tv Former Vice President Joe Biden Receives Congressional Patriot Award CSPAN March 3, 2017 3:26pm-4:15pm EST
>> good evening again, everybody. moment a really proud for me personally and for the bipartisan policy center area 10 years ago, we founded the bipartisan policies center with the leadership of tom daschle , george mitchell, and howard baker and saying those four names give me -- gives me a deep sense of pride and a real confidence in the strength of our democracy. from the beginning, the bipartisan policy center has been animated by a few core ideas that america's inspiration flows from our nations unparalleled political and cultural diversity. that our nation's political resilience depend on engaging and dignifying our differences, and finally that
politics, like all productive human interactions, is about the integrity of ideas, personal connection, and trust. 10 years later, these ideas still guide her work. as proudr to say that progressives and staunch conservatives we have a vibrant and at times intense intellectual culture. when you come to the bipartisan policy center, nothing is checked at the door. we ask our staff and the hundreds of people involved in our negotiations to bring their politics, their personal commitments, their economic interest all to the table. the only catch is they will spend the next two years with 20 of people who received that very same invitation. we are all too aware that the warmth and affection and camaraderie in this windy room is not quietly shared in our government or among many of our fellow citizens. it is gratifying and fortifying to be in a room of 1000
productive persons who, more -- partisans who more than anything i think share commitment to make art nation succeed. the bipartisan policy center is all talk and all action. we do not have the hubris to hit print and think we have made meaningful impact on the national policy debate. with the support of righteous and registered lobbyists we employ all the tactical sophistication and aggression of a trade association to turn these ideas into outcomes. things have been tough out there but as senator koontz noted u.s. congress passed a bunch of significant laws last time and we are proud to have contributed to several of them.
we are delighted to have played a role in legislation that accelerates the development of life-saving medical to men's -- that removes arbitrary treatments barriers to exporting u.s. oil, legislation that modernize the regulation of toxic chemicals, legislation that strengthens medicare and extended the children's health insurance program. we are proud of these accomplishments but we are aware -- too often and achieved too little. things have changed quite a bit in three months. the mood in washington has shifted from what i think of protectable gridlock to sprawling uncertainty. to some, president trump's disinterest in governing traditions and sometimes divisive rhetoric is sometimes unsettling. to others his authenticity, rejection of tired rules, and populist agenda speak to the very real alienation many feel from a process that has failed
to meet their needs or validate their struggles. we come together at a moment when the passion is high. it is not an easy moment for principled dialogue and bipartisan collaboration. there is one thing for sure. now is not the time to leave the arena, or to seek the comfort of rigidity by naming it courage, to go highbrow and paraphrase voltaire, doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one. tonight, i want to thank our founders, our board of directors, our project leaders, our fabulous staff, our loyal funders, everyone else in the family. i want to ask you to join us in redoubling our commitment to the heart, uncertain, uncomfortable work of american democracy.
the bipartisan committee is committed to helping this country succeed, and we need your help. it is my great pleasure to introduce one of our founders, former senate majority leader, george mitchell, to kick off our award presentation. if there was ever an example or -- an exampler for a principled, pragmatic, reductive partisan it is george mitchell. senator? [applause] >> thank you very much, jason for your kind words and outstanding leadership of the bipartisan policy center over the past decade. it is a real pleasure for me to be here, along with bob dole, tom daschle, who joined me, and
tom baker in creating this organization 10 years ago. in that regard, might i ask that we all reflect for a moment on howard baker, who is no longer with us, but was a truly great senator, great leader, and most of all one of the finest human beings i have ever known in or out of politics. all of us who founded the bipartisan policy center are proud of the organization. proud of the remarkable progress that has been made over the past decade. the bpc is a testament to how solutions to public policy issues can be forged through credible analysis, a reliance on facts, and a deliberate respectful process. so, this is a special moment for me, all the more so as i have
the opportunity and honor to join with bob dole in introducing vice president joe biden. [applause] a true leader, a giant in the legislative history of the senate, who brought his special, personal, unique brand of candor, collaboration, and commitment to the legislative and executive branches of our government. as jason has said, the bipartisan policy center and establish the congressional patriot award to recognize leaders who, while they are partisans as democrats or republicans, are wise enough to always put americans first. these are people who proudly embrace their party's principles and approach to the issues and governing, but are ready and willing to transcend political differences when they judge it
to be in the best interests of the nation. these are the leaders and lawmakers who have throughout their tenure in public office demonstrated the capacity to guide and lead our nation towards a common purpose. they speak not only to the highest aspirations of our people, but also to the strength and endurance of the institutions that serve our democracy.
