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Vice President Biden: 'Trump Is Out There Doing Something Very Dangerous'

"I think when we appeal to the better angels of Americans, we've always succeeded," Vice President Biden told NPR.
Ariel Zambelich
"I think when we appeal to the better angels of Americans, we've always succeeded," Vice President Biden told NPR.

Even after Nov. 8, no matter who is elected, many don't expect the partisan infighting that has highlighted this year's unusually ugly campaign to come to an end.

But in an interview with NPR's Robert Siegel, Vice President Biden struck a hopeful tone, saying that Hillary Clinton and Democrats could be effective if she wins the presidency.

"I think when we appeal to the better angels of Americans, we've always succeeded. [Donald] Trump is out there doing something very dangerous," Biden said, pointing to a recent column from Charles Krauthammer. The conservative pundit wrote that "such incendiary talk is an affront to elementary democratic decency and a breach of the boundaries of American political discourse."

The 36-year Senate veteran argued later that even if Trump were to win, he might face opposition from his own party, many of whom have withdrawn their support recently as he faces allegations from multiple women that he forcibly kissed or groped them.

"I think you'll have first and foremost, [the] Republican Party saying how do we stop Donald Trump's policies," Biden predicted.

The vice president didn't think that there would be traction to Trump's repeated claims that the election will be "rigged," noting the Republican nominee said the same thing during the GOP primaries, which he ended up winning.

"There's one way to make sure there's no traction" on the "rigged" claims, Biden said. "Vote."

Biden, who ran twice for president himself, had mulled over another run this election but ultimately passed. He was still mourning the death of his son Beau to brain cancer. He also talked to NPR about the cancer "moonshot" he is helping spearhead to try to find a cure for the disease.

Biden said he doesn't have any regrets about not running and that it was "the right decision for me and my family, and I'm confident Hillary will do a great job."

"Every election calls for a different set of attributes that are most sought after at that time, and right now it's how do we monopolize, capitalize on the progress we've made with this god-awful recession that brought us from crisis to recovery and now on the verge of real resurgence," Biden said.

While he believes Clinton is the right candidate to do that, he acknowledged she has made missteps, especially with her private server she used at the State Department.

"Obviously they've hurt her campaign," Biden said. "But there doesn't seem to be any there there. But that's why a lot of people thought it would have been better a year ago to say, 'Here's everything I did in my emails.' "

Regarding Russian hacking –- U.S. intelligence believes Russia is the source for the emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, published recently by Wikileaks, and that Russia is also behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails in July –- Biden said the intrusion "warrants retaliation" and the administration is trying to determine what type of measured response is appropriate.

"There are no rules. We're trying to, among the more democratic nations of the world, establish rules relating to cyberspace," Biden said. "But it's clear that based on what the director of the intelligence community said, that the Russians are not engaging in any kind of effort to establish some rational rules for cyberspace."

One major group Clinton has struggled to win over — blue-collar, non-college-educated, white voters — is one that Biden has been particularly strong with throughout his political career. He said that his party can do a better job of understanding their concerns and their economic anxieties.

"I think because we had to focus so much on keeping the economy from going over a cliff, we had to focus so much on rescuing people who were in extremis, that we did not talk enough about what I know — I'm middle-class Joe, I'm characterized as that, and I still get significant support according to the polls among those white, non-college-educated voters," Biden said. "I don't think we've spoken enough about the plight they have."

With Trump dogged by accusations he made unwanted sexual advances over the years, the former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman reflected on how he handled the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings 25 years ago, after law professor Anita Hill alleged the Supreme Court nominee had once harassed her. Biden has come under increased scrutiny for his leadership during that time but said he would not have changed "in a fundamental way" how he ran those hearings.

"What Donald Trump did, I hope, is not a reflection of American public opinion, and the conduct of the vast majority of men," Biden said. "I was a pretty good athlete. I spent a lot of time in a lot of locker rooms in high school and college. I never heard talk like that."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jessica Taylor is a political reporter with NPR based in Washington, DC, covering elections and breaking news out of the White House and Congress. Her reporting can be heard and seen on a variety of NPR platforms, from on air to online. For more than a decade, she has reported on and analyzed House and Senate elections and is a contributing author to the 2020 edition of The Almanac of American Politics and is a senior contributor to The Cook Political Report.
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