Former Vice President Joe Biden lamented the “demeaning” nature of today’s politics while presenting an award to President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush in Philadelphia on Sunday.
“As President Bush was my opposition as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, he was never my enemy,” Biden said. “Think how demeaning our politics has become in terms of how we talk about one another. There’s the opposition, not the enemies.”
The event at the National Constitution Center marked Biden’s first public appearance since the midterm elections. In his role as chair of the center’s board, Biden presented the Liberty Medal, which recognizes leadership in the pursuit of freedom, to Bush and former first lady to honor their work with veterans.
“In a week following another contentious political season, the presentation of the Liberty Medal is a critical reminder that neither Republicans nor Democrats hold a monopoly on the values and the ideals that define us as a nation,” Biden said.
Biden, a frequent Trump critic, is considered a likely Democratic candidate for president in 2020, which could mean he would face off against Trump. Trump has not hesitated to strike back, dubbing the former vice president ‘Crazy Joe Biden” and calling him “weak, both mentally and physically.”
“It’s no secret President Bush and I occasionally had our political disagreements,” Biden said Sunday. “I always respected the President. We had a disagreement on a number of issues, which we made pretty clear to one another in private, and we were never hesitant to tell each other the honest to God’s truth as we saw. That’s the way the system is supposed to work – voices raised in a contest of ideas to determine the direction we take as a nation.”
The Bushes have spearheaded several initiatives to help veterans, their families and caregivers, including Warrior Wellness Alliance, which aims to improve veterans’ health care; VET Roadmap, which seeks to help veterans find employment, and the Warrior 100K, an annual mountain bike ride for veterans.
“There’s no steadier influence in the life of our nation than the ones who have defended America and understand what it takes,” Bush said. “Nothing has mattered more than the skill and the courage and the sheer decency of those who served in the United States military.”
“For my part, to return the salute of such people was the highest of all the privileges that came with the office of President, and because the Liberty Medal is presented to Laura and me on Veterans Day, we will cherish it all the more,” Bush added. “To us it will always be a reminder of the people we deeply admire.”
Bush also paid tribute to the late Sen. John McCain, who received the award last year. The former President called McCain “a man who dedicated his life to the cause of liberty, a man we admire and miss, and who better to keep close in memory on Veterans Day than our friend John McCain.”
A few dozen protestors assembled outside the event and could be heard chanting “shame” and “no awards for endless wars” during the various speeches of the night. One woman inside the event interrupted the opening remarks and was heard shouting “President Bush, your war based on lies” as she was escorted out by security.