vice president joe biden is indisputably one of those individuals and leaders. [applause] over more than four decades he served as the united states senator and as vice president of the united states. his political courage enables him to overcome differences and help govern a diverse nation, often during deeply partisan times. joe biden is a negotiator. he is a dealmaker. he is, in the highest meaning of the word, a legislator with a legislative record that is surpassed by very few, if any, of the 2000 men and women who
serve in the united states senate since our nation's founding. this is the joe biden i have had the great privilege of knowing, of working with, and of calling a close and dear friend. i am proud to join bob dole in presenting this congressional patriot award to vice president joe biden. i would like, now, to say just a word about senator joe, who will join me, who will say a few words before joe receives the award and responds. i want to tell 2 stories about senator dole and me. one serious, one not so serious. on the day i was elected senate majority leader, the first person that i called was bob dole, who was then the
republican leader. i asked if i could come to see him. he agreed. i walked a few steps down the senate corridor to bob's office. i said to him that he had men in the congress for more than a quarter century. i have been there for just a few years, so he knew more about the senate in his little finger than i would ever know. i said i had been out long enough to know that the senate is a very difficult place to manage. if there is not trust between the leaders, in my judgment, impossible to manage effectively. i said to him that i have come here to tell you how i intend to behave towards you, and ask if you will behave in the same way
towards me. i set forth the most basic and fundamental principles of fair play, openness, and decency. bob was delighted. we shook hands. not once, ever, to this moment has a harsh word ever passed between bob dole and me, in public or in private. [applause] we disagreed often. we negotiated vigorously almost every working day. when we couldn't reach an agreement, which was frequent, we let the senate decide the issue. while we stood in the senate and debated strongly for opposing points of view, we never made it personal. i believe that is the proper way to conduct business in the
senate and in our democracy. i'm deeply grateful to bob dole for treating me in that manner during the six years that we served as leaders together. [applause] i was rewarded for that in many ways. i will tell you the second story. after i retired from the senate i joined the law firm. they gave me a not bad but fairly small office, no staff. couple years later, bob decided to join a law firm. the firm encouraged me to talk to him. he came. they gave him an entire floor of the office building. six separate offices in addition to his palatial corner office overlooking the park.
that bothered me. what really bothered me was that he had a separate office for his dog. known as "the leader." his dog's office was bigger than mine. at a firm meeting i complained about this. bob dole's response was, that dog has been a leader long before you were leader. i learned then never to challenge bob dole. ladies and gentlemen, my dear friend, joe biden's dear friend, a great national and congressional leader, bob dole. [applause] >> thank you, very much. does this thing work? i'm happy to see a few of my clients came out to see me. i know the former senator's in
the audience somewhere. and the former leader that had to clean up the mess after i left. we, george and i, are honored to be on the same platform. i asked joe, how should i call you? he said "call me joe." i didn't know if it was mr. vice president or whatever, candidate for 2020 -- [cheers and applause] i got a call from president trump before i left and he said do not say too many good things about biden, he may run against me later on. joe biden is a special guy, as senator mitchell has already
pointed out. george mitchell, i, and tom daschle is out there somewhere, we are all great friends. the thing that george said that i want to underscore, once you trust one another, and the people in the audience hopefully all trust one another and have a relationship, when you trust someone, i could go to george and say if i get my guys to go this way little, could you get yours to come this way a little? he would check out, we would come back, and many times we found a compromise. the one thing we didn't do was read about it in the morning paper. we had this trust. we really respected each other. we knew what we told each other was private. we got a lot done.
