Friday marked a huge loss for the Republican congressional coalition when they failed to achieve their long-touted healthcare reform, but it unfortunately didn't change the reality of the person or party at the helm of the federal government. Former Vice President Joe Biden got candid about the culmination of his political career this, a tragic reminder of what could have been and what the country's now facing. Biden said he regrets not being president, but not the decision he had to make that prevented it from happening.
Somewhat paradoxically, Biden says he doesn't regret his decision not to run for the presidency, due to the circumstances that motivated the choice. In the extended interview at Colgate University with school president Brian Casey, Biden expressed his regret for his own career, which seemed to include regret over the final result as well.
"You ever think, what if? Any regrets," Casey asked. "The answer is that I had planned on running for president," Biden responded. "I don't regret not running in the sense that it was the right decision for my boy, for me, for my family at the time. But do I regret not being president? Yes."
In 2015, shortly before he had planned to announce his run for the presidency, Biden's eldest son Beau's brain cancer relapsed. The then-VP tried to wait as long as possible to decide the future of his campaign, in case his son got better. But as it became clear throughout the spring of 2015 that Beau's condition was declining, his dedicated father stepped back from his political future to be with family.
"The press began to think I was playing a game. But I couldn't tell them about my boy," Biden said. "He didn't want anybody feeling sorry for him. ... He wanted me to run." But Biden said his son's death drained him of the strength to pursue the presidency, forcing him to sit out in 2016. "I lost part of my soul."
Biden also rather uncharacteristically criticized his party and its performance in the 2016 election. "I think Democrats thought that the only way to win was to drive [Donald Trump's] negatives higher than [Hillary Clinton's] negatives." His frustration is understandable, since he probably thought he'd be handing off his political legacy to somehow who would continue his stewardship of progressive issues like sexual assault, gun control, and medical research. Instead, Trump is trying to pull apart most of his and President Obama's landmark legislation, and abandoning the social progress he made in many areas.
Although it's not exactly a surprising conclusion, the interview seems to confirm that Biden's days of chasing the top office are over. Biden referred to his political career in the past tense and had no problem riffing on the party a little, so it seems pretty clear he's not interested in running for office again. He is 74 years old, so a 2020 presidential campaign was in many ways already out of the question. However, it's an ominous reminder that the 2020 race is very likely going to be a competitive mess without a front-runner for a long time, which didn't work out so well for the party last time.
It's not worth playing the guessing game about whether Biden would or could have won the election — according to some forecasting models, Republicans were inevitably going to come out on top, and there's just no point in rehashing a past that can't be changed.
The real takeaway from Biden's interview is that he seems to blame himself a little for the current political situation, even though he shouldn't at all. Biden's dedication to his family is even more admirable than his service to his country, and he deserves a peaceful post-career life, although he seems to be having difficulty finding that peace.