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Name is Joe Biden. I'm lucky to be Conan O'Brien's friend. And then again, guess it's because I'm Irish.


Yes, you've got the luck of the Irish.




School, hear the yell, back to school.


Ring the bell.


Brand new.


Shoes, walk and lose, climb the.


Fence, books.


And pens. I can tell that we are going to be friends. I can.


Tell that we are.


Going to be friends.


Hey, there. Conan O'Brien here. We have a very special episode today of Conor O'Brien Needs a Friend. I was given the opportunity to fly to Washington, D. C, sit in the White House and have a one-on-one conversation with the 46th President of the United States, President Joe Biden. When I got the call initially, I thought I was being audited. Turns out that is not the case. This is an incredible honor for me. As you know, I'm a history buff. If you've listened to this podcast at all, this was a huge deal for me. I've never been able to interview a sitting president, so it was a throw. At the same time, I'd like to point out I am not a journalist. I am a comedian, former late-night host. But my mission today was the same mission I've had with everyone I've talked to on this podcast in the last five years, which is to connect on a human level with somebody I admire. President Biden has a very busy schedule, so I wasn't able to get to everything I wanted to speak to the President about. But that's what happens when you're sitting with someone who's running the free world while you're wasting his time.


I'm very grateful for this opportunity, and enough said. Let's get to it. Here I am chatting with President Joe Biden. President Biden, welcome. When I do this podcast, I'm always looking for points of commonality. Being Irish is such a part of who I am. There are phrases that have lived on in my family. My mother always called me a bold stump. Conan, you're a bold stump. But I think there's so much of that that's just in who I am, and it's got to be a huge part of who you are.


Being Irish. Well, it really is. But I think it's because, think about it, the Irish, even once they got here and made it, they were still viewed as lesser because they were Catholic. My mother used to say, Remember, Joey, the best drop of blood in you is Irish. Remember, you're a Biden. I'm thinking, Who the hell is a Biden? You know what I'm saying? Yeah. And that's not Irish. Right. Biden is not Irish. Right. It's all about principle and pride.


Yes. It was instilled in us by my mother that we are proper Irish. We are lace, curtain Irish. Now, my mother's father had been a policeman, Worcester, Massachusetts, directed traffic, made, I think, $55 a week. But my mother was able to go to Vassar College and then Yale Law School. So it was all about moving upward in our world. And it was very important for our mother that we were proper. Then I get into this business where I professionally make a fool of myself. She had to figure that out. But it's a lot about pride.


It's expected, you think. I mean, look, for years before ancestors came, mine came in 1848. My mom is 100% Irish. My dad is a quarter Irish. But they got in those coffin ships in the 1850s, and they came leaving a sense of being always ridiculed and looked down on. There was an enormous pride in our literature. Whether you were a farmer or a poet, there was always this just something about, Look, we know who we are. We know who we are. My mother said, Joey, never bow, never bend, never yield, never.


She sounds tough.


My mother was five foot one.




Foot one? Five foot one, almost five foot two. She was everybody's mother confessor. I show a picture of my mom. You got to come over the Oval after this is over if.


You have a minute. It's funny, you're offering that and your staff is all saying no, absolutely not. Because you know what? They've looked into my record.


They looked into mine too, so we're okay. But there's a picture of my mom by my desk, and my mom is holding Barak's hand on the night we get announced out in Chicago, a million people, etc. And my mother was everybody's mother confessor. Everybody would go to my mom for advice or they had trouble. And so my mom, she was hearing somebody's confession, figuratively speaking, she'd sit so you could see her profile when you come in the door and she'd go like this, keep moving.


Keep moving.


Keep moving. I called her and I said, President has asked me to be considered me a Vice President. I don't want to do that. I said, Brock, I don't want to be Vice President. Finally, he said, Well, damn, it's only you.


There are no other choices.


