Vice President Biden ends 2016 guessing game

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 21, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: As my family and I have worked through the grieving process, I've said all along, what I've said time and again to others, that it may very well be that that process by the time we get through it, closes the window on mounting a realistic campaign for president, that it might close. I've concluded it has closed.


CHRIS WALLACE, ANCHOR: Well, Vice President Biden ending the suspense today in a Rose Garden appearance, announcing he will not seek the Democratic nomination for president. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard, Karen Tumulty from The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Karen, you've been reporting on Biden and the Democrats. He seemed to have been sending out so many signals, especially in the last week, that he was leaning toward running. Any sense at all of what happened, what changed his mind?

KAREN TUMULTY, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think he definitely wanted to be president. He's wanted to be president since the early 1970s. I think, quite frankly, as he was pretty clear about it, he said the window has closed on me.

And the fact is that Hillary Clinton has been resurgent since that debate. She has regained in our poll more than half the territory she lost over the summer. And I think he looked at his chances of winning and realized there just was not a path there.

WALLACE: Steve, I think you'll agree it was one of the most unusual events of this sort that I've ever seen, statements of non-candidacy. Take out the first paragraph and it could have been a campaign speech with Biden expressing why, how he would have run for president. And he also couldn't resist taking one final shot at Hillary Clinton. Here it is.


BIDEN: I don't believe, like some do, that it's naive to talk to Republicans. I don't think we should look at Republicans as our enemies. They are opposition. They're not our enemies.


WALLACE: Steve, it also seemed as if Biden represented the fact that, yes, I'm not going to run, but I really don't like the fact that I've decided I'm not going to run.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: No question about it. The most important word in a number of words that he spoke was "unfortunately" I've decided I can't move forward. He clearly wanted to do this, and I think sent a message that if something catastrophic were to happen to Hillary Clinton's campaign that he is still interested in being president of the United States.

WALLACE: So you think he very much left a plan b out there if something were to happen, either from the testimony tomorrow or from the FBI investigation, I've in effect given you the kind of candidacy I would run.

HAYES: Yes, signaling that he would want to be president. He gave a speech, as you said, that was basically an announcement speech. In a way it was sort of quintessential Joe Biden, right? It was at times I thought quite moving. It was at times sort of preachy and a lecture. And at other times it felt like the scene from "Meet the Parents" when Ben Stiller is saying the prayer and it he keeps going and doesn't quite know when to stop with the prayer. He just kept going and going and going.

WALLACE: When you said a scene from "Meet the Parents" I was thinking of some other things. I'm glad that was the one you were talking about.


HAYES: I saw you looked perplexed. That's why I clarified.

Look, I think Karen is right about one thing in particular. You know, there's the conventional wisdom holds that debates don't really matter much. I think this is an instance where the debate may have been determinative. If Hillary Clinton had bombed in that debate, if Bernie Sanders had decided to go after her, we could be looking at an entirely different scenario. But because not only the "Washington Post" polls but other national polls and early state polls --

WALLACE: And before I bring Charles in, why not wait until tomorrow, which could be a big deal? Why not wait to see what happens in the Benghazi committee testimony?

HAYES: Because I think there may have been a concern if he got out after that that it would look opportunistic. If he decided to go after that, it would look opportunistic.

WALLACE: Charles, what do you make of the Biden speech? What do you make of his decision?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I agree with you completely. It was a two-part speech where the two parts were totally unconnected. I'm not running. And then he gave what was obviously an announcement speech.

So there are two explanations. Either, like most journalists, he hates to throw away a work product. He had already written an announcement speech and said, well, I might as well use it. The other explanation I think is right. What he did with that speech, which was essentially an announcement speech, was to say I'm ready. I'm tanned, I'm rested. And if lightning strikes Hillary, meaning if the Department of Justice indicts her or something really out of the ordinary happens, and somehow she disappears, I just bought myself a standby ticket on Air Force One. So he's first in line. There's nothing he could have done as a candidate to depose her, particularly after the debate. It was a 13-point swing in her standing against Sanders. But right now he's waiting in line. If something happens, he's just announced that he's ready. And I think he would be the logical candidate. So he's got the best of both worlds.

WALLACE: In the time we have left in this segment, how do you think his getting out, now the next big event is the testimony, but how do you think this sets Clinton up for her testimony before the Benghazi committee?

KRAUTHAMMER: I don't think it's going to make any difference. Think she has the nomination. I think the race ended in the debate when Bernie Sanders said we're tired of hearing about your damn emails. That was a concession speech. He handed over his sword, it was over. It remains over.

And Biden understood that. He's not a dummy. He understands how -- how the forces here were and he knew he had zero chance. I think this is all in the hands of the Department of Justice. It's not in the hands of the of the Benghazi committee. And they will determine the one in 100 chance that she falls. Otherwise she's the nominee.

WALLACE: Karen, do you agree with that, not to expect much from the testimony tomorrow?

TUMULTY: I think in a lot of ways the bigger event come Saturday night in Iowa where she's going to be up against Bernie Sanders. This is a quadrennial dinner. In 2007 it was the first sign that she was in big trouble against Barack Obama. And seeing the two of them having to spell out their visions side by side, I think is going to tell us a lot about how this Democratic primary is going to be framed.

WALLACE: We got about a minute left. And you're our resident Benghazi expert, Steve. If anybody has a sense, does the committee have ammunition to go after Hillary Clinton tomorrow or not?

HAYES: Yes, I think they've uncovered new information on all three aspects of the Benghazi investigation, what happened before, what happened during, and after. I think they'll focus on before and in particular on the security questions. And among the questions they'll raise is, you said that you, this was sort of below your pay grade to be working on the security issues, that you had other people to handle it. And yet we've now seen through emails from Sidney Blumenthal and other documents that have been produced that you spent quite a bit of time focusing on other things. Why did you spend so much time with this adviser who was not allowed to work at the State Department, taking in his shoddy intelligence, and didn't spend time working on these issues that people were screaming about down in the bowels of the State Department bureaucracy?

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