't until the day he died that we gave, well, I don't think we ever gave up hope.
The Bidens lost their son, beau, in May at age 46 to brain cancer. The vice president told us that during his illness and while grieving he put his plans to run for president on hold.
Norah O'Donnell: What was the single most important thing in deciding not to run?
Vice President Biden: I've said from the beginning that I don't know whether our ability to deal with the loss of Beau would reach a point where we could do that before time ran out. And--and there was nothing we could control.
Norah O'Donnell: Were you disappointed? Or were you relieved?
Dr. Jill Biden: No, I think I was disappointed. I mean, I thought Joe would be a great president. And you know I've seen his-- in the 40 years we've been together, I've seen, you know, the strength of his character, his optimism, you know, his hope--
Vice President Biden: I'm glad we're doing this interview, I like to hear Jill say all that stuff.
Dr. Jill Biden: So I-- I believed he would've been the best president.
Norah O'Donnell: I mean, how much did you struggle with this, about whether to run or not?
Vice President Biden: What I struggled with was whether or not we could emotionally-- I could, I speak for me, I could emotionally handle this in a way that when I thought of Beau-- I didn't-- it wasn't a problem. For example, I-- at one point-- late summer, I thought, "Well, you know, I think we can do this." And I'll never forget my little granddaughter, we're down by the swimming pool, mom says, "Time for dinner everybody." And everybody goes up, and she's lying between my legs with her head on my shou-- my chest and turns around and puts her arms around me and starts sobbing and says, "Pop, I see daddy all the time. I see daddy all the time. Pop, you smell like daddy. You're not gonna leave me, are you pop?" Well, when that happens, you go, "I don't know, man, how-- you know, how could--" and so there are those kinds of ups and downs. But by the time, now, you know, we go to-- we were home last weekend and we're there every weekend we can get--and we went to her-- she has a great little cross country, she's only 11 years old.
Dr. Jill Biden:-to her track meet.
Vice President Biden: Track meet. And she runs and she finishes and I give her a big hug, she said, "Daddy would be happy, wouldn't he? Wouldn't he?" So it's a total-- you know, it just-- it just takes time. And until you get there, you know, it's not-- not an appropriate thing to throw your-- and by the way, you can't run for president unless you throw your entire being into it.
Norah O'Donnell: How often did the two of you talk about this decision? Every night?
Vice President Biden: Well, we just looked at each other half the time --
Dr. Jill Biden: Yeah.
Vice President Biden: Like I'd get up in the morning some mornings and I'd say, "You know, Jill, I think I--" Because I have to admit to you, what was driving us crazy is you guys. We love you. But, you know, serious press people would say, "Well, we have on good authority from a very close friend of Joe Biden's that he's going to announce tomorrow." Or, "We have on good authority that he's not going to run," or, "Good-- " And that used to drive me crazy. And so part of it was I'd get up some mornings and say, "Let's just end this thing, man. We don't have time to-- I don't want to go-- keep getting buffeted like this." And so some mornings, we'd say, like I remember about a month ago we were on the porch at home and I said, "You know, when-- maybe we should just-- I don't know if we're going to get there in time. Maybe we should just say we're not going." And Jill said, "But, what about the Supreme Court?"
Dr. Jill Biden: What about education? What about community colleges? I felt like we were-- everything we had worked so hard for in this administration, you know, could all-- could just all change.
Vice President Biden: Well, that's because she's prejudiced. She thinks that I have the best chance of winning the general election. So that's --
Norah O'Donnell: But that's really interesting to hear that. That you were really pushing him to go forward.
Dr. Jill Biden: Oh yeah. Sure.
Norah O'Donnell: Will you ever run for political office again?
Vice President Biden: No. No. I can do so much more, I believe. I hope I leave office in-- as a respected figure who can convene people and bring people together. And I just think the president and I talked about what we do together. What we each want to do out of office--
Norah O'Donnell: You said something in the Rose Garden. You said, "If I could be anything I would want to be the president that ended cancer."
Vice President Biden: It's true. It's personal, I acknowledge. But, you know, cancer affects every single family. And, you know, one of the great advantages and an advantage I had it's-- of being vice president, I had access to the finest people in the world. And I am confident if we make the decision John Kennedy made of going to the moon, and we said, "We are going to cure cancer," within the next several years we can do that. That's how close it is.
After we interviewed the Bidens together, Jill Biden stepped out and we continued our conversation with the vice president.
Norah O'Donnell: There was a lot you had to weigh in this run for president. I know you talked to your son, Beau, about running for president. What did he want you to do?
"And I am confident if we make the decision John Kennedy made of going to the moon, and we said, 'We are going to cure cancer,' within the next several years we can do that. That's how close it is."
Vice President Biden: Well, first thing I'd like to do, and you're being very polite the way you're asking me the question because some people have written that, you know, Beau on his death bed said, "Dad, you've got to run," and, there was this sort of Hollywood moment that, you know, nothing like that ever, ever happened. Beau from the time he was in his 30s-- or actually his late 20s-- was my--he and Hunter were one of my two most reliable advisors. And, Beau all along thought that I should run and I could win.
But there was not what was sort of made out as kind of this Hollywood-esque thing that at the last minute Beau grabbed my hand and said, "Dad, you've got to run, like, win one for the Gipper." It wasn't anything like that.