No, that's what he said to me. He said, Go home and talk it over with your family. I was on the train. It was when he became a de facto nominee in August. I go home, sit everybody down. Everybody wants me to do it. I didn't want to do it. I looked at my mom, who was living with them because my dad had passed. She said, Joey, remember I called you and I asked you about what guy he was? You said he was honest and smart. He said, Yeah, let me get to straight, honey. The first black man has the chance to be president. He says, You need you? You told him no. I said, Whoa. Anyway, there's a picture of my mom when she wasn't even supposed to be out with a million people out in Chicago when we got announced and we walked down, she walks off the stage and there's a picture of her grabbing Roxanne. She says, Come on, honey, it's going to be okay.


She walks out. That's fantastic. That was my mom. It doesn't matter what you achieve in this life. I mean, this is a big moment for me. I'm a huge history buff. I am an amateur presidential historian, and I've interviewed presidents in my day, but never a sitting US President. I want to get it on the record that this is a huge honor for me. It's a big deal. But I love that whoever you're talking to, and one of the reasons that I love doing this podcast so much, so much of us are the same, 92 years old. My mother tells me to do something, I'll do it to this day. She may not like the way I do it, but no matter what I've achieved in this life, it's fascinating to me that you were waffling on the vice presidency and your mother said you're doing it.


Yeah, well, she said, This guy says he wants your help, and you told him no? Yeah. But my mother and my father, my father was a really honorable guy. His phrase was, You're a man of your word. Without your word, you're not a man. Remember that. That was my dad. Everything with him was about the notion of just being honorable and straight. Never lectured it. Just did it.


It's funny how we keep these people with us. I have on my desk, I did a performance at the Kennedy Museum, Kennedy Library, I'm sorry, in Massachusetts. And my parents were in the audience and someone snapped a picture of the both of them laughing. They sent it to me and I have that on my desk because I think that's the only reason I do what I do. It really did start when I was a kid in the 60s in a high chair making them laugh. That was my first audience, and those are the people I'm trying to impress. And I'm still trying to impress them.


Well, it's interesting. How many kids in the family?


There's six.


Of us. When my dad died, everybody thought that I should be the one to do the eulogy. We all sat and wrote it to four kids. What stunned me was my dad was a man who came up in the 30s in high school and was, you didn't tell your daughter how much you loved her and always hugging her.


You just-Yeah, it's generational. It didn't happen.


But so what amazed me is a different relationship he had with each one of us. My sister Valerie, he loved her and adored her, thought she was beautiful, and she is. But he never say it. He didn't say it out loud. So when we're writing the eulogy together, all of us, my brother, Jimmy, who was more like my dad than any of us, he said, Well, talk about the time dad took me flying as a pilot. Took you flying? Yeah. But he said, Now don't tell anybody. He went down to Newcastle County Airport, ran an airplane. None of us ever knew it. Right.


You all saw different versions of it.


Yeah. I mean, it really wasn't my dad. He didn't preach it. He just did it. It was about integrity. You had to be honest.


I have a topic I wanted to bring up with you, which is near and dear to my heart because it's been the root of this podcast I've been doing for about five years. I get to talk to a lot of, quote, important people, people that have achieved amazing things. And what I try to get them to talk about, which is the things that they thought of as maybe a disability or a problem when they were younger that helped fuel them, that when they were younger, they desperately wished it would go away. They thought of it as a weakness. But when they look at the span of their life now, they see that that actually helped forge them. And I know you've talked about this, but when you were growing up, stuttered, and it must have been the fuel in some ways to have pushed you forward.


Well, when I was a kid-You've.


Got this problem licked, by.


The way. For me, I was really lucky. I had a mother and a father that my mother would say, Don't let this define you. Look at me, Joey. You're handsome, you're smart, you're a decent young man. Don't let this define you. Taught me how to fight. It used to be a joke, and when I was growing up in grade school and high school that you could beat up Biden, but he'd hurt you're going down. The point was that it made me realize in our family, this is a God's truth, Conan, four of us were never allowed to make fun of anyone no matter how mean they were to us if they had something they couldn't overcome. Swear to God. If you did, you'd get your rear end kick when you went home. Not a joke. It taught me that there's a lot of people dealing with dilemmas that take away their pride, their dignity. I don't know whether it's a thing that pushed me about, for example, even though I was a stutterer, I ended up being elected to class president thing, but I didn't run for that reason. But there's something about your dignity and your pride.