i see a little of that creeping up in the congress, and i hope it continues to grow. george mitchell, he, tom daschle, robert byrd -- i remember robert byrd saying "i'm not sure i can work with you, you are too partisan." i said, "robert, they don't elect nonpartisan leaders." 30 days later he came around and said we will get along fine. i must say, working with robert byrd, george mitchell, tom daschle, three wonderful men who had integrity to the bone. we understood each other. like george said, when we couldn't agree we had to vote. sometimes we had filibusters. we did have our differences. we never went out and told the
press that i think george mitchell is da-da-da and he never did either. we would settle our differences, and if we couldn't settle and we had a vote. i went to say that about my friend george mitchell. he said a lot of nice things about my book in his book about me. i still owe him one payment. [laughter] it is a great book. george and i have an honor of having our dear friend joe biden.
i remember going to joe one time when he was the chairman of the judiciary. he had already cut off and said no more nominations. we're not going to approve any more judges this year. i said, "joe, i have this wonderful lady in kansas who would be a great district judge." he said, let me think about it, but i have already given my word. well, we could do it after hours. [laughter] most people had gone to sleep or gone home. he came back the next day and said you're my friend. i'm going to do it. and we did it. that is only one example of this man. george could recite many more
that i can, but i remember when i left the senate in 1996, i can't remember anymore why i left, but when i left i left the senate and on my way out joe was at the leader's desk on the democratic side. he handed me a note. the note said "good luck, bob." signed "joe." i knew that joe wasn't going to campaign for me, but i also knew that he wasn't going to badmouth me either. i am proud to say that in the eight years that joe has been vice president of the united states, i have never uttered an unkind word about him or president obama. i figured, who cared what i had to say anyway? and second they were elected and entitled to our respect. joe certainly demonstrated how much he deserves this award
tonight. he has had his ups and downs, tragedies in the family, he has suffered through it all. he is our friend. i don't know anybody who was mad at joe biden. were you, george? >> no. [laughter] >> we might have been a little tense now and then, but nothing serious. joe, i am proud to be a part of this team to present to you with the patriot award for all you have done for america. we could be democrats and republicans and independents, and protesters. but most americans are patriots. we have had a patriot serving as vice president for 8 years.
mr. biden: i am honored to be here tonight. i don't say that lightly. those of you who know the most meaningful complements, rewards, -- compliments, rewards, or nice gestures that you receive mean the most when they come from people who really know you and still are prepared -- i really mean it. think about it. i measure the value of an award by how much i value the people giving the award. the men mentioned tonight, from howard baker, who i had the great honor of doing his eulogy, one of several people, to tom daschle who has been my friend since he came to the senate.
george mitchell, someone i've gone to for advice often. bob dole, who was there when i got there in 1972 to extend a welcome to me. president obama always kidded me from the outset because i once said that it is presumptuous of me to try to improve on anything tip o'neill has ever said when he said "all politics is local"" i think he was partially right. in my view, in my view senator snowe, all politics is personal. i mean that sincerely. it is personal. it matters that you understand
and know the other person. it matters, even with foreign leaders with which you have nothing in common, that you at least get to the point to where you understand what their needs are, their limits are, and whether or not you can trust what they say. everyone who has worked on the hill, and many of you have, and if you served on the hill you know that the coin of the realm is your word. the coin of the realm is whether or not you can be trusted to do what you said you would do. when i first got to the senate for the first 2 decades, there was a lot of men and not enough women -- [applause] we are changing that. who would give you their word as to what they would do, and when circumstances changed, that would make it more difficult for them to do it, they would still step forward and do it anyway. then we started to see, at least i did, in the 1990's and thereabouts, pupil of promise
but they were going to do, you would work out something, then they would say i'm sorry my circumstances have changed it i can no longer do that. these men and women, including snowe and our former secretary of agriculture, never did that. a second ring that they never did, when i first got to the senate i did not want to be there. senator mansfield, kennedy, and a fellow you may not remember from the state of rhode island, and later the senator from ohio, one of the funniest guys i've ever worked with, came to see me and said come and serve for six months. i really thought they meant it that they really needed me just for six months. george used to go to the senator mansfield's office every tuesday at 3:00. i would get an assignment.
