Democrat Offers Rationale For Biden Pick

Before Barack Obama picked Joe Biden as his running mate, there was intense speculation who the vice presidential candidate would be. Eric Holder, co-chair of the committee that selected Biden, says the Delaware senator was always on Obama's list.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And we're going to leave Michele on the convention floor there and go back in time a bit. Earlier today, Michele spoke with Washington D.C. lawyer Eric Holder. He was co-chair of Obama's vice-presidential selection committee. Holder said that 26 candidates were considered and the final group of six or seven was vetted by a team, including lawyers and accountant and a doctor.

In the end, the committee decided that Joseph Biden brought the whole package of experience, policy beliefs and ability. Here's Michele's interview with Eric Holder.

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Joe Biden's name was always, you know, within the possibilities when people talked about the short list that the Obama campaign might be looking at, but it was widely assumed that he was perhaps at the back of the pack.

Was his role in the situation in Georgia a game-changer, his decision to get on a plane and go and get on the ground and take a look at the situation there?

ERIC HOLDER: No, it really wasn't, and that was actually, I think, one of the surprises that we had, at least that I had. At one of our first meetings in Chicago, Senator Obama discussed people who he thought were going to be finalists and potentially the vice president.

Senator Biden was among those people. There was a chemistry between them. He said he liked Joe Biden and liked the interaction they'd had on the campaign trail. And so, he was always among that relatively small group of people throughout the process, and the Georgia trip really wasn't a factor.

NORRIS: Joe Biden, Senator Biden, does have obvious vulnerabilities though. His penchant to speak sometimes without filters. There are charges of plagiarism that go back several years. There are women who still are - have a lingering anger at Senator Biden over his handling of the Anita Hill hearings. How is the campaign prepared to deal with these issues? Because the Republicans will go after him on this.

HOLDER: Right, and these are all issues that we talked about with people in Congress and with the various constituent groups. Women, for instance, talked about, you know, you have to look at the totality of Joe Biden's experience and talked about, you know, his role in passing the Violence Against Women Act.

His ability to speak and speak directly, sometimes using maybe more words than people would like, is in some - in many ways, we think a strength. We think that's something that will connect him to the American people. This is a guy who comes from Scranton, from modest roots.

NORRIS: No worries, though, that he'll go off-script?

HOLDER: No, I think that one of the things you also have to understand is that you look at the way in which he conducted his presidential campaign this time, there was a degree of discipline that you saw there in the way in which he answered questions. I mean, that famous line that he had in describing, you know, Rudy Giuliani, coming up with sentences - a noun, a verb and 9/11.

Brian Williams asked him about his ability to restrict his verbal output, and he simply said yes, you know? But I want to make clear that we don't want to restrict him. We want Joe Biden to be Joe Biden. The ability to connect with working-class people will only come if we let him be himself, and so we're not worried about that.

NORRIS: Now, I've talked with voters, even people who are Democratic voters, even people who are very happy about the choice, but they scratch their heads a bit and they say but this campaign is all about change. Joe Biden doesn't necessarily reflect change. This is someone who's been in the Senate for decades.

HOLDER: Yeah, been in the senate for decades, but not necessary a Washington. This is a guy who, as a result of a very, you know, unfortunate and compelling, you know, accident that took his wife and his young daughter away from him, has gone home every night. You know, every night that he's in D.C., he gets on the Amtrak Acela or the other one, the Metroliner, and goes home and sleeps in his bed in Delaware.

But he's also seen as a person who has the ability to reach across the aisle. He's one of those few senators, I think, though he is a senior senator, who is seen as somebody who can move things in D.C. So I think he'll be fine in that regard.

NORRIS: He can be tough. He knows how to throw an elbow when he has to. Is that part of his role, and will we see that this evening?

HOLDER: No question about that. He has known John McCain probably longer than anybody in this campaign, and I think that he'll talk about why he thinks John McCain would not make a good president, why Senator Obama would be a much better president.