It doesn't just manifest itself in terms of an impediment. For example, when we were kids, there were a couple of hard times financially for my dad. I remember being invited to… I was talking to this about my sister last night, my best friend. We were going to a coutillion at Mount Pleasant High School, which was rated the best high school in Delaware, in an area that was an affluent area. We lived in not a bad area, but a less affluent area. I was invited to the Cotillion. I went to the Catholic school of St. Lena's in that district. It was just a little different. I remember being invited, and I was anxious to go. My mom, I had an uncle who lived with us at the time. He was five, seven, and my mom couldn't find a white shirt for me. We got one of his shirts and with French cuffs on it. My mother and it fit loosely, but fit. My dad had always to work and my dad had the cufflinks to work, and my dad had the cufflinks. We couldn't find it. I didn't know what to do. My mom goes downstairs over the washing machine in the basement, in the garage level, and gets two nuts and bolts and brings them up and puts them on me.


And I said, No, swear to God, my.


Wife- Today, that's a fashion statement.


And I said, Mom, I can't go if you're going to make fun of me. If anyone makes fun of you, you turn around and say, You don't have a pair? I swear to God, truth on the health of my children. So I go to the punch bowl and this guy, Frank, grabs my sister, Hey, look at Biden. Nutts and bolts. Everybody started to laugh and I said, Frank, you don't have a pair of these? I swear to God. He turned and said, Yeah, I have them. I have them. I have them. Not a joke.


My theory is that if you stay connected to these things that embarrassed you when you were a kid, whatever it was, speech impediment or anxiety or feeling awkward or not being a good athlete. My list goes on and on and on. Having weird hair, having a weird name.


I wish I had your hair. I'd trade right now if you would.


You want this hair? It's a felt crow on the back. If I.


Could do it, I would do it.


I will mail you this wig tomorrow. Do some polling first on how people are going to think about that. But I think what it does is that it gives you empathy. I think empathy comes from a sense. If you've felt that pain, if you see someone else and you sense that maybe they're feeling that pain, you're awakened to it. That's, I think, the superpower that comes from it is.


You have-I'm certain you're right. When I got elected, I was using Senator Kennedy's office over in the Capitol to interview staff. And I got a phone call from my fire department. They put a young woman on the phone and she said, There's been an accident. You got to come home on December 18th. I wasn't sworn in yet. And he said, Your wife is Christmas shop with your kids. My kids were then 13 months old, almost three and almost four. She was just so nervous. She said, They're dead. I was enraged by it. I remember going out of the capital and looking up in the dome. I swear to God, I'm embarrassed about it. But in the... I had cut. I just screamed. I didn't know when my boys were alive. They were badly injured, skull fracture, and bowed every bone, was body broken. Firstly, he was in a body cast, arms, legs, throat. Anyway. What I learned, though, is that after that, when I'd show up at a friend's viewing or family viewing, and they'd stop everything. The family would stop, even if they didn't know, they'd come to me, just come to me. I realized what they're really saying is he lost what we lost and he made it.


He's still walking. People have.


To know- That you can persevere.


Yeah. And if you made it through, they think, Well, maybe I can't. Maybe I will. I spend a lot of time with families that are going through tough times because it gives them some solace. Look, I want to be clear, I was really lucky. I had enormous help. By the time I came home, my sister and husband had given up their apartment and already moved in to help me raise the kids. My brother did. We have an expression in our family for real. If you have to ask, it's too late. If you have to ask, it's too late. Never had to ask. Think of the people gone through the stuff that we're talking about. They're heroes. They get up every day, put one foot in front of the other, and do it by themselves. I had an enormous advantage dealing with my things I went through.


