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George Mitrovich Headshot

Vice President to President in 2016?

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Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., while United States Senator from Delaware, was a guest of The City Club of San Diego 15 times. Few public speakers are better. None more personable.

The Vice President is Catholic, but on one of his visits he asked if he could join our family in worship at First United Methodist Church.

That was a memorable day: the senator in worship, brunch with him afterwards in La Jolla, and the eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State on May 18, 1980.

When the force of that volcanic explosion was over, the top of St. Helens was no more; its postcard perfect beauty blown into billions of fragments with a plume of ash rising 80,000 ft. above its core and 3.3 billion cubic yards of terra firma dumped into the North Fork of the Toutle River. Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens rose majestically south and east of Seattle, but now Rainier was alone in its splendor. St. Helens had been grossly disfigured by nature's cruelty.

Yes, a day like that would stay with you -- and has.

All of which I note to say the Vice President called recently. That's a rare occurrence, but obviously a welcomed one, as we have been friends since 1972.

Knowing I still play baseball, his first comment was, "Did the Padres renew your contract?"

I responded with laughter, but also renewed appreciation for the Vice President's bonhomie -- equaled by few, exceeded by none.

We talked about baseball, family and politics. When the conversation ended I told the Vice President I loved him and his family and I thanked him for his service to America.

I also said, "If you run for president, know every member of the Mitrovich family will be there for you.

That won't get him nominated or elected because as a family we are, in the grander scheme of national politics, insignificant, but there are thousands and thousands of American families like ours who have come to know Joe Biden these past 42 years and whose loyalties are complete, and together would comprise a formidable array of supporters if he decides to run in two years.

When it comes to Biden Believers, a constituency that extends coast-to-coast and border-to-border, national media is ignorant. It doesn't interest them, especially given that they have already decided Hillary Clinton will be the nominee of the Democratic Party in '16.

In point of this, the national media, which almost wholly bought into the mantra Obama/Romney in 2012 was a toss-up, did so because they were profoundly ignorant that Obama's grassroots team was vastly superior to Romney's -- both in numbers and skills -- and, in consequence, had no clue how decisive the president's victory would be,. He would win with 332 Electoral College votes (remember that media ignorance as we move toward 2016).

That said, will the Vice President run? I think so.

Is that based upon our conversation? No, but knowing him, I do not think he is ready to retire to private life; and, moreover, I don't think he should. His 42 years of public service to America are invaluable and we cannot afford to lose him -- either to retirement or the private sector.

Assuming I'm correct and the Vice President runs, will his age, 73 in 2016, be a factor?

Given that Ronald Reagan was 73 when he was reelected in 1984 and later encountered dementia problems, Mr. Biden's age will be an issue. There is no way around it. It will be there, but it need not be decisive -- if faced up front.

Our understanding of age has changed -- and in some ways, changed dramatically -- giving credence to what Leroy Satchel Paige, the great Negro Leagues pitcher, said, "Age is mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter." (And since I'm 78, Satchel knew a liberating truth).

It is said that 70 is the new 50, which would make the vice president 53 if he runs. And if you look at the schedule he keeps -- his recent trip to China, Korea and Japan comes to mind -- it's altogether plausible: 70 is the new 50.

Absence the gift of prophecy, and we haven't had a prophet since John the Baptist, it's silly to predict that three years from now, or four or five, Mr. Biden's mental acuity or energy level would be significantly different. He is a fit man and everyday works at staying fit.

Could his health be affected? Of course. So could yours and mine. As Vince Scully, the great Dodgers' broadcaster, said of a player who had been listed as "day-to-day," "Aren't we all?"

Precisely.

Depending upon where candidates are on issues and where you are, there may be substantive reasons to vote for or against a man or women seeking the presidency, but age should not be one of them. Besides, Ms. Clinton, who's now 66, would be 69 in '16 -- not substantially different from Mr. Biden's 73. It's highly unlikely, therefore, either Ms. Clinton or her campaign makes the Vice President's age an issue.

Plus, rumors rise that Jerry Brown, now 76, and in his 31st year in elective office, may once again run for president. Why not? He has held almost every elective office in California, so the bigger one in Washington may well lure him to try one more time.

If that happens, Mr. Brown in the race with Ms. Clinton and Mr. Biden, you would have three candidates running who collectively are 220-years-old, for an average age of 72.7.

Talk about experience: Mr. Biden and Mr. Brown alone would represent 73 years of public service and governance. And, as I think Mr. Obama proves, age and experience in office have their advantages over youth.

But here I am, in the Sentinel's first issue of 2014, writing about 2016, which I said I wouldn't do. But blame the Vice President, because if he hadn't called, you wouldn't be reading this.

Finally, some years back, I wrote an op-ed about then-Senator Biden for the Delaware State Journal. In it I wrote, "Joe Biden is a better human being than I am."

I wrote that because I believed it then and I believe it now -- and I think I'm a pretty good human being.

This post first appeared on PresidioSentinel.com.