Former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t have to say a word.
His place on the roster of speakers at the New York state Democratic convention spoke volumes. But Biden – being Biden – delivered an address to remember Thursday, if less for its effusive praise of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s seeking a third term in the face of a feisty primary challenge by Cynthia Nixon, than for what it suggested about his own aspirations.
Biden’s decision to publicly back Cuomo will rankle the progressive activists who have largely coalesced around Nixon, but his message for the more moderate crowd on Long Island seemed torn from the pages of a national campaign speech. Like Hillary Clinton, who backed Cuomo on Wednesday, Biden talked up a rising Democratic wave while hammering what he described as the corrosive effects of the Trump presidency.
Here are 20 lines and riffs we might hear again soon, as Biden continues stumping for Democrats in 2018 and, perhaps for himself, on the presidential primary trail in 2019 and beyond.
1. “My dad had an expression and – he really did – he’d say you know you’re a success as a father when you turn and look at your child and realize they turned out better than you.”
2. “We were taught that the greatest sin anyone could commit, and I mean this literally, was the abuse of power. Whether it was government abusing power, or the abuse of economic power, or physical power. It was the ultimate sin.”
3. “We were taught that you had an obligation to speak out or speak up if you ever saw the abuse. Because everyone, and I mean everyone, is entitled to be treated with dignity. We were taught that no one is better than us, but everyone is our equal, that we can be anything we dream of, and that ordinary people can and have done extraordinary things.”
4. “My mom used to say, ‘Courage is the greatest virtue of all because upon it rests every other virtue.’”
5. “When (my family) moved from Scranton, when I was a kid, because there were no jobs – if you listen to Barack, you’d think I climbed out of a coal mine in Scranton with a lunch bucket. But my dad was a white collar worker. There was just no one to sell anything to after the economy collapsed. We moved to Delaware.”
6. “If given a chance, just a chance, the American people have never, ever, ever let their country down. Andrew learned these lessons at his father’s table in Queens and I learned at my grand-pop’s table in Scranton and my dad’s in Claymont, Delaware.”
7. “When it gets right down to it, it’s all about decency and respect, which is so lacking in our politics today.”
8. “And we’re being told by many that we have to make a false choice. Do we yield only to our progressive values or do we work on those things that affect high school-educated working people who are under siege? As if they’re different. Where I come from, there is no difference. You don’t have to choose between your heart and your soul. It’s a phony debate.”
9. “It may seem strange to quote a conservative columnist, but David Brooks (of The New York Times), I think said it best. He said there’s an invisible moral fabric in America that holds up our society, allows our Constitution to function. That moral fabric consists of customs and norms that have allowed us to be the nation we are.”
10. “You can’t define who an American is based on their race or ethnicity or their culture – anything other than a basic and unarticulated commitment to a value set. As corny as, ‘We hold these truths self evident, that all men are created equal.’ That’s not how they’d say it, but they know.”
11. “(Republicans) don’t have much faith in ordinary people. They demonstrate by the way they act, they don’t care a whole lot about it. They don’t understand why we’re who we are.”
12. “Middle class is a value set: It’s being able to own your own home and not have to rent it if you have a chance. It’s being able to send your kid to a park where you know they’re going to come home safely. Send them to a local, public high school that if they do well they can get into college. If they get to college, somehow you’ll figure out how to pay for it. And being able to take care of your geriatric mom after your dad dies.”
13. “I spent more time with Xi Jinping, the leader of China, than any world leader. I’ve had 25 hours of private dinners with him … just he and I and an interpreter, simultaneous interpreter. (On one trip around China) he looked at me and said, ‘Can you define America for me, Mr. Vice President?’ And I said, ‘Yes I can. In one word. And I mean this sincerely. Possibilities.’”
14. “All the values I just talked about are under siege by this administration. This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different deal. They are not – they are not who we are. They are not who America is. But what they are doing is they’re sending a vision of America that’s distorted, that’s damaging, that is hurting us. With its phony populism. And this fake nationalism.”
15. “Even some in our party have become so elitist. We don’t think ordinary people understand what’s going on. … We’ve gotta talk to these people. We’ve gotta listen.”
16. “College should be free! Free! State universities! And by the way, we can afford it.”
17. “When I did my financial disclosure as vice president, a lot of my colleagues got a kick out of the headline in The Washington Post that said, quote, ‘It’s probable no man has assumed the office of vice president with fewer assets than Joe Biden.’”
18. “Folks, there’s a lot of ugliness in our politics right now. That means we’re going to have to fight for the vision of the nation we know is possible.”
19. “I was always referred to as the idealistic young optimist. … I am an optimist. Because I’ve seen the history of the journey of the American people. And I give you my word as a Biden, I am more optimistic today about America’s chances in the 21st century than I have been in any time in my entire life.”
20. “It’s about time we pick our heads up. (His voice grows louder) Remember who the hell we are as Americans. We can do anything! It’s time to get these guys out of our way. It’s time to lead. It’s time to say no more! We are moving on! We are changing the politics of this country! We are taking back control!”