Douglas Brinkley, the prolific Rice University historian who has already twice graced the cover of Rolling Stone (first for his interview of Bob Dylan in 2009, then for his interview of Barack Obama in 2012) has done it again.
Brinkley's interview with Vice President Joe Biden made the cover of the most recent issue of Rolling Stone.
There is a keen Kennedy-like vigor to Joe Biden that overwhelms any room. As was once said of Theodore Roosevelt, he, too, wants to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. Unlike President Obama, who speaks in interviews with Hemingway-esque sparseness, Biden rambles like Thomas Wolfe, painting a robust picture of an ever-changing America where coal miners will soon be working in clean-tech jobs, gun-safety laws will be tougher and China will be reined in by the White House from poisoning the planet with megatons of choking pollutants.
Is the Senate really that insulated from the rest of the country?
A lot of our colleagues – a few Democrats and a lot of Republicans who know better – thought, "The public hasn't changed, if I vote with you, I get beat up. . . ." The 17 or 18 people I called and spoke to thought they would get in trouble supporting any additional, quote, "burden on gun ownership." The ones who still said no, the four Democrats and remaining nine or 10 Republicans, they didn't offer any substantive reasoning to be against it. In one form or another, they all said the same thing: "Joe, don't ask me to walk the plank, because the House isn't going to do anything, anyway." The other one was, "Joe, I know it's 85-15, 80-20, 90-10 in my state. You know how it works: The 10 percent that are against, they're all going to be energized; they're going to organize against me. And the 90 percent who are for it, it's not going to be a determining vote for them." My argument was, "You've got it wrong. The public has changed." And guess what? It turns out we were right. To use the vernacular, there's suddenly a lot of senators out there who have seen the Lord. You find out that the senator from New Hampshire is in trouble; she voted no. I can name you four senators who called me and said, "Jesus, I guess you were right – maybe we can find some other way of doing this. Can we bring this back up?"
Considering how busy you are, do you have time to read books? If so, which ones would you recommend?
I make the time because it's important. Let's see. There is a good book titled The River of Doubt, by Candice Millard, about Teddy Roosevelt's exploration of the Amazon in Brazil. I knew nothing about this. My goodness, let's see. There's Mr. Putin, by Fiona Hill and Clifford Gaddy. Insightful. He's an interesting man. Anyone who's traveled with me to Afghanistan knows why I love this book: War, by Sebastian Junger. And that reminds me of another book, Lessons in Disaster, by Gordon Goldstein. There's a great line in there where LBJ turns to [National Security Adviser] McGeorge Bundy and says, "How can we win this war in Vietnam?" And Bundy says something like, "Sir, we don't know how to win the war, but we know how not to lose it."
Read the full interview here.