i really thought all senators got assignments. i really did. i know that is naïve, but i was the first senator i ever knew. i really did. it took me until the beginning of may to realize he was taking my pulse to see how i was doing. one day i was walking across the floor to the well to find out when the last vote would be to get on the plane to go home to delaware, and there was a precursor for the americans with disabilities act. talking about how we had no obligation. although i never had a temper, thank goodness i had to meet with senator mansfield. i sat in front of him and he
said "what's the matter, joe?" and i went off on jesse helms saying he had no social redeeming value. how could he be so heartless and so forth. he listened to me and said "joe, what would you say if i told you jesse helms in 1969 was sitting in the living room in raleigh with an advertisement before christmas and a young man, 14 or 15 years old, in braces up to his hip and crutches saying all i want for christmas is someone to love me, take me home. what would you say, joe, if i told you that jesse helms adopted that young man?" i said i would feel foolish. he said i learned it is always relevant to the question another man or woman' is debate and never make an apology for that.
it is never relevant to question their motives. you do not know. from that moment on, i end the men and women i'm talking about, never questioned someone else's motives. when you question a motive you could not get to a place for you can reach an agreement. our politics, the reason this center was set up, and jason you are doing a heckuva job, has become too negative, petty, personal, partisan. compromise has literally become a dirty word. we don't just question other people's judgment and disagree with them, we question their
motivation. if you don't agree with me it is because you are being bought off. if you don't agree with me is because you are not a good person. we don't know each other anymore. it is hard to dislike a woman or man on the other side when you understand their problems. they may have a son or daughter with a serious health problem. a wife or husband with breast cancer or colon cancer, or struggles at home. it is hard not to understand them. we used to travel together. we went up to the private senate dining room, the tables aren't there anymore. we used to eat lunch together, privately. it is gone. no one is there anymore. i went in to see if i could catch up with my old and new or colleagues. there are lounge chairs now, there used to be 2 large tables. you have been standing too long. unlike any other nation in the
world we are uniquely a product of our political institutions. that is not hyperbole. you cannot define an american by ethnicity, race, religion, the culture from which they come. it is impossible. you can't even define an american anymore as a predominately white european stock nation. what holds this nation together, and always has, is an expressed commitment to the constitution, to our institutions. our institutions are what have held us together. a belief that they can deliver. what worries me most, and i never thought i would have to or wants to make this speech, the
almost drumbeat of denigration of the institutional structures that govern us is dangerous. when you delegitimize the courts you delegitimize the legislative body. it is corrosive. it makes it almost impossible to reach compromise. we are a diverse nation. we are a great nation. to work this democracy, to be able to function, requires consensus at the end of the day. without consensus we have chaos. it is not just joe biden saying this, it is our constitution here and we have to remind ourselves how important this
document is. i'm not trying to be professor joe biden and talk constitutional law, i talking about the essence of what it is. we believe all men and women are created equal. we really do think there should be separation of powers without even knowing the doctrine of separation of powers. we know the court when it rules has the right to overrule congress or a president. it should be adhered to after the appeals are had. we know, including in peach men's and divisive things that happened since 1973 when i got there, we know that we have to check the power of presidents. the legislature and congress is as important. they used a kid me in our white house. i was the only guy that actually
thought there was a congress, that it mattered. you think i'm joking. you think i'm joking. there is a tendency today to not. as we look over the history, we face monumental crises. the story of our american institutions is that they have always sustained us. when we lifted these institutions up, we derive strength from them. it is the basis on which we could make the compromise. when we ignore them or tear them down we do it at our own peril. i must say that these beliefs are so basic and fundamental that i think average americans really get it. they understand it. when they lose confidence in it that we are a nation of laws not men, that courts make a difference, and so on, things begin to crack. ladies and gentlemen, i am somewhat saddened that this is
the first time i've made this speech to such a distinguished audience. as i stand in this building i cannot help but say there is the free press that if we undermine we do it at our own peril. let me say something -- [applause] some, like all of us, have taken more than our fair share of hits by the press. i've been covered by the best in the business, and some of the worst. some of you press guys are lousy, just like senators are lousy, doctors are lousy, lawyers are lousy. it doesn't matter. we should never challenge the
basic truth that an independent and free press is a fundamental element of our functioning democracy. i know you hear a lot about thomas jefferson, how he argued with the press. he said if it were left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without the government, i should not hesitate to choose the latter. that is what thomas jefferson said. that doesn't mean that we have not all had disputes with the press that we thought was it being fair to us. the idea, to question the actual legitimacy of the free press, is one of the most dangerous things out there. the degree to which we denigrate our institutions in the fourth you state, we, honest to god, we can our belief in self-government. we understand our democracy, we undermine it, we become weaker, not stronger. don't just take my word for it. the admiral i worked very closely with during the bin laden raid, a true patriot, not some left-leaning, liberal,
whatever you want to characterize, he is a patriot. president obama risked his entire presidential career on trusting his judgment about osama bin laden. he said last week the belief that the news media is the enemy of the american people "may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime." ask john mccain, another patriot, who understands what it means to sacrifice would you believe in. and finally, in this building there are 2291 reporters' names from around the world who died in pursuit of what they thought to be the truth. those names are etched in memorial so their service is never forgotten.
