Ruben Navarrette: A prelude to Clinton vs. Biden?

SAN DIEGO – Will he, or won’t he?

According to media reports, Vice President Joe Biden – while still reeling from the recent death of his son Beau – is thinking about making a third run for the presidency.

The 72-year-old Biden has a quality that could be his main selling point to Democrats: trustworthiness.

For Hillary Clinton, there is that dreaded T-word again.

A July survey by Quinnipiac University asked Americans if certain presidential aspirants were honest and trustworthy. For Clinton, 37 percent said “yes” but 57 percent said “no.” For Biden, the figures were nearly reversed with 58 percent saying “yes” and 34 percent saying “no.”

Chappaqua, we have a problem.

The fact that the Democratic front-runner has so much difficulty getting Americans to trust her can be traced to her less-than-forthcoming congressional testimony on Benghazi, the fact that a Canadian charity affiliated with the Clinton Foundation failed to disclose the identities of its 1,100 donors, her misstatement of facts regarding her private email server, her unilateral decision to delete more than 30,000 emails under the flimsy excuse that they dealt with personal and family matters, the fact that she went around a White House directive that she not hire longtime adviser Sidney Blumenthal at the State Department and basically created a shadow agency where Blumenthal suggested foreign policy changes, and recent revelations that some of the emails she opened on the private home server contained sensitive diplomatic or foreign government information.

Personally, I think it’s a sign of just how likely it is that Biden will run and how seriously the Clintonistas take the possibility that hit pieces have, as of late, been mysteriously popping up in liberal media outlets.

The New York Times reports that “some of Mr. Biden’s friends and allies worry that he will decide it is a good idea” to run for president. Supposedly, these Biden pals are worried that his “legacy” could be tarnished by what many would see as an insurgent challenge to Clinton. They also worry that the vice president could threaten President Obama’s own legacy “by injuring Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy and causing his party to lose control of the White House.”

By this reasoning, can we assume that, when Al Gore lost to George W. Bush in 2000 and Democrats relinquished the White House to Republicans, the defeat diminished President Clinton’s legacy? It doesn’t appear so. The Times packed the article with comments from friends who seem to hope to keep Biden in his place – and out of the race.

Why is such a story relevant at a moment like this? If the Times reporters were so resourceful as to be able to find a slew of Biden friends who don’t want him to run, then why couldn’t they have put those skills to use and find another bunch of Biden friends who do want him to run? Where is that article?

And yet, that story was tame compared with how Politico polluted the presidential waters with a recent article that all but called Biden a racist for a vote he cast 40 years ago when, as the junior senator from Delaware, the Democrat “sided with conservatives and sponsored a major anti-busing amendment.” The way the story was framed, Biden was an outspoken critic of integration.

Really, Politico? You went there? This isn’t hardball. It’s sleaze ball.

The way I see it, this story has the Clinton camp’s fingerprints all over it. They tend to go on the attack early, and they can’t resist the catnip of racial politics. Just look at what they tried to do to Obama in 2008, painting him as a radical after the Illinois senator staged a political insurgency of his own.

You can bet that Biden will also be suspicious of the timing of the stories. It might even help push him into the race. Then we can expect return fire at the Clinton camp, and there is plenty of ammunition to work with. And you thought the ugly mud-slinging and backstabbing was going, in the 2016 campaign, to be limited to Republicans? No way. The Democrats could be about to tear each other apart.

With the GOP squabbles, you get the sense that when they attack each other, it’s just business. But with the Democrats, it’s personal.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is