I try to impart that to my kids that whatever you're going through, even if you're miserable right now, it's going to yield something later on. Of course, what you're describing is the worst thing anybody can describe. And what they're going through usually is something extremely minor. The scale of it, it's the same principle, which is -Absolutely.


The scale varies, but then the help needed.


You clearly have a strong moral compass. You do things that you think are right. You take positions sometimes that you think are right that maybe aren't always immediately popular or popular with everyone. But that's part of the job.


Well, it is part of the job, I think, but it's also part of how we were raised. I was the kid, Barack. We'd sit down every morning at nine o'clock together for the first 10 minutes to half hour. I used to say to him, All politics is personal. Yeah. That's what I say to him all the time. We used to know one another better. Things have changed so much in public life that it was like an old bad joke with some of my best friends and Republicans. But there were senators who were my friends, I mean, close friends. When I ran the first time, I'm 29 years old. I'm running against a man who fought in World War II, who was a judge, who became a lieutenant governor, then a senator for three terms. A really fine man named Caleb Box. He helped write the Clean Water Act. And the last debate ever happened. He stood up and he was asked a question and he didn't know the answer. And he said, Well, I'd have to get back to you. I knew the answer, but my dad would have been angry with me if I gave the answer because it would have.


Embarrassed him. You would have shamed him. Yes. But you can't do that. You can't do that. No.




This might be an Irish trait or it just might be a trait that we both share, but it is hanging on to old cars. My father would drive a car until it had 300,000 miles on it, and the paint would fall off. And then he once hired a house painter to repaint the car because it was cheaper. And this car looked like it had cystic acne. It was a bad, terrible. And he just kept it going. But it was a point of pride. You keep a car going. My first car was a 1992 Ford Taurus. I still have it. It's not worth anything, but I still hang on to it because in my lineage, you hang on to a car forever. You have a 67 Corvette.


Corvette. Goodwood Green 327, 350, can flat-shift, and can move.


Now, do they let you drive it?


Not anymore. But no, seriously.


I think I saw a tear in your.


Eye right there. By the way, they take me out to the Secret Service Test Track, which is an old runway. I've got my Corvette up to 132 miles an hour. It's only 327. The reason I had the Corvette, 1967, when I was marrying my deceased wife who came from her dad, was a Navy guy, owned some restaurant. Wonderful, wonderful man, but they're of greater means than we were. And… My dad, he wanted to give us a wedding gift and he couldn't afford anything of consequence. He said, Joey, give me your car. Then I had a '62 Chevy Belair, and she had a Pontiac Tempest, a '64, I guess it was. I'm not sure they're here. And he said, I'll fix them all up and that'll be my gift to you guys. You can come pick them up. She was down in Delaware 10 days before the wedding before she went home. We went to pick up the car at the dealership. He was a manager of the dealership. Anyway, we pull up and everybody, from the mechanics to the salesperson, everybody's outside and waiting for us. We get out of the car, walk up and dad said, I'm going to give you your wedding gift early, guys.


Everybody's separated. It's a brand new '67 Goodwood Green Chevy Corvette hardtop. He was so proud because he could afford the payments. I'm talking with Jay Lenno, going out the second time to race this car. He said, You want to sell your car? I said, He's probably listening. I hope I get it right there.


He's not listening to this. Don't worry about it.


He may learn something.


Yeah, he should. He should learn.


But anyway, I noticed you have in a glove box, you have the original sticker. I said, Yeah, I didn't realize I have all that. And he said, You want to sell it? I said, I don't think so. My son would come down from heaven because they rebuilt the engine, all original parts. And he said, You get $144,000 for it. And I said, No, I can't do it.




For 36 years, I was also the poorest guy in Congress, but I couldn't separate with that car. By the way, the new Corvette coming out, this one, electric, zero to 62.9 seconds.


Are you going to drive that one?


I'm going to give it a shot. I drove.


The other one. I can just track the secret service. You can make a run for.


