Biden Misinterpreted; Leads To Unnecessary Panic Among Dems

The headline over Harry Thermal's column is definitive: "VP Biden: Beau doesn't want to run" Thermal, a veteran Delaware reporter, had just spoken to the Vice President via telephone and relates this exchange as follows:

Our conversation ended with a surprising request from the vice president as he hurried off to a national security meeting. Spontaneously, he turned to the possible Delaware senatorial campaign of his son Beau.

Biden: "If you run into Beau, talk him into running; he respects you."

Me: "I don't think he wants to run, though."

Biden: "I don't think he does either. I know he doesn't want to. ... I'm so proud of the job he's done [as attorney general]."

Me: "Would you campaign for him [against Republican Mike Castle]?"

Biden: "Hell, yes. I told him I'd give him my sixth-born grandchild."

I doubt Beau Biden "respects" me, but it was quite startling to hear the vice president confirm what many Democrats fear -- that Beau does not want to be the candidate.

Panic among Democrats set in quickly because Beau Biden's decision whether to run for Senate will be interpreted as a signal of whether the White House thinks that the tough political environment can be overcome by stellar candidates.  But a transcript provided by the VP's office makes it clear that Biden was talking about current senator Ted Kauffman.

VP to Harry Themal:  Always a pleasure of seeing you buddy.  Talk Ted into running, if Beau doesn't.   Talk him into running - he respects you.  I wish I had the power of appointing Senators.  I'd appoint him from Maryland if he wouldn't do Delaware. 

Harry Themal: "I don't think he wants to run, though."

VP:  No I don't think he does either. I know he doesn't.  I'm so proud of the job he's done.  God. 

Harry: Would you campaign for him?

VP:  Oh hell yeah, man.  I tell you what - I was joking if Beau didn't run - I told him I'd give him my 6th-born grandchild. And you know, he said 'I have enough of those.' Alright, buddy, thanks.  (Call ends).

Note that Biden says he told Kauffman that "if Beau didn't run" he'd give Kauffman his 6th born grandchild. If Biden had been referring to his son, he would be telling his son that he would give his son his own son. Makes no sense. Clearly, Beau Biden hasn't decided to run yet. But the VP isn't tipping his hand in this interview.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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