‘Grow up, Donald… Time to be an adult,’ Biden says in PBS NewsHour interview
Vice President Joe Biden urged Donald Trump to “grow up” on Thursday, criticizing the incoming president’s attacks on the U.S. intelligence community and his grasp of health care policy, which is now up for debate on Capitol Hill as Republicans move to undo the Affordable Care Act.
“Grow up, Donald. Grow up,” Biden said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff. “Time to be an adult. You’re president. You’ve got to do something. Show us what you have.”
Biden called the president-elect a “good man” but said Trump knew little about the country’s health care system. During the campaign, Trump said that repealing and replacing President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement was a top priority.
Now, as Republicans start the process of rolling back the law, Biden urged the party to work with Democrats in Congress to protect provisions that give coverage to young people and those with pre-existing conditions.
At the same time, Biden, in a far-ranging interview at the Old Executive Office Building, said he was more concerned about Trump’s foreign policy than any changes the next president might make on domestic issues.
Biden said it was “worrisome” that President-elect Trump has continued to question the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered with the election in an effort to undermine Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.
A report on the hacking that the Obama administration is set to release in the coming days will make clear Russia’s role in trying to influence the U.S. election, Biden said.
“There is overwhelming consensus in the [intelligence] community, and overwhelming evidence supplied by the community, that Russia did engage in an effort to impact” the race, Biden told Woodruff.
Trump, who has criticized the intelligence reports, is slated to meet with top U.S. intelligence officials for a briefing on Friday.
Biden also defended the Obama administration’s handling of the Syrian civil war, and weighed in on the fight to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court.
Senate Republicans have blocked Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last year. But Biden said that Democrats should not repay the favor to Trump. Nominees deserve a hearing and vote, Biden said, noting that he never blocked votes on Supreme Court picks while he served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
The comments come as Biden winds down a remarkable political career that spanned five decades and brought him to the center of political power in the U.S., though he fell short of his ultimate goal of serving as president.
Biden was only 29 when he won a U.S. Senate race in Delaware in 1972. One month after the election, as Biden prepared to take office as one of the youngest senators in American history, his wife and their one-year-old daughter were killed in a car crash.
The tragedy had a profound effect on the soon-to-be senator. Biden considered relinquishing his seat to take care of his two young sons, Beau and Hunter, who had survived the auto accident but were hospitalized with significant injuries.
In the end, Biden chose not to resign, after Senate Democrats encouraged him to hold onto his seat. But once he took office, Biden began commuting each day from his home in Delaware to the Capitol, a ritual he maintained for the rest of his 36 years in the Senate.
Biden became a fixture on the train line between Wilmington and Washington, D.C., earning the nickname “Amtrak Joe.” The commute, along with Biden’s blunt, plainspoken style and frequent references to his blue-collar upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, came to define his public persona.
But Biden’s shoot-from-the-hip demeanor sometimes got him into trouble, especially later in his Senate career when he set his sights on the White House.
Biden launched his first campaign for president in 1987, but the effort quickly derailed when he was caught plagiarizing part of a speech. After the scandal broke, prior plagiarism incidents from Biden’s past emerged and he was forced to end his campaign before the primaries began.
Despite the setback, Biden continued climbing the ranks in the Senate. He served as chairman of the Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995, presiding over the controversial Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Robert Bork, who was rejected, and Clarence Thomas.
Biden later served two stints as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the first time from 2001 to 2003, and again for two years beginning in 2007, after Democrats had retaken control of the Senate.
In 2008, by then one of the most senior members of the Senate, Biden mounted a second White House bid. He dropped out of the race after finishing fifth in the Iowa Democratic Caucuses, far behind the winner and eventual nominee, Barack Obama.
As a vice president, Biden became a trusted adviser to President Obama on foreign and domestic policy. He has also been a key intermediary between the White House and Congress, helping to secure a major budget deal with congressional leaders in 2011.
Yet for all his accomplishments over several decades in Washington, Biden still kept his eye on a possible third White House run in the final years of the Obama administration.
Biden flirted publicly with a run in the lead up to the 2016 election, before finally deciding to take himself out of consideration in October 2015. In a speech in the White House Rose Garden, flanked by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden and President Obama, Biden said his window to beat Hillary Clinton, the party’s front-runner, had closed.
In deciding not to run, Biden also cited the emotional toll of losing his son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer at age 46 earlier in the year.
Biden sparked new speculation about his political future after Donald Trump won the election, telling reporters during a visit to Capitol Hill that he would not rule out another presidential run in 2020, when he would be 78 years old.
In the NewsHour interview, Biden said Democrats in 2016 failed to focus on the concerns of working and middle-class Americans. “We were not clear enough” in presenting an economic message, Biden said.
Going forward, Biden said the party needed to expand its outreach to struggling Americans, without sacrificing on the progressive values that attracted the diverse coalition that helped elect President Obama twice.
When asked if he thought he could have beaten Trump, Biden demurred. “I have no idea. It’s easy to say now. People say that, but who knows.”
Biden said he would focus on non-political pursuits after leaving office later this month, including partnerships with the University of Delaware, which will center on domestic policy, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he will work on foreign policy issues.
“Since I’ve been a 27-year-old kid, this has been the essence of my life, and I just know that I want to stay engaged,” Biden said.