Biden’s Meandering Speech to Progressives: 2008’s Change ‘Didn’t Happen’ and ‘I am Pretty Damned Sophisticated’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Vice President Joe Biden told a liberal conference that President Barack Obama’s promised change “didn’t happen,” called himself “damned sophisticated,” began meandering about a theoretical waiter with a lisp when talking about LGBT matters and explained that, “I think long and hard about what I say.”

Biden talked to the Make Progress Conference Wednesday in Washington sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. It was ttended by about 750 young progressives. Several chanted, “We love Joe,” at the end of the speech as Biden shook hands.

Despite the chants, Biden earlier said he and Obama fell short of bringing change.

“Look folks, this is within our power to change. Everybody says because we tried in ‘08 and it didn’t happen, it’s not possible,” Biden said. “Wrong. We’ve gone through these periods before… But folks, this is totally within our power. Change. Change for the better is absolutely possible and I believe it’s close to inevitable, if you’re the drivers of it.”

Biden, who ran for president twice before, hasn’t ruled out running for the Democratic nomination in 2016 even though polls show him badly trailing presumed front runner Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state.

On Wednesday, in front of the liberal audience, Biden talked about most major Democratic issues such as “unfettered ballot access,” support for gay marriage, combatting global warming, supporting gun control and issues of rich and poor.

“Since when has it become in this nation that job creators were the investment bankers, the bankers and the shareholders? When I grew up there was a consensus that engineers, the line workers, the sales person were job creators too,” Biden said. “There used to be a basic bargain in this country. I know I’m referred to as middle class Joe. In this town it means you’re not sophisticated. But I am pretty damned sophisticated.”

He also heralded Obama for taking a “historic step” in his climate action plan.

“Failure to deal with it would generate the biggest game changer that civilization faces,” Biden said of climate change. “That’s not hyperbole. It’s the single most significant challenge civilization faces today. It is our moral obligation and in large part the duty and the moral center of it to deal with it and we need to deal with it now, as the president has.”

Biden said it is important to have a civil political discourse and challenge the judgment of Republicans but not their motives while fighting for progressive causes.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Washington, Wednesday,July 16, 2014, during Generation Progress’s annual Make Progress National Summit. As Hillary Rodham Clinton promotes her book, liberals in the Democratic Party are elbowing into the 2016 presidential conversation. Potential Clinton rivals like Biden, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley are in the middle of a summertime tour of Democratic constituencies and campaigns, drawing contrasts to Clinton as she weighs a heavily anticipated second presidential bid. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

“I make no apologies. I think most of you know I have no problem – and I mean this sincerely – in saying exactly what I feel and what I believe,” Biden said. “That’s why I got into this. What you may not know is that I think long and hard about what I say and what I believe and how I say it, because it matters.”

He said that in 2012, he thought through his support for gay marriage before announcing it in a TV interview, and he said he didn’t doubt Obama’s support for it. Then he went on to explain progress on the LGBT issues by a theoretical restaurant scene.

“Fifteen years ago, if a group of businessmen were at a restaurant and the waiter with a distinctive lisp came up and asked their order, someone would say ‘let me tell you what I want,’” Biden said with a feminine sound to his voice to demonstrate one of the businessmen mocking the waiter.

“No one would say anything because the consensus was that is appropriate behavior,” Biden continued. “Imagine what would happen today if some horse’s tail said that. I mean that sincerely. Everyone else at that table would turn around and say ‘what the hell are you talking about?’”

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