The former U.S. vice president was in Seattle Wednesday, speaking at a joint meeting of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and the Congress for the New Urbanism.
Former Vice President Joe Biden told a Seattle audience Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interference in foreign elections is meant to destabilize the liberal world order that’s existed since World War II and that contributed to America’s own stability and prosperity.
Biden, speaking to a joint meeting of the Urban Land Institute and the Congress for the New Urbanism at the Washington State Convention Center, noted Russia’s funding of Marine Le Pen, the right-wing candidate for French president who wants to leave the European Union, as well as support for nationalist parties in Germany, is aimed at weakening European unity and NATO’s strength, which threatens Russian ambitions.
“The world order is under siege,” Biden said, adding that what’s at stake is whether “this experiment of Europe as whole, free and at peace is able to be sustained.”
Biden, who served six terms in the U.S. Senate before serving two terms as vice president under Barack Obama, said he spent about five hours with Putin during which he looked the Russian president in the eye and said, “I don’t think you have a soul.”
Most Read Local Stories
- COVID variant spreads to more countries as world on alert
- Maps from Seattle elections that made Bruce Harrell mayor show where races were won and lost
- 'Unimaginable:' Mount Vernon dairy farmers reeling from flood devastation
- Frustrated passengers leave stalled light-rail train near UW and walk through tunnel
- Flood watch in place for northwest Washington state following heavy rain
Biden, 74, said that Putin responded, “We understand each other.”
Biden mostly refrained from criticizing President Donald Trump, saying if Trump succeeds, America succeeds. And he said that Trump in his campaign recognized that there were losers in the last 70 years’ push to globalization.
“Hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty,” Biden said, “but many others have been left behind. How can you make up for the losers without jettisoning the benefits of greater trade, commerce and exchange?”
Biden, known for his talkativeness and decades’ worth of political tales, told several stories — about his own father’s tolerance, about working across the aisle with Republicans, about being able to extend compassion when you’ve been the recipient of it, as he said he was after the deaths of his wife and daughter in 1972 and when he lost his son, Beau, to brain cancer in 2015.
He said the biggest accomplishments of the Obama administration weren’t the killing of Osama bin Laden, or even passage of the Affordable Care Act, but bringing back the American economy from the worst recession since the Great Depression, something he noted was done with an injection of government spending and very little fraud or waste.
But he argued for defending the ACA against Republican efforts to repeal it, and warned that it will be very hard to maintain coverage of existing medical conditions without keeping the taxes to pay for that coverage.
“Health care is more complicated than foreign policy,” Biden said. “The president doesn’t know much about the details, and it matters.”
Biden called for the Democratic Party to continue to champion working- and middle-class people. He said everyone in the country deserves dignity, and that the government has a responsibility to protect that dignity.
He argued for free community-college tuition as a way for workers sidelined by globalization and technology to train for new careers. He said the country also must invest in its infrastructure to stay economically competitive and continue to invest in advances in science, technology and medicine.
“Think big!” he told the audience. “Be optimistic!”