Vice President Joe Biden
The longtime senator from Delaware-turned-presidential candidate-turned-running mate and vice president announced his campaign early Thursday morning with a video message.
His first words were about Charlottesville, Virginia, and the deadly white nationalist rally there in 2017 which saw the murder of a counter-protestor. At an incendiary news conference afterward, President Trump said there were “very fine people” in both groups — remarks that Biden spotlighted in his video.
“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation. I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time. But If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation, who we are, and I cannot stand by and watch that happen,” Biden said.
The 76-year-old served as former President Barack Obama‘s right-hand man for two terms and enters a crowded field of Democratic candidates as the immediate frontrunner in name recognition and most polling, even if his age and historically more moderate voting record put him at odds with the party’s progressive wing. (As with any politician with so many years of service, Biden must contend with a long record of bills, votes and positions; some of which have evolved.)
In his 2017 memoir,
Biden wrote that he was prevented from challenging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination because his oldest son, Beau, died of brain cancer.
Since then, Biden has not hidden his weighing of a 2020 bid, but his candidacy will not be without controversy.
Earlier this year multiple women came forward to say his behavior around them — such as touching their back or kissing their forehead without asking — was physically invasive and made them uncomfortable.
The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy...everything that has made America -- America --is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. #Joe2020 https://t.co/jzaQbyTEz3— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 25, 2019
Speaking with the Washington Post, one woman said, “I do not consider my experience to have been sexual assault or harassment.” Still, she said, “It was the kind of inappropriate behavior that makes many women feel uncomfortable and unequal in the workplace.”
Biden subsequently released a video acknowledging the discomfort he caused.
“Today, I want to talk about gestures of support and encouragement I’ve made to women and some men that have made them uncomfortable,” he said.
“In my career, I’ve always tried to make a human connection — that’s my responsibility, I think,” Biden continued, explaining that he often will “shake hands, hug people, or grab men and women by the shoulders and say, ‘You can do this.’ ”
“I worked my whole life to empower women,” he said. “So the idea that I can’t adjust to the fact that personal space is important, more important than it’s ever been, is just not thinkable. I will.”
In previous appearances ramping up to his campaign announcement, Biden repeatedly made the argument he is the most qualified challenger against Trump, who heads into 2020 with history on his side. (Most incumbent presidents are re-elected.)
“I’ll be as straight with you as I can. I think I’m the most qualified person in the country to be president,” Biden told a cheering December crowd at the University of Montana. “The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I’ve worked on my whole life.”
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Biden continued then: “No one should run for the job unless they believe that they would be qualified doing the job. I’ve been doing this my whole adult life, and the issues that are the most consequential relating to the plight of the middle class and our foreign policy are things that I have — even my critics would acknowledge, I may not be right but I know a great deal about it,” reported CNN.
While admitting he can sometimes be a “gaffe machine,” Biden went on to discuss how he compares to current President Trump. “What a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth,” he joked of his earlier comment.
Questioning the integrity of the country under Trump’s leadership, Biden reportedly said, “We can’t have four more years.”