The car. By the way, I drove one of those big Ford Broncos, electric, 4.9 seconds. Oh, it's unbelievable. Mine is 5.2, and that's flat shifting. But all kidding aside, I just love car. I don't know a damn thing about the engines. I don't know anything about it. I just know how to drive them, and.


I love it. I just know there's a big wheel in the front and I put on the gas and I move forward. That's all I know.


I know nothing else. By the way, you know the new ones? They have a launch switch. I got a portion up to 171 miles an hour. And what you do is you put your foot on the gas and the brake and on the button where the gear shift is, you hit launch and you watch the launch symbol inside the speedometer and it counts down. And when it gets down to zero, you just take your foot off the brake and you move. It is like, boom, it is incredible.


When you talk about cars, it's the most excited.




Brought up something that I've been thinking about. You have more experience than most people in public life. You came to Washington, 1973, and you've worked pretty much or you've known every President since Richard Nixon, and you've known every world leader since Golden Myer. You've met so many of these different people. Who pops for you after all this time? Are there people that come to mind where you think, Now that person really stands out as an incredible leader?


Well, there are a number of people who fit that role. I remember I spent a lot of time in her first term in Golda Meir in Israel. I had great working relationships with, I didn't agree, but with the Bush family. They were both decent, truly knowledgeable men. I think one of the smartest guys I ever worked with and knowledgeable, but also Fassel, was Bill Clinton. Look at Barack Obama. He has a backbone like a ramrod. The guy that I recently saw was a guy who was just really totally decent and he was as good a former president as the president. And that was Jimmy Carter.




Yeah. Yeah. I went down to his wife's funeral and saw him. He was in tough shape. And as I went over to give him a kiss and all he said was, I love you.




And the Republicans I became close friends with was like Chuck Hagle, man. I mean, there's a guy talk about courage, decent, honorable guy.


You were good friends with John McCain.


Real close.


I never voted for John McCain, but I respected him and I admired him. And I didn't vote for Mitch Romney.


I admire him too. He's an honorable man.


I respect him and I think he's an honorable man. And I think those are both men that have a strong moral compass. And so it begs the question, we're living in this time now where having those relationships, you think about Ronald Reagan working with Tip O'Neal. You were there for that. You saw that. That used to be how it worked. I don't know. Do you think we can get back to that?


Well, it's interesting. I guess it was my sixth year as vice president, toward the end of the vice president. You recall, my responsibilities would deal with the House and the Senate Congress. I realized there were new senators that I didn't know that well like I knew most of them. I went over to the private Senate dining room to meet the new ones. It's gone. Right after I got elected, I didn't want to be here because my wife and daughter killed. Anyway, a group of five senators came to me and saved my sanity, starting with Mike mansfield, Teddy Kennedy, a guy from South Carolina, Fritz Hollings, anyway, Eagleton, others to convince me just stay six months so we can help us organize. Well, we've already had 58 Democratic senators. I'd elected Democratic governors, so we would have been a Democrat. But I stayed, and I used to spend a lot of time trying to avoid being with people. Finally, one day, Teddy came in and said, You're going to lunch with me. Just come and sit and listen. I'd go over and sit down and you get to know people. Then you travel when we travel together.


It's hard to really feel the vitriol for a man if you learn his wife has breast cancer or if he has a child with an alcohol problem or if he has... I mean, it humanizes people and you get to know people.


It's what Michelle Obama, I think, says you can't... It's hard to hate up close.


Well, that's a.


Great line. And I think I can tell, and this relates a little bit to earlier when we were talking about this Irish quality, but I know that I like to be in a room with people. When COVID was happening and I was talking to people on Zoom, I felt like I wasn't quite coming across the way that I wanted to. I like to be in a room with people and let them take the measure of me and I take the measure of them. And I get the feeling that what really helped us in a bipartisan era, the Washington you came to, is that people were in physical proximity. They were. The dining room that you were in.




Doesn't happen anymore.


