Vice President Joe Biden sat down with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell Wednesday for his first interview after announcing that he would not run for president. "Couldn't win," said Biden when pressed by O'Donnell about his ultimate reason for opting out. But when O'Donnell noted that his Rose Garden speech sure sounded like he was leaving the door open for a run in case he was needed, Biden admitted "there's some truth to that."
O'Donnell began by asking Biden how he felt about the decision and then asking point blank whether he made it because he didn't want to run or just didn't think he could win. "Couldn't win," he said, though he immediately stressed the emotional toll of having lost his son Beau to cancer this year (transcript via CBS):
O'DONNELL: It's been a big week. How are you feeling about this decision?
BIDEN: Ah. Good. It's the right decision for the family, it's the right decision for us.
O'DONNELL: Is it that you think you couldn't win or that you didn't want to run?
BIDEN: Couldn't win. I'll be very blunt, if I thought we could've put together the campaign that our supporters deserve and our contributors deserved I'll-- I would have gone ahead and done it.
O'DONNELL: But, why did it take you until Tuesday to figure that out? Tuesday night?
BIDEN: Because it took that long for us to decide as a family. Look, dealing with the loss of Beau, any parent listening who's lost a child, knows that you can't-- it doesn't follow schedules of primaries and caucuses and contributors and the like. It just-- you-- and everybody grieves at a different pace.
Later in the interview, O'Donnell pushed back on Biden's narrative a little, noting that his announcement last week didn't sound much like someone who didn't have at least some hopes of still jumping (if, say, Hillary implodes). Biden said "there's some truth to that," but then explained that he was trying to "influence the direction of the Democratic Party and the country."
O'DONNELL: But that speech in the Rose Garden sounded a little bit like a campaign platform. Did you have this-- a speech written for whether you were going to run or whether you weren't going to run? Because part of the speech sounded like, "I'll be ready. I've got a plan if you need me at some point."
BIDEN:Well, the truth is-- there's some truth to that because what I wanted to make clear--
O'DONNELL: But are you leaving the door open if something happens?
BIDEN:No, no, no. I was making the case that I do want to influence the Democratic Party. I want to make no bones about that. I don't want the party walking away from what Barack and I did.
When O'Donnell asked about the role President Obama played in his decision, Biden said simply, "The president wanted me to do what I thought was best."
As for his obvious jab at Hillary Clinton when he said "I don't think we should look at Republicans as our enemies," Biden insisted that was really directed at "all of Washington." Not buying it, O'Donnell pressed hard on it noting that she had just called Republicans her enemies in the first primary debate, he tried to brush it off, saying she was just being "humorous."
One of the more interesting moments was when O'Donnell asked the VP if he though Clinton was "unbeatable." Biden said flatly, "No," explaining that he didn't think he could do a better job as president than her. O'Donnell tried to get him to comment on the reported "tension" between him and Hillary, he dismissed it, saying, "Go back and find anybody who says for the four years we worked together Hillary and I weren't friends."
Biden also weighed in on Donald Trump, with whom he said he was "disappointed" over his "attack on all immigrants."
BIDEN: I'm disappointed in Donald Trump. I know what a showman and all that he is. But I really don't think it's healthy and I hope he reconsiders this sort of attack on all immigrants. I think that is beneath the country. I don't think it's where the American people are. And I hope he really doesn't believe it.
Video: CBS News.