folks, this may be the first time in my career that i've said that i thought it was important to make this speech, but we all had bipartisan responsibilities to this nation. to defend principles that have long aid america a beacon of hope. as reagan said, the shining city on the hill. to protect the institutions that made it possible for these institutions to be sustained. we are respected around the world. as i said many times, and have been criticized for saying, not only for the example of our power, but the power of our example here he is how the rest of the world compares. that is the place from which we get the gravity of our legitimacy. that is how we have survived, that is how we forge consensus, check abuse of power. we take so much for granted.
as recent experience has made clear, we cannot forget the success of this nation is not a guarantee. nothing is a guarantee about democracy or self-government, even after 240-something years. there is no guarantee we will remain the greatest economic machine and power in the world. there is no guarantee about any of that. there is no guarantee we will remain the greatest. every generation has to earn it. we have been so used the patriots like bob dole offering and giving his life, nearly, for the nation, that we think it is automatic. that it will keep happening. i promise you, there is nothing guaranteed. just like every question before
us, every generation before us has had, we have to earn it. we won't do that if we are tearing each other apart. we have to stop being blinded by anger. we have to siege each other again and focus on hope, the things that unite us. we're strongest when we are one america. rich, poor, middle class, white, black, hispanic, gay, straight, transgender, they all come with a dream. new immigrants arriving today. one america. we're all in it together. everyone does their fair share. we can argue about what that share is, it makes sense to argue about that. ladies and gentlemen, we have to move beyond where we are today. i ran for senate at 29 for 2 reasons. the guys i came out of the civil
rights movement. i was a kid in a segregated state that got engaged when i was in high school because i thought it was wrong. there's nothing heroic about what i did. sit ins and desegregating restaurants. i came because i disagreed with, frankly, almost all that the old segregationists were democrats in those days in 1973. i started off as the most junior guy ever on the committee, the judiciary committee was strom thurmond. i served with him for 28 years. we actually became friends. if you try to understand what another geographic area is going
through, if you listen, it can change you. when strom thurmond left he voted for the extension of the voting rights act. he had a higher percentage of african-americans than anyone on his staff, including kennedy. it did not make up for past sins, but there was change. on his 100th birthday i got a call. he was in the hospital. i got a call from nancy thurmond. she said "joe, i'm here with strom's doctor. strom asked if i would ask you to do a favor." i said, "anything at all." she said, "strom wants you to do his eulogy." i did strom thurmond's eulogy. i was honest. i did not say anything i did not believe, though i did start by
looking at heaven and saying to my grandfather, "forgive me for what i've got to do." all kidding aside, if you look hard enough you can even find the possibility of some agreement and change in people with the most extreme views. last night, we heard talk about bipartisanship. last night we heard an address that was more presidential in tone. last night, we heard how we will continue to disagree, but there was talk of bipartisanship. as the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. my wish is that we find some way, some way, some way to make progress in bipartisanship even
this atmosphere. we cannot continue to denigrate our institutions. thank you for this great honor. i'm flattered to be part of it. [applause] >> thank you, ladies and gentlemen. joe biden is a patriot. joe biden is a political institution, and joe biden just delivered the best description of political empathy that i think i've ever heard. thank you for joining us tonight. we've got the room for a few hours. spread out. we'll talk to you soon. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the