And so it's a lot easier to hate when you don't know. And so, as I said, I went over and found out there was nothing there, nobody to talk to. By the way, John McCain became one of we were like brothers. He asked me to do a.


Eulogy on his dying. He asked you to do the eulogy in his general.


But interesting thing, he had been released as a prisoner of war, came back to the Senate to be part of the military cadre that sits down in the Senate to travel with senators when they go abroad. John ended up traveling with me well over 300,000 miles, and we became friends. As a matter of fact, I introduced him to his wife. We were going to Japan, and we stopped in Hawaii. The Admiral's daughter was this beautiful woman who now works with me. He talked about it. I said, Go up and meet her. He wouldn't do it. I went up and I introduced them. They ended up getting married. We were friends.


Have you done a lot of matchmaking in your life?


No, but John would have done it for me. Yeah, he did not for you. In other words, he wanted to, but he didn't want to be. He was still in the military. We were in a military base. And I'm one of the ones that talked to him into running for office. I knew he wasn't going to run as a Democrat. And he ended up running. And we would argue like hell. I mean, Hammer and Tong, like two brothers. But then that was it.


That's a good way to put it because I have that relationship with one of my brothers in particular, my brother, Neil. We're very close. We love each other. We argue. We just really go at it. And then we put that aside and we have these great conversations and laugh. And I say, Okay, I'll talk to you tomorrow. And he says, All right, we'll see you tomorrow. Love you. That's the conversation. But there's a safety. There feels like there's a safety in these relationships. Maybe that's what we're getting away from a little bit is I don't know if it's social media. I don't know if the politics has changed so drastically.


I think it's transparent. I think it's beyond social media. I think it's the media generally. I'm not blaming the media, but things have changed. I mean, who are the editors anymore? I don't have to have someone saying, No, you can't print that in this paper because that's not accurate. There's no editors anymore. But we have to get back to knowing one another, just knowing each other. When you know someone and you know their personal problems, not that they have to open up to you and everything, but you just become acquainted with them. A lot of it has to do with a sense of decency. You have to get to know the other person.


Is it frustrating for you? Because I do see the way you, and again, I think this is something I like to do, too. I like to shake a person's hand. I like to be in the space with them. Now you're the most powerful person in the world. You're in the White House, and it's harder to just get your hands, shake hands with someone, look them in.


The eye. The Secret Services here, I drive them crazy because I want to have tactile contact. I want to look somebody. You can tell in our eyes what they're thinking about you, what you're thinking about them. For example, I met yesterday with all have hostages still held by Hamas. It's personal. I don't know. And by the way, the Secret Service, God love they put up with me in terms of I make their job harder. I know I try not to, but my instinct is I see a crowd in the side of the road to get out and say hi.


Talk to them. I understand that. I have the same issue and I have no secret service. I want secret service. I probably need it. A lot of people have different opinions about me, but I desperately love to dive into a crowd and start talking to them. And often I've had the experience where someone will stop me on the street and ask for a selfie and I'll be chatting with them. And then 15 minutes later, they say, Conan, I have to go. I need to go now. Okay? And I say, You're sure, because I'll do another 10 minutes.


I've had that experience.


Yeah, they say, Mr. President, we just wanted a selfie, but we really don't want to hear that story.


I've become an expert of taking it. It's easier for me to take the selfies. But look, I think it's important people know and are able to get a sense of who their leaders are, not just what they say, but who they are. It's one of the things about the presidency that's amazing to me, understandably, how people, if they know your background and know you, what you've done, there's more of a connection. For example, people were surprised that I wanted to go into Kyiv in the middle when the attack was taking place.


I was going to ask you about that because I believe I was trying to find a precedent, but you've gone to two active war zones, and that is highly unusual. And I don't know how, first of all, was the first lady okay with that? When you said, I'm.