You know, he's not a person who's shy and retiring. He knows how to throw elbows, as you said, and I bet we'll see, you know, some of that tonight and throughout the campaign.

NORRIS: Eric Holder, thank you very much for speaking with us.

HOLDER: Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: Eric Holder co-chaired the vice-presidential selection committee. He was speaking with our co-host, Michele Norris.

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Has Biden Gone From Snarling To Darling?

Sen. Joseph Biden — who will stand before the nation Wednesday evening as the Democrats' vice presidential nominee — can come across as long-winded, self-satisfied and sharp-elbowed.

But can a man who commutes home to Delaware by train every night, introduces the Violence Against Women Act and cries in front of his state's delegation at the Democratic convention in Denver really be all that bad?

In the months before November, by virtue of politics American-style, the country will get to know the Inner Joe Biden.

One of the biggest raps against Biden is that he talks too much, so much that he occasionally sticks his foot in his mouth. For example, he said during the primaries that Barack Obama is "articulate" and "clean." At another point, Biden expressed hesitancy about Obama's readiness to serve as president. The McCain campaign has made hay with that gaffe.

When Biden's name was announced, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement: "In Joe Biden, Barack Obama has ... found a running mate who doesn't believe he's ready to be president."

'He Says What He Thinks'

Biden loyalist John Daniello of Wilmington, Del., sizes up the senator's loquaciousness another way. "We don't look at it that he talks too much," Daniello says. "We like it that he says what he thinks."

Daniello, 75, is chairman of the state Democratic Party and the state's delegation at the convention. He is also a superdelegate who has known Biden for nearly 40 years. "From Delaware's perspective," Daniello says in the hallway of the Pepsi Center, Biden's straightforward ways and caring manner "are why he has stayed a six-term senator."

In Denver Tuesday, Biden reminded his state delegation that he has lived most of his adult life in the public eye. He choked up when he thanked the group for giving him the opportunity to serve, and he said his nomination to the national ticket paled in comparison with the honor of representing Delaware.

"My private life has been lived in a public arena," he said, "in clear public view."

Biden was just 29 when he won his first senatorial victory in 1972. A few weeks after his election, his wife, Neilia, and their 18-month-old daughter, Naomi, were killed in a car accident as they drove home with a Christmas tree. The couple's young sons, Beau and Hunter, sustained serious injuries.

A New Senator Adjusts

The state of Delaware mourned the young Biden's loss, and it watched him adjust to life as a first-term senator and a single father.

Joan DelFattore, a professor of English and legal studies at the University of Delaware, tells this story: "An ultraconservative colleague of mine stopped himself in the middle of a tear about Biden's liberalism and said, 'But I have to admit, he took care of his kids' — a reference to the senator's coming home every night to parent his two young sons after the car accident."

DelFattore, who is not a Democratic delegate, says, "Of course some folks criticize Sen. Biden, some more bitterly than others. After more than 30 years in public life, that's a given." But, she adds, "No one I know doubts that his family values are deep and sincere."

Initially after the tragedy in 1972, Biden was reluctant to take office. Veterans of the Senate persuaded him to go to Washington, D.C., anyway. He took the oath of office in his son's hospital room.

Biden remarried in 1977. He and his wife, Jill, have a daughter, Ashley. Beau Biden, the senator's elder son, is the state's attorney general.

Biden faced his own mortality in 1988, when he had two brain aneurysms. He was out of the Senate for seven months.

While a member of the Judiciary Committee, Biden authored the Violence against Women Act of 2000, which is seen as a major weapon against domestic violence and gender-based crimes.

Inevitably, national campaigns work hard at humanizing their candidates. Sometimes it's a harder task than other times. Biden's journey has just begun.

"People don't doubt his fundamental decency," says DelFattore. "The idea seems to be that Delaware is just too small to allow anyone to get away with very much for very long."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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