Last Wednesday, after a relatively quiescent 2017 spent mainly out of the spotlight, former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr. gave what was billed as a major address in Chicago.
Speculation that Biden is assumed to be considering a third run for the presidency brought a level of interest where, in a world in which Hillary Clinton was president, there probably wouldn’t be all that much. Subsequent revelations by former DNC Chair Donna Brazile that she considered initiating a process to replace Hillary Clinton with Biden as the nominee after the former’s bout of ill health in September 2016 will likely do little to discourage Biden from another run.
But does Biden offer anything Clinton did not? After all, on issues ranging from free trade to foreign policy, Biden’s positions are reflective of those of the Democratic establishment of which Clinton was the embodiment. The grass roots of the party seem, from the vantage point of late 2017, to have moved on.
Nevertheless, in Chicago, Biden issued a blistering attack on Trump who, according to Biden, is “like most charlatans throughout time who seek to aggrandize themselves and consolidate their power, by always blaming the other.”
Turning directly to Trump, Biden said: “We’ve got to stop this tweeting.… it’s childish. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to grow up and act like a real leader.”
On foreign policy, the former vice president’s message was both unremarkable and expected; Biden repeated, almost mantra-like, the by-now sacred shibboleths of the Democratic foreign-policy establishment, focusing mainly on what he sees as the current unraveling of the so-called “liberal world order.”
“If we don’t stand up,” said Biden, “the liberal world order we championed will quickly become an illiberal world order we suffer.”
For Biden, now is no time for America to “cede the field” to the “illiberal movement led by President Vladimir Putin.” Indeed, Biden, perhaps channeling his inner Churchill, declared that as concerns Russia—which he said poses “a different but no less real” threat to America than the USSR once did—“appeasement will not work.”
Biden further decried what he sees as Trump’s incoherent leadership, the hollowing out of the diplomatic corps under Secretary of State Tillerson, and the administration’s continuing efforts to undermine the Iranian nuclear accord.