Aspen Ideas: Joe Biden to Newt Gingrich: Are you going to do it?

Lauren Glendenning | The Aspen Times
Vice President Joe Biden spoken in Aspen Saturday afternoon at the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Photo by Dan Bayer/The Aspen Institute |

A Donald Trump-Newt Gingrich Republican ticket — could it be so?

That was the question on the minds of many at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Saturday, including Vice President Joe Biden.

Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson kicked off a conversation with Biden asking about his Cancer Moonshot mission, but Biden quickly shifted the attention to Gingrich, who was sitting in the audience.

“Newt, are you going to do it?” Biden said. “That’s all I want to know. I want to get to the important things.”

“Should I?” Gingrich shouted back.

“I think (Trump) needs the help, yes,” Biden said.

About two hours earlier, Gingrich told a few hundred people in another Aspen Ideas conversation that he isn’t sure he’s ready to dive head-first into four or eight years of dealing with Congress in a job that “really messes up your life,” but he didn’t rule himself out as Trump’s running mate, either.

He did say he’d have to have a long discussion with his wife and with Trump should the offer come.

In a discussion titled “Trump, Sanders and the American Spirit of Rebellion,” Gingrich displayed his intellectual chops as he discussed American political history and current affairs. The conversation, moderated by former U.S. Labor Secretary and former Chairwoman of the Aspen Institute Ann Korologos, often shifted back to whether Gingrich would join the Trump ticket.

Gingrich spoke of what he learned while in Congress about how to pass conservative policies, giving the audience a bit of insight into what he could bring to the table should he be chosen and accept the offer.

“If you’re a conservative, you have to get up every morning understanding that the news media will largely oppose you,” Gingrich said. “Therefore, you have to design your policies so that when they get done opposing you, you’re still winning. If the news media intimidates you, then become a liberal — then they’ll like you.”

It’s not hard to imagine why many folks are so angry and offended by Trump, but he’s doing something that even political scholars can’t figure out, Gingrich said.

“If you’re part of an establishment which goes to think-tanks and comes to Aspen and has conversations appropriate for corporate boardrooms, guys who talk at fourth-grade levels and speak in the language of a good, working-class bar just drive you crazy,” he said. “And if they succeed, they really drive you crazy because they disrupt everything you thought you invested your life in.”

While Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders represent a parallel phenomenon, Sanders actually represents the continuation of movements that have already been underway in this country for some time, Gingrich said — movements toward more government health care and subsidization of college education, for example.

“He would take it all the way,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich said Trump is a much different candidate.

“The people who are sick and tired of Washington — they don’t want somebody who can manage the table better, they want somebody who will kick the table over,” he said.

Gingrich said he reads media reports about how Hillary Clinton is annihilating Trump in terms of fundraising and he’s stunned at the lack of awareness by the reporters.

“They could have done that every week with Jeb (Bush) and Trump — until Jeb dropped out,” he said. “So it tells you nothing. Because she is out raising the money in order to buy the ads because she won’t meet with the press because she can’t stand the questioning. Trump, meanwhile, is not buying the ads or raising the money because he’s cheerfully hanging out with the press.”

Biden said being vice president is the most rewarding thing he’s ever done.

“Only for one reason — there is no inherent power in being vice president — none. Zero,” Biden said, adding that the job totally depends on the relationship with the president. “The job of president is so complicated these days that there’s no one woman or one man that can do it without being willing to trust someone else to give them major responsibility. So therefore you have to have a genuine relationship — you have to be on the same page.”

Biden called Gingrich one of the brightest guys he knows. He said the two are friends even though “he’s a damn Republican, but I love him.”

“He knows the government, he knows the issues,” Biden said. “And I would feel better, even though we disagree philosophically — and I’m not being facetious — I’d feel better knowing that there’s somebody there with the depth and gravitas on the issues that Newt possesses.”

Isaacson quipped that the world would know in about two weeks whether Biden’s endorsement of Gingrich would help or hurt the ticket’s chances. Biden laughed and clarified that he’s not endorsing Gingrich, just pointing out that “he’s bright as hell.”

Back in the days when Biden and Gingrich were in Congress, Republicans and Democrats actually talked to each other — even trusted each other, Biden said.

“There’s too much invective now,” Biden said. “It’s awfully hard to generate a consensus on just about anything, and it worries me.”

It’s also what worries him about this presidential election, which is shaping up to be nothing but assaults by each candidate on the other candidate.

“I’m not even sure that even when there are substantive arguments are being made, how much will be listened to by the press,” he said. “We’ve got to get by this place. We really do, for the sake of the country, we’ve got to get by it.”