Transcript: Former Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at the Bipartisan Policy Center – Part 3
Part 3 of 5. Partial transcript of former Vice President Joe Biden’s speech accepting the Congressional Patriot Award at the Bipartisan Policy Center on March 1, 2017:
It’s that we really do believe all men and women are created equal. That’s the deal.
We really do think that there should be separation of powers, without even knowing the doctrine of separation of powers.
We know the court when it rules that it has the right to overrule a Congress or a president. And it should be adhered to after the appeals are had.
We know because when a true constitutional crisis together, including impeachments and other very, very, very divisive things that have happened since 1973 when I got there, we know that we have to check the power of presidents, that the legislature, the Congress is as important.
They used to kid me in our White House. I was the only guy that actually thought there was a Congress, that it mattered.
You think I’m joking. You think I’m joking.
But there’s a tendency today, to not, to not. As we look over the history of time again we face monumental crises. And the story of our American institutions is that they’ve always sustained us.
And, you know, when we lift these institutions up, we derive strength from it. It’s the basis upon which we can make the compromise. When we ignore them, or worse, when we tear them down, we do it at our own peril.
I must say, these beliefs are so basic and so fundamental that I really think that average Americans fully get it. They understand it.
But when they lose confidence in it, that when we are a nation of laws and not man, that courts make a difference that they are the ultimate arbiter and so on, things begin to crack.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m somewhat saddened that this is the first time that I have made this speech to such a distinguished audience.
As I stand in this room, in this building I can’t help but say that there’s another institution, the fourth estate, the free press that if we undermine or destroy, we do it at our own peril.
And let me tell you, let me say something, say something, like someone like all of us is taking more than my fair share of hits from the press. I’ve been covered by the very best in the business and some of the worst. Some of you press guys are lousy, just like some senators are lousy, like doctors are lousy, lawyers are lousy.
But it doesn’t matter. We should never challenge the basic truth that an independent and free press is a fundamental element in the functioning of our democracy.
I know you hear a lot quoted about Thomas Jefferson these days, about how he argued with the press.
Let me remind you what Thomas Jefferson said. He said, “If it were left to me to decide if whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers out of the government, I should not hesitate a moment to choose the later.”
That’s what Thomas Jefferson said.
That doesn’t mean that all of hasn’t had run ins or disputes with press that we thought wasn’t being fair to us.
But the idea, to question the actual legitimacy of a free press is one of the most dangerous things out there.
The degree that we depart and denigrate our institutions in the fourth estate, I think we really, honest to God, honest to God, weaken our ability for self-government. We understand our democracy. We undermine it, and we become weaker and not stronger.
And again, don’t just take my word for it. Admiral McRaven, who you all know I worked with very closely, as particularly during the Bin Laden raid. This is a true patriot. This is not some, you know, left leaning, liberal…whatever you want to characterize it. This guy’s a patriot. President Obama risked his entire presidential career on trusting his judgment about Osama Bin Laden.
He just said last week that the belief that the news media is the enemy of the American people, “may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime”.
Ask John McCain, another patriot, who understands what it means to sacrifice for what you believe in.
And finally, here in this building there are 2,291 reporters’ names from around the world who died in the pursuit of what they thought to be the truth. And those names are etched in Newseum’s memorial so their service is never forgotten.