US vice-president, Joe Biden, has said he is overwhelmed by his son’s death and unconvinced he could commit to being president, in an emotional interview that cast a deep pall over his deliberations about the 2016 presidential race.
Biden said he’d be lying if he said he knew he was prepared to run, following Beau Biden’s death in May, from brain cancer. With a candour seen rarely in politics, he recalled becoming emotional during a recent visit to a Colorado military base, when a well-wisher yelled out the name of his son and referenced his decorated military service in Iraq. “All of a sudden, I lost it,” Biden said. “How could you — that’s not — I shouldn’t be saying this: You can’t do that.”
Biden’s much-anticipated appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was expected to be light, but veered into raw and personal territory. He said White House hopefuls must promise voters they can commit their heart, soul, energy and passion, and said, “I’d be lying if I said that I knew I was there. Nobody has a right, in my view, to seek that office unless they’re willing to give it 110% of who they are. And I am, as I said, I’m optimistic, I’m positive about where we’re going, but I find myself — you understand it — sometimes it just overwhelms you.”
Biden had previously doubted that he and his family had the emotional energy to run. Still, his blunt description of his frailty marked the strongest indication yet that he may be leaning against running for the Democratic nomination.
Since his son’s death, Biden has peppered his speeches with references to Beau and the impressive resume he developed in his 46 years. Yet Biden went further in the interview, describing in detail conversations he had with Beau in the months before his death at a military hospital.
“He said, ‘Dad, sit down, I want to talk to you.’ He said, ‘Dad, I know how much you love me,’” Biden recalled. “Promise me you’ll be all right, because, no matter what happens, I’m going to be all right.”
If Biden seemed unusually willing to bare his soul, it may have been due to his host. When Colbert was a child, he lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash. Biden invoked Colbert’s losses to make a point about how “there are so many other people going through this. I feel self-conscious talking about it,” Biden said, looking down solemnly.
Decades ago, at the start of his political career, Biden lost his wife and infant daughter in a car crash that also injured Beau and his other son, Hunter. Asked by Colbert how he perseveres, Biden cited his Catholic faith and his determination to keep moving.
“I feel like I was letting down Beau, letting down my parents, letting down my family, if I didn’t just get up,” Biden said. “You’ve just got to get up.”
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