The latest fundraiser for former Vice Preesident Joe Biden was held at the home of Randi and Jeffrey Levine in Manhattan.
It was a beautifully appointed town home full of modern art.
Jeffrey Levine is one of the largest developers in New York City, an expert in construction and property management.
Randi remarked that the Biden staff worked with her to put the fundraiser together on short notice. “We are living in really weird times and there’s lots of noise everywhere.” She described Biden as “the only one who can deliver us those very tricky swing states” and win the presidency.
Biden was wearing a light colored blazer and slacks. “We don’t thank you enough for putting your name on the line for us….you’re saying I vouch for this guy,” he told his hosts
As he often does Biden talked about the importance of the election. “Four years of Donald Trump will hopefully go down in history as an aberration…I made a major speech here today on foreign policy which quite frankly is going to be more difficult to put back together than our domestic policy,” he said.
He said he was running “for three basic reasons”
“One of them is basically and literally to restore the soul of America,” he said and then began talking about the “anti-Semitic bile” shouted and Nazi flags brandished atat Charlottesville. He made brief reference to the woman protester killed there and noted that “they sentenced her murderer just last week.”
Biden spoke briefly about the border and “ripping children from their parent’s arms.”
“I almost don’t care what your position is on immigration …the message it sends to rest of the world about who we are is just absolutely devastating,” he said.
He talked to the well heeled audience of donors about their experiences travelling overseas. “You get the look of what in God’s name is going on,” Biden said.
“Four years is manageable and eight years may very well be permanent,” he said of the damage wrought by the Trump presidency.
Biden then talked about the second reason he’s running: The strain on the Middle Class.
“There are a lot of people in this fourth industrial revolution who are being left behind,” he said. “The bottom is falling out of the middle class and the middle class is the backbone of this country,” Biden said.
Of Middle Class Americans he added, “We’ve denied them their dignity.”
He noted that 65 out of 100 jobs require something more than a high school education. “Does anyone think 12 years of school is enough?” he asked and promised to do more to ensure access to college.
“This is not beyond our capacity,” he said.
“Being middle class is a value set. It is not a number,” Biden continued. “When they do well and the wealthy do very well and the poor have a way up there’s some hope.”
He lamented his fellow candidates who suggest that they can just govern by executive order and said it was eroding American governance. Then he lamented Trump’s attacks on the courts, the press and other American institutions.
“Our kids are listening. …Our children are listening, whether it is what he says about Charlottesville or what he says about our government they are listening,” Biden continued.
Biden then talked about his optimism for America.
“We have the most agile venture capitalists in the world,” he said and noted that American “workers three times as productive” as their overseas rivals.
“What are we worried about? What is the problem?” he asked.
Biden then came to the third reason he is running: To heal the divisions in the country exacerbated by the Trump presidency. He lamented Trump’s strategy of dividing America by emphasizing “the other, the immigrant the back…playing on prejudices and division that every charlatan has used” through history.
Biden talked briefly about the need to invest in cutting edge technology. He noted that DARPA created the Internet and wondered why we don’t have a similar organization for healthcare. He proposed to spend $50 billion on research at NIH or at a research institution like it.
And he emphasized that some taxes might have to go up on the wealthy but that the people in the room could afford it.
“All the tax breaks you have you don’t need,” he told the crowd. “The last thing you need is more tax breaks.”
“Why aren’t we investing?” he asked. “Imagine what happens if we make a multi-billion effort to deal with Alzheimer’s. What about addiction? Why aren’t we spending the money….where’s the research?”
He specifically mentioned the need to invest in research to combat cocaine addiction and noted that the drug companies were willing to do it because the market wasn’t big enough.
“Everyone remembers a line from John Kennedy speech about going to the moon. There’s a line in the speech that’s stuck with me my entire career,” Biden said.
“‘Why are we doing it? Because we refused to postpone,’” he recalled Kennedy saying..
Biden said he would bring the same attitude to his presidency and promised to “fundamentally change what we can do as a country.”
He talked at length about new technologies that had caught his interest and then apologized to the room.
“I am sorry I am boring you,” he said. “We can find the new technology for how we deal with climate change. We can create 10 million new jobs. It is not hyperbole it is real,” Biden said.
Towards the end he asked one of his aides to bring him a Trump tweet that they had shown him in the car on the way over. But he couldn’t find it. He read several Trump tweets – but all of them were not the tweet he was thinking of.
“I don’t want to read them all it’ll bore the hell out of all of them,” he said to his aide. He handed her back the phone and got his point.
“The point is that the rest of the world sees these tweets and they wonder what in the hell in God’s name is going on,” Biden said. “The world is in real trouble and we got a real problem.”
He then thanked for their contributions and noted he had received 250,000 small donations.
Of all the contributions: “This is a great help to me to put me in a position to continue,” he said.
“Anyone want to come to Iowa with me?” he joked.
This story is based on a pool report from Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post
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