Jill Biden Tells Oprah Her Hubbie Offered Choice of VP or Secy of State

Jan 19, 2009 2:29pm

During the taping of the Oprah Winfrey show today, Dr. Jill Biden said that her husband, the vice president-elect, was given a choice of being either vice president or secretary of State.

This revelation came after Vice President-elect Joe Biden told Oprah that after then-Sen. Obama offered the job of VP he asked for some time to think about it and talk it over with his family.

Mrs. Biden interjected: "Joe had the choice of being secretary of State or vice president." She then seemed to realize she’d said something she wasn’t supposed to have said.

Her husband laughed.

Said Oprah, trying to continue the conversation, "You said, ‘Joe…?’"

"I said, ‘Joe if you are secretary of State you will be away, I’ll never see you,’" Mrs. Biden said. "We will see you at a state dinner once in a while. But I said if you are vice president, the entire family, because they worked so hard for the election, they can be involved … They can come to our home, they can go to events, they can be with us and that is what is important to us."

Oprah turned to the VP-elect, asking "Were you worried about being number 2 because you wanted to be number one?"

"I think Barack was worried about it," the former senator said with a laugh.

This can’t be the kind of thing that would please Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY.

More to come.

– jpt

UPDATE: ABC News’ Justin Anderson reminds me of this slightly more politic version of the story, from Ryan Lizza’s Oct. 20th New Yorker profile of the loquacious Blue Hen:

"Obama also asked Biden whether he thought that he was more suited to a different position. ‘He said, "You have a great interest in national-security policy, foreign policy,"’ Biden told me. ‘He wasn’t offering me this, but he said, "Would you rather be secretary of State instead of vice president?" And I thought a lot about that.’

"Biden consulted with his closest political advisers, including Ted Kaufman, Mike Donilon, and John Marttila, all of whom have been with him since the early days of his career. ‘They convinced me that I could have more influence on policy as a vice president with Barack,’ Biden said. ‘And so the bottom line of all of this is that I said, "Barack, look, if you’re going to ask me to do this, please don’t ask me for any reason other than that you respect my judgment. If you’re asking me to join you to help govern, and not just help you get elected, then I’m interested. If you’re asking me to help you get elected, I can do that other ways, but I don’t want to be a vice president who is not part of the major decisions you make."’"

UPDATE #2: And ABC News’ Karen Travers points out, this goes against what Obama folks are claiming now, as seen in Sunday’s Washington Post.

"His first — and arguably most startling — major decision was to select Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as his secretary of state, an idea that he had before the election and that he put on the table in his first post-election meeting in Chicago on Nov. 5, several advisers said. Obama never wanted Clinton for any other post and did not seriously consider any other candidates for the top diplomatic job, they said."

UPDATE #3: In a written statement, Elizabeth Alexander, spokesperson for the vice president-elect, writes: "Like anyone who followed the presidential campaign this summer, Dr. Jill Biden knew there was a chance that president-elect Obama might ask her husband to serve in some capacity and that, given his background, the positions of vice president and secretary of State were possibilities. Dr. Biden’s point to Oprah today was that being vice president would be a better fit for their family because they would get to see him more and get to participate in serving more. To be clear, President-elect Obama offered Vice President-elect Biden one job only — to be his running mate. And the Vice President-elect was thrilled to accept the offer."

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