- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2008


When Joe Biden was a junior in high school, he looked through a book listing members of Congress and he knew he wanted to grace its pages one day.

His early ambition earned him a reputation as a young Democratic up-and-comer, taking the Senate oath as a 30-year-old (the youngest permissible age), a shining star among his colleagues remarkably similar to Sen. Barack Obama’s quick rise from state senator to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Now, the senator from Delaware is known as a statesman, and he will be the running mate for Mr. Obama, a man 18 years younger and of whom Mr. Biden once said was “like catching lightning in a jar.”

As a young man, Mr. Biden marveled that the politicians in the congressional book “were from wealthy and well-established families. The ones who got there on their own hook were almost all lawyers.”

“So that set my course,” he wrote in his 2007 autobiography, “Promises to Keep.”

Mr. Biden, 65, detailed in the preface to his book his long experience on the national stage.

“As a United States senator, I’ve watched (and played some small part in) history: the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis, the Bork nomination, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, 9/11, two wars in Iraq, a presidential impeachment, a presidential resignation and a presidential election decided by the Supreme Court.”

On the stump during his own White House bid, Mr. Biden would boast to Iowa voters he had worked with “seven presidents” and helped negotiate the Dayton Accords that sealed the end of the war in Bosnia. He would brag he knows most of foreign leaders by their first names.

When some suggested he might be better suited for a lesser role, he would counter: “Are you ready to vote for anyone for president who is not smarter than their secretary of state?”

Despite his extensive experience, Mr. Biden’s candidacy never gained traction amid the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s run and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid to become the first female president.

One reason may be that he stumbled out of the gate by making comments some viewed as derogatory about Mr. Obama.

Mr. Biden, who entered politics with a passion for civil rights, told the New York Observer, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”

The story exploded and overshadowed the merits of his presidential bid, but the Delaware senator said he’d meant it as a compliment.

“Barack Obama is probably the most exciting candidate that the Democratic or Republican party has produced, at least since I’ve been around,” Mr. Biden said when clarifying, adding Mr. Obama is a “superstar, and that is the only point I was trying to make.”

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