Joe Biden, Mr. Everyman, has just released a poignant memoir, Promise Me, Dad, about his late son Beau. He's taking advantage of the moment to let it be known that he is "not closing the door" on a U.S. presidential run.
"I'm a great respecter of fate," the talkaholic told Oprah as he hit the talk-show circuit this week. He seems to believe fate is telling him something.
Usually candidates wait till after the midterm elections to set their presidential egos aflame. If they are an elder party statesmen they bide their time, feign disinterest, let the party come to them. Not Joe Biden. Hubris has got him in its crosshairs.
His stock has risen in recent years. He was an effective vice-president with a colloquial touch. The prolonged brain-cancer death of his boy – "Don't look at me sad, Dad" – moved his story beyond politics. Hillary Clinton's cataclysmic defeat last November served to elevate his stature further. "If only Joe had run," melancholy Democrats have been saying. If only.
A working-class guy from Scranton, Pa., Mr. Biden spent no less than 36 years in the Senate, thus advancing well beyond puberty – in contrast to the current Oval Office occupant.
The Democrats need a fighter. Mr. Biden, who lost his first wife and one-year-old daughter in a car crash in 1972, is battle-hardened. In the 2012 vice-presidential debate he pummelled Republican tenderfoot Paul Ryan with derisive taunts, treating him like he was some kind of joke.
The credentials are impressive and so is the man. But does the country really want a 1970s retread, an ultimate Washington insider, a timeworn centrist who would be 77 by the time the next election rolls around?
He is also blunder prone. Like so many leading politicians of today, he can't shut up and inevitably screws up. They might do well to occasionally follow the example of John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State to Dwight Eisenhower, who once told the media, "No comment! And that's off the record."
Mr. Biden has already run twice for president and both efforts were deplorable. In 1988 he was taken down by that forgettable doormat, Michael Dukakis. Mr. Biden got caught plagiarizing part of a speech by British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, got caught fabricating some of his family's history, got caught embellishing some of his own school record. He stepped down, saying he had been overrun by "the exaggerated shadow" of his past mistakes.
In 2008 he ran again, only to be demolished by front-running senators Ms. Clinton and Mr. Obama. It's refreshing to say nice things about opponents but in singing the praises of Mr. Obama, Mr. Biden went beyond overboard. "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy, I mean, that's a storybook, man." Indeed it was. Joe hit the nail – and himself – on the head.
The field for the Democratic nomination will be crowded. Names being highlighted are senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Chris Murphy, Cory Booker. There is a lot of talent there. There's also New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Bernie Sanders who would be an even older president than Joe Biden.
With his high name recognition, Mr. Biden will have a big head-start on most. But by making it known so early that he wants the prize, he is inviting folly. Putting his name up now means up to three more years in the spotlight for a politician who has already been around forever. Ms. Clinton was around so long she did not have anything left to say. Mr. Biden risks the same fate of becoming shopworn, threadbare, a bore to one and all before 2020 comes to call.
He has much to offer: an enlightened perspective on life, on politics, on his country, on the world. If the presidential campaign were a year from now, Joe Biden would be propitiously placed to win it. But his currency won't linger for another three. Too many new worlds will have been fashioned by then.