Biden Unplugged

The voluble Veep talks up Obama's second term--and his own political future

Vice President Joe Biden is in the middle of a swing that looks a lot like a prelude to a White House run. His January schedule included a red-meat talk to a union crowd and a TV interview about the wisdom of a 2016 campaign. And then there’s the fact that “Amtrak Joe” is back on the train again. Sharply dressed in a navy suit with a pocket square, Biden spoke to TIME on Feb. 6, in a first-class Amtrak car from Washington to Philadelphia, about what lies ahead for President Obama and himself.

What’s your goal now for the second term?

I have a convening power, and the good news about it [is] when the President gives me an authority … he never second-guesses–he just says do it. And I do it. The second term is going to be more of the same. I’m sure I’m going to continue to be doing a lot of foreign travel … [The President’s] got a full plate. What are those things that demand his attention that he doesn’t have time to do full time that he slides them over onto my plate. They are the kinds of things I expect the next three years will be about.

You invented the position of drug czar. Is the legalization of marijuana something you’ve come around on?

No. Look, I support the President’s policy. I think the idea of focusing significant resources on interdicting or convicting people for smoking marijuana is a waste of our resources. Our policy for our Administration is still not legalization, and that is and continues to be our policy … I spent years when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and chairman of [the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] trying to change drug policy relative to cocaine, for example, crack and powder … And I’m still engaged in those things.

The Congressional Budget Office report that said Obamacare would reduce job growth gave Republicans a lot of fodder.

If you look at [CBO director Douglas] Elmendorf’s testimony, he said, No, it doesn’t cost any jobs … You’ve got a whole baby-boomer generation that were hanging on to jobs, not moving, because either they were tied down because their mortgage was underwater or they couldn’t leave because they had health care. This frees people up. And there is zero evidence that this is costing people jobs now.

Do you intend to campaign against Senator Mitch McConnell?

Will I go into Kentucky? Jerry Lundergan, who is the dad of our candidate [Alison Lundergan Grimes], is a close friend of mine. He was the Biden chairman for my effort to win Kentucky, which we never got to in ’08, so I’m sure I will help his daughter if they ask to raise money. I think it’s a bad idea, and it’s happened too much, but I’ve never done it, for sitting Senators of either party and leaders of either party to campaign personally against the other leader. But I will be campaigning for a lot of Democratic races where there is an incumbent Republican.

This appears in the February 24, 2014 issue of TIME.
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