Vice President Joe Biden continued to fuel speculation that he’s moving toward a White House bid on Tuesday by recasting the past, saying he encouraged President Barack Obama to move forward with the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Speaking at the Walter Mondale: Living Legacy forum in Washington, Biden said he in fact privately counseled Obama to go ahead, acknowledging “it would have been a mistake” to encourage him either way during a national security meeting where Obama was consulting with top aides on the decision.
“We walked out of the room and walked upstairs,” Biden said. “I told him my opinion: I thought he should go, but to follow his own instincts.”
That contrasts with how Biden described his consultation with Obama during a meeting with House Democrats in 2012, when he said he told the president, “ ‘Mr. President, my suggestion is, don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.’”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest declined to weigh in on Biden’s account of the events, saying during Tuesday’s White House press briefing only that “I am going to leave the dissection and the oral history of those days to those who were actually there.”
But the apparent shift in his recollection of the incident has drawn increased scrutiny as political observers look for any sign of Biden’s decision on whether to run for president, one that’s expected to come down within days, if not hours, as the clock ticks down on his time frame to jump in.
Caution on the ultimately successful raid could have been a key line of attack against Biden for Democratic primary opponents, and particularly former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly said she advised the president to move forward with the operation. And though he didn’t mention her by name, Biden seemed to have Clinton in mind when he said Tuesday that “there were only two people who were definitive” during the Situation Room meeting at the time, neither being the secretary of state.
It was one of a handful of remarks from Biden on Tuesday seeming to hint that politics are on his mind as he continues to weigh his options. A flurry of activity in recent days from Biden and his inner circle, including calls by the vice president to union leaders and early-state operatives and an encouraging email from a top aide to supporters, has reignited hopes among Biden loyalists that he will soon jump into the race.
His time is quickly running out, however, and even Biden supporters acknowledge to make a competitive bid he should announce this week, in order to be included in a major Democratic fundraising dinner in Iowa this weekend. So far, organizers in Iowa say they’ve been given no indication he plans to attend.
The vice president sought to cast himself as an integral and loyal counselor to the president who has also been willing to stand up to him when necessary.
“President Obama and I have ideologically had no disagreement,” Biden said. “I mean none, zero.”
Biden acknowledged they have “differences of degree” on issues, like with gay marriage, where Biden came out ahead of Obama in support. He said that he warned Obama when coming on board that “I won’t wear any funny hats and I’m not changing my brand.”
He also drew an implicit contrast with Clinton, saying he doesn’t believe “my chief enemy is the Republican Party,” comments that seemed to nod to her declaration, during the Democratic debate, that the enemy she was most proud of making were “the Republicans.”
And he emphasized his own diplomatic skills as Vice President, experience that could help him undercut one of Clinton’s main advantages in the race.
“We’ve had two great secretaries of state, but when I go, they know that I am speaking for the president,” Biden said.