Biden vs. Clinton: Obama Not Going There

Photograph by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive to brief reporters in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in this Dec. 16, 2010 file photo.

“Compare and contrast.”

That was the challenge that “Hardball” Chris Matthews gave President Barack Obama:

Compare Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton as potential presidential candidates.

“Not a chance I am going there,” Obama said to laughter at his American University campus appearance on the MSNBC program that aired last night.

“Here’s what I will say,” Obama said of his vice president and former secretary of state.

“Both Hillary and Joe would make outstanding presidents and possess the qualities that are needed to be outstanding presidents.”

“I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the best vice presidents ever. And he has been with me at my side in every tough decision that I have made, from going after bin Laden, to dealing with the health care issues, to — you name it, he’s been there.”

(We all do remember Biden standing at the president’s side for the signing of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — a really big deal, Biden said, or words to that effect.)

“Hillary, I think, will go down in history as one of the finest secretaries of state we have ever had, and helped to transition us away from a deep hole that we were in when I first came into office, around the world, and to rebuild confidence and trust in the United States,” Obama said of Clinton.

Yet this is touchy stuff for a president who still has three years to serve while his vice president, a longtime former senator from Delaware, weighs his prospects for 2016 knowing that Clinton, a former first lady and senator from New York, can pre-empt much of the Democratic field if she goes for it. Similarly, Clinton is gaugimg how close she can play it to the Obama administration in the wake of the debacle of Obamacare, with the stumbling roll-out of that “big deal” that Biden hailed.

“They’ve got different strengths, but both of them would be outstanding,” Obama told Matthews, embellishing the reasons with a dash of humility. “I’d say the most important qualities of any president — I’m not necessarily saying I have these qualities because I’m speaking historically — I think has to do with more than anything a sense of connection with the American people. That’s what allows you then to have that second quality which is persistence.”

“If you know who you’re working on behalf of, if you remember as Lincoln did or an FDR did or Truman did or a Kennedy did. If you remember that person that you met who was down on their luck but was a good character and was trying to figure out how they are going to support a family. If you remember that young child who has big dreams but, you know, doesn’t yet know how they’re going to get to college — if you feel those folks in your gut every single day, that will get you through the setbacks…   and the difficulties and the frustrations and the criticisms that are inherent in the office.”

“You know, the interesting thing about now having been president for five years is it makes me humbler as opposed to cockier about what you as an individual can do. You recognize that you’re just part of a sweep of history. And your job really is to push the boulder up the hill a little bit before somebody else pushes it up a little further and the task never stops at perfecting our union.”

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