Joe Biden Speaks at SCSU
Josh LaBella – News Editor
Former Vice President Joe Biden said citizens of the United States are less divided on issues than when he ran for senate as a 29 year old in 1972. He said what is broken is the country’s political system.
Biden spoke in the John Lyman Performing Arts Center to a sold out crowd. Southern Connecticut State University President Joe Bertolino said Biden’s presence at Southern resonates with the university’s mission on many fronts.
“Our commitment to access and affordability as a public institution, our time honored emphasis on building communities and empowering lives, and our campus wide commitment to social justice in word and in need,” said Bertolino.
The moderator of the discussion was Lucy Nalpathanchil, host of WNPR’s “Where We Live.” One of the first questions she asked Biden was about the current political climate.
Moderator Lucy Nalpathanchil and Joe Biden on stage in Lyman.
“We are in very strange times, and that’s putting it lightly,” said Nalpathanchil. “We hear so often that our county is very divided, how do we overcome this moment of hyper partisanship?”
Biden said on every major issue from same sex marriage to infrastructure, somewhere between 54 and 78 percent of the American people agree on policy and solutions. He said the system is broken and when it comes down to it all politics is personal.
“It’s all personal,” said Biden. “Particularly foreign policy. It’s knowing the other person. Not liking, or admiring or not liking, it’s about knowing them. When you get to know somebody, even if you strongly disagree with them, and you find out their mom is dying of cancer or they just lost their son to a drug overdose or they have financial problems, when you get to know them it’s hard to dislike them.”
Biden said when he got to the Senate there were a lot of segregationists in office. He said on the senate floor they would argue and fight but then they would go have lunch together. He referenced a lesson he learned from Senator Bob Dole when he was expressing his frustrations about another Senator, Jessie Helms, whom he disagreed with about the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“He [Dole] said ‘Let me tell you what I’ve learned. It’s always appropriate to question another man or woman’s judgment but it’s never appropriate to question their motive,”’ said Biden. “And from that moment on, I never once questioned the motive of another colleague, because when you do you never get the consensus.”
Biden said today in politics all people talk about is their opponent being bad. He said he looks at Republicans as the opposition, not the enemy. He said in both parties today they look at each other as the enemy. In our government, he said, nothing can happen to benefit the American people without arriving at a consensus.
“Nothing good can happen,” said Biden, “and that’s why nothing is happening. That’s why we’re getting nowhere legislatively. To me, making things personal, and getting to know the other person, is the stuff that cuts through all that.”
When Nalpathanchil questioned Biden on whether or not he planned to challenge Trump in the 2020 presidential election he said “the jury’s still out.” He said he had planned on running in the 2016 election but then his son Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer. He said no man or woman can ask the American people to be president unless they are ready to give it their all – and he wasn’t. He still doesn’t know if he can.
“Honest to God I don’t know,” said Biden. “I have to be able to stand in front of a mirror and look in the mirror and know that if I don’t run it’s not because I’m afraid of losing, it’s not because I don’t want to take on the responsibility, it’s because there’s somebody better to do it and or because emotionally I’m not positioned to be all in. And so the jury’s still out.”
In the latter part of the discussion Nalpathanchil read questions written in by audience members. The first was about any insight Biden had concerning President Donald Trump’s new national security advisor John Bolton. Biden said he had opposed him in 2006 when President George W. Bush nominated him for United Nations ambassador.
“I strongly opposed him and republicans joined me in defeating his nomination,” said Biden. “He has a history of shaving intelligence and bending it to make the case that he’s trying to make – and we have evidence of that.
Joe Biden before a sold out crowd.
Biden pointed out Bolton has repeatedly said Iran violated the nuclear deal when the intelligence community confirms that isn’t true. He also said Bolton has written in the past about a preemptive strike on North Korea even though a war would result in at least 185,000 South Korean deaths.
“If there is any single job that he is temperamentally and historically unqualified to fill,” said Biden, “it’s this one. The purpose [of the national security advisor] is not to be an advocate. It is to be the funnel through which everything goes so the president can have the full picture. Even when the national security advisor disagrees.
According to Biden, this generation of students is the smartest in human history but is not getting involved.
“You’re the brightest generation in the history of America,” he said. “Guess what you’re not? You’re not engaged in politics. Guess what you’re not? You’re not going out and voting. Guess what you’re not? You’re not taking responsibility.”
Photo Credit: Palmer Piana