Former Vice President Joe Biden had sharp words of advice for President Trump Wednesday.
“Grow up. Stop focusing everything through the prism of me,” Biden told a sold-out crowd at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles. “The childish behavior of ‘My button’s bigger than your button.’ It’s not just ridiculously funny, it’s dangerous.”
Biden made his comments at the Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange speaking with Times columnist Patt Morrison. It was a wide-ranging discussion that touched on his grief following the death of his son, the 2016 election and sizing up candidates to be the next occupant of the Oval Office.
The former vice president said his book, “Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose” about Beau Biden’s 2015 death, is intended to help people who have lost loved ones understand, “You can find significant hope and purpose” after that loss.
Without naming Trump, Biden spent much of the time expressing concern that the country’s “moral fabric” is being torn apart, in part due to the words and actions of the president.
Biden alluded to the president’s comments last year about white supremacists following violence in Charlottesville, Va., and what has happened since.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day when you’d see people literally coming out of fields with lighted torches,” Biden said. “It gives license to the most unappealing aspects of humanity to crawl out from under the rocks.”
He said he is less concerned by the Trump administration undoing the Obama administration’s work and cited progress on civil rights issues, including same-sex marriage.
“What I worry most about is the conduct of foreign policy,” Biden said, adding that some of the president’s actions “border on dangerous.”
“I don’t think he fully realizes how consequential the words of a president are,” Biden said. “The world listens, and it matters.”
The comments came one week after Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un traded barbs over nuclear capabilities.
“The only war worse than one that’s intended is one that’s unintended,” Biden said.
Asked about his own decision not to run for president in 2016, Biden recalled a conversation he had with Hillary Clinton, who asked him if he would run himself.
At the time, his son was fighting for his life against an aggressive brain tumor. “I knew in my heart I wasn’t going to run then, but I couldn’t tell her. For surely if they knew, they’d know my Beau was dying.”
What happened next made him sad, he said, recounting a story from the book. “She knew how brutal this was going to be,” he said.
“Everybody thinks that Hillary has this overwhelming ambition. ... I don’t see her that way. I saw her as a woman who thought it was her responsibility to run, a woman who knew that if she didn’t run she would be letting down millions of women across the world.”
While Clinton “would have made a hell of a president,” Biden said he felt he would have been the “most qualified person to finish the job Barack and I started.”
Biden referenced the number of world leaders he had met (all of them), the number of miles he traveled on Air Force Two and how frequently he was sent to Congress to reach out to Republicans.
The conversation was punctuated by shouts from the audience of “President Biden!” and other encouragement that he run for president a third time.
“There will be a Biden president,” he said, and her name is likely to be Finnegan Biden, his granddaughter.
Asked to size up the potential 2020 candidacies of Oprah Winfrey and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Biden quipped he was a good vice president, so “I’d be happy to be on any one of their tickets.”
As the crowd cheered, Biden called Garcetti “a great guy who has real character” and “understands what the future looks like” and said he considered Winfrey a good friend who is a “bright, decent person,” but said she’ll have to build foreign policy chops if she wants to run.
He also had high praise for freshman California Sen. Kamala Harris — to loud applause — and mentioned New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Biden, who took the stage to shouts of “Joe!” and played to the crowd during the hour-long discussion, was in high spirits. He quipped that he wanted to stay longer, despite needing to catch a red-eye flight out of Los Angeles.
The discussion was part of a national book tour. Before it began, organizers played a biographical video that was strikingly similar to campaign messaging, featuring photos of Biden as a child, speaking out in support of same-sex marriage, grieving the loss of his son, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom and interacting with President Obama in the White House.