Going to go into-Yes, she was. She is a tough lady, and she knew... I wanted to demonstrate that, first of all, I wanted to see for myself what was happening. The Secret Service, God love them. The last thing they want to do is put on a train, 10-hour train ride. When we got off the train and I met with Zalinsky, we really do have a moral obligation to help these people. Then the ride back was similar, but I didn't view it. I got coverage of this. Only thing I did was say, Well, he was not 300 years old. How could he do 20 hours back and forth? But for me to see, I was showing the staff today, we're talking, getting ready to come over here. I have a photograph of when Chuck Hagle and John Carey were with me. It was in the first month after became President. The President, Obama said, Joe, I want you to go and make your own assessment of what's going on in Afghanistan. We traveled the entire country in a helicopter. We're going back. John Carey wanted to see where Osama bin Laden had escaped through the Kornar Valley of the mountains.


A helicopter was forced down in a snowstorm and they found a place to land, which was incredible. There's a picture of us all standing behind the helicopter to stay warm. I think it was something like 18 below zero. It was only 17 clicks from Bagram Air Force Base. I'm looking at that and thinking to myself, the guys I was with, the CENTCOM commander, the pilots, John Kerry, Chuck Hagle, because well, we wanted to see for ourselves what.


Was real. If you're in a briefing room and someone's giving you papers or they're showing you photographs, it's really not the same. You've got to go there.


You've got to-No, it's not the same, and it depends on who's talking to you. And by the way, it's really tough, I think, for a briefer to come in and sit down with President of the United States and tell them this, that, and the other thing. The people that I've... A matter of fact, I'm going to be seeing Chuck Hagle after this program. He's going to come over to the office. We're still friends. He's a Republican. I wanted.


To read you a quote. It's a quote that I love. It's by Vladimir Lenin. I don't think he gets quoted a lot here at the White House, but I'm going to go for it. There are decades where nothing happens and weeks where everything happens. You are living through an extraordinary time as President. It feels like the world is turning on its axis every 36 hours. Are there times when you wake up in the morning and think, I wish it was a little bit duller right now. I wish things would just settle down?


Well, yes and no. Look, yes, when I had that cranial aneurysm, the doctor was trying to explain to me whether it was congenital or environmental. I said, Doc, I don't care. Just fix it.


This is back in, is this '88? This is '88.


He looked at me said, You know what your problem is, Senator? I said, No, Doug. He said, You're a congenital optimist. Well, seriously, I was this quote, Here's the deal, though. One of the things that I've never been more optimistic about America's chances in my whole life, I wasn't going to run again because I just lost my son. He should be sitting and beating into not me. He was the attorney general, bronze star winner, major in the US. Anyway. One of the things that comes through to me is that for all the difficulty, when I wasn't going to run because I was going to write a book on inflection point in American history, I think we're at one of those points that every seven or eight generations occurs. Not because of any one leader, but the world is changing. Everything's in motion. And what we do in the last couple of years, in the next three or four years, is going to determine the course of the country and the world for the next five or six decades. I believe that with every fiber of my being. If we prevent Ukraine from collapsing, I've worked like hell, not just me, to hold NATO together tightly.


It's never been this tight, expand it. We have an opportunity to change the dynamic in Europe for generations. My mother, God, Lover, I remember going to identify my family. He actually said, Joey, I have everything terrible. Something good will happen if you look hard enough for it. I thought was the cruelest thing she ever said to me. But look what's going on in the Middle East now. I was able to get a resolution passed through the G20, the leaders of the 20 largest nations to build a railroad from Riyad all the way through into Saudi Arabia, Jordan, up through Israel, all the way into Europe because there's much more reason for them to be together than to be apart.


I'm not a journalist, so I'm allowed to give my opinion. And as again, amateur historian, I think it's absolutely crucial that Ukraine prevail, and it's something that I'm very passionate about. I get confused. As you know, the Washington you came to in the 1973, Republicans were always tough on foreign policy, tough on Russia. And now, mag Republicans, they've flipped the script. And they're saying, Well, we can let Ukraine go. It's not really in our interest. And I don't understand it. It's confusing to me.