Norah O'Donnell: I want to show you a photo of President Obama and you. This is in the Oval Office. This is right before you went out into the-- to the Rose Garden and told everybody that you weren't running for president. What advice did the president give you?
Vice President Biden: Well, I called the president early in the morning and he was in the gym working out. And he took my call and I said-- "Mr. President," I said, "We decided. I'm not going to run." And he knew how close it was, what was going on. And I said, "I'm going to go out and announce it this morning or early afternoon." He said, "Joe, I'll be proud to stand with you.
Norah O'Donnell: But did the president want you to run?
Vice President Biden: The president wanted me to do what I thought was best.
Norah O'Donnell: But that speech in the Rose Garden sounded a little bit like a campaign platform. Did you have this-- a speech written for whether you were going to run or whether you weren't going to run? Because part of the speech sounded like, "I'll be ready. I've got a plan if you need me at some point."
Vice President Biden: Well, the truth is-- there's some truth to that because what I wanted to make clear--
Norah O'Donnell: But are you leaving the door open if something happens?
Vice President Biden: No, no, no. I was making the case that I do want to influence the Democratic Party. I want to make no bones about that. I don't want the party walking away from what Barack and I did.
Norah O'Donnell: You said, "I will not be silent."
Vice President Biden: I will not be silent. And I went on and in fact said, and I want, to the extent I can, influence the direction of the Democratic Party and the country.
Norah O'Donnell: Well, let me ask you about that because you didn't mention Hillary Clinton at all during the speech. But you sure did seem to be referring to her. You said, "I don't think we should look at Republicans as our enemies." Was that a reference to the comment she made--
Vice President Biden: That wasn't directed at Hillary. That was a reference to Washington. All of Washington.
Norah O'Donnell: But she called Republicans enemies in the debate.
Vice President Biden: Well, I think she was being more humorous than she was direct about that.
Norah O'Donnell: But she said that in the debate. She was asked--
Vice President Biden: --well.
Norah O'Donnell: --which enemy are you more proud of. And she said the Iranians and then she also mentioned the Republicans.
Vice President Biden: Well, she was smiling when she said the Republicans. And I don't take it as-- that's her view. But I do know it's the view of many people, like, for example, and I know this statement there were two big articles ready to say, "Why is Biden so naïve?" These people are our enemy. From serious people. They're not my enemy. I-- how in God's name can we govern this country if we view the opposition as an enemy?
Norah O'Donnell: Did you watch the Democratic debate? Did you watch Hillary Clinton? Did you think she's unbeatable?
Vice President Biden: No. I didn't think that. What I thought was she did a great job. And I thought Bernie did a great job. Look, I've debated Hillary 13 times in national presidential debates. I know Hillary. I know her debating skills. I know mine. I have never had any doubt about her intellect or her capacity to debate. And I thought she did-- she comported herself really well.
Norah O'Donnell: But you wouldn't have considered running for president unless you thought or had some doubts about Hillary Clinton.
Vice President Biden: Not at all. That has nothing to do with it. I've said from the beginning, look, I like Hillary. Hillary and I get along together. The only reason to run is because I still think I could do a better job than anybody else could do. That's the reason to run. I wouldn't run against Hillary.
Norah O'Donnell: But you also said in the Rose Garden that Democrats should run on the record.
Vice President Biden: That's right.
Norah O'Donnell: The president's record.
Vice President Biden: I believe that.
Norah O'Donnell: Do you think Hillary's running on that or something else?
Vice President Biden: Well, she'll run on part of it. If not, she's already made a decision on two important things. It doesn't mean she won't be a great president.
Norah O'Donnell: So when The New York Times reported this past week that there's real tension between you and Hillary Clinton, that the mere mention of her name makes you fume according to some advisors.
Vice President Biden: Well, let me tell you something, this-- must be the same guys who knew I was going to run because that's never been the case. Go back and find anybody who says for the four years we worked together Hillary and I weren't friends.
Norah O'Donnell: What do you think of Donald Trump?
Vice President Biden: The one thing I do-- I'm disappointed in Donald Trump. I know what a showman and all that he is. But I really don't think it's healthy and I hope he reconsiders this sort of attack on all immigrants. I think that is beneath the country. I don't think it's where the American people are. And I hope he really doesn't believe it
Norah O'Donnell: You have 15 months left in office.
Vice President Biden: I do.
Norah O'Donnell: What one or two things do you think you can get done?
Vice President Biden: Well, I think we can get a number of things done. One, I think we can really begin to nail down this commitment to work on cancer and head toward a moonshot. The president and I have already talked about that. Number two, I think we can make some real progress, particularly with Paul Ryan, who is a good guy, on working toward an accommodation on the budget and on keeping the government open.
Norah O'Donnell: This White House has not been able to get much done with this Congress. Do you think--
Vice President Biden: That's true.
Norah O'Donnell: --that Speaker Ryan will change things?
Vice President Biden: Yes. This is a decent guy. And he knows you cannot function--this government can't function without reaching some consensus and he wants to do that.
Norah O'Donnell: I know you often give advice to people. And one of the things you say is you're either on your way up or you're on your way down. Which one are you?
Vice President Biden: I think I'm still moving up. I think we got a lot to do.