You can also say the other guy says, We can work with Putin. He's smart.


Yeah. The other guy. I like that he's the other guy. He's like Baltimore now. His name shall not be mentioned.


Well, good point. I plead guilty. But look, I mean, just if nothing but global warming. It's changing the world. Ice caps are melting. That's true. But guess what brings all that along with? Now you got China and Russia and the North Pole trying to circumvent the globe, change the dynamic in the region. I mean, the things that are happening, for example, the idea that we're having to rebuild infrastructure, but some countries don't have the capacity to do it. I've been met now twice. I've had the leaders of the Pacific nations come and be with me here because they're worried about going underwater and not breaking it. Just go down the list. But I think maybe because I'm that congenital optimist, when I told my staff a couple of years ago, I was going to bring South Korea and Japan together, they looked at me like, Now, look, I know a fair amount about foreign policy. I have more experience than any presence ever had. It doesn't mean I'm good or bad. I know these heads of state. It's a small world. It's getting smaller and smaller. For example, China. China is a competitor, but I have a relationship with Xi, and I've spent more time with them than any world leader ever has.


Just because when I was Vice President, Barack wanted me to get to know him because it wasn't appropriate for a president to spend time with him, but we knew he was going to be the president. He's a very tough, smart guy, but he's got enormous problems. For example, when I put together the quad, India, Japan, Australia, the United States, he said, You're trying to surround me. I'm not trying to surround you. I said, We're just not going to let you change the dynamic of world rules. So whether it's international airspace or whether it's sea space. I said, Well, I didn't write them. I said, Well, that's what they are. We're not going to change them. So many parts are moving that there's an opportunity to realign the world in a way that is less likely to result in war, less likely to result in human suffering. Now, I know people look at me and say, Well, you're just too optimistic. There's ways to step up and lead. And look, one of the things is, again, I want to make it clear, it's not because Joe Biden's president, it's the moment. Madeline Albright said, America is the essential nation.


Conan, that's not a joke. Who leads the world if United States doesn't? Who? Who? No one else can. And we have an obligation and enormous opportunity to leave our kids and our grandkids a better world.


I like that you describe yourself as an optimist, congenital optimist. I always tell people I'm a 52 % optimist. There's a good, healthy dose of me that is very worried and very concerned, but I always lean towards optimism. It's the more challenging standpoint to take.


Well, don't get me wrong, I have written about and I think I know pretty intimately, downside. But look, we got to remember we're the United States of America for God's sake. Nothing is beyond our capacity when we work together. I mean, really isn't. Think if we're the only nation that has come out of every crisis stronger than we would end.


I did want to end on... I've been doing this for a long time, and so it was a big honor when I got the call that the President of the United States was going to speak to me in the White House.


In the White House, come on. John. It's my honor. Come on.


And it's an honor, and I'm rooting for you. And as the Irish say, God bless you. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to do this.


Oh, come on. Do you guys have a chance to come over and see the Oval? I'd love to see the Oval. Come on, let's go do it.


All right, let's do it.


Thank you. -thank you.


Conan O'Brien Needs a friend. With Conan O'Brien, Sonem of Cessian and Matt Gordley. Produced by me, Matt Gordley. Executive produced by Adam Sachs, nick Leow, and Jeff Ross at Team Coco, and Colin Anderson and Cody Fisher at Ear Wolf. Themed song by The White Stripes. Incidental music by Jimmy Vivino. Take it away, Jimmy. Our supervising producer is Aaron Blaire, and our Associate Talent producer is Jennifer Samples. Engineering and mixing by Eduardo Perez and Brendan Burns. Additional production support by Mars Mellnik. Talent booking by Paula Davis, Gina Bautista, and Brick Khan. You can rate and review this show on Apple Podcasts, and you might find your review read on a future episode. Got a question for Conan? Call the Team Cocoa Hotline at 669-587-2847 and leave a message. It, too, could be featured on a future episode. If you haven't already, please subscribe to Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend wherever Fine podcasts are downloaded.