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Biden chose VP over State Dept., wife says

Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Joe Biden appeared on the ''Oprah Winfrey Show'' yesterday from Washington. Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Joe Biden appeared on the ''Oprah Winfrey Show'' yesterday from Washington. (Associated Press via George Burns/ HARPO productions inc.)
January 20, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Vice President-elect Joe Biden's wife said yesterday that he was given the pick of vice president or secretary of state, a slip that Biden immediately tried to shush and that his spokeswoman later disputed.

Biden took the former, and President-elect Barack Obama later selected another former rival, Hillary Clinton, for the nation's chief diplomat.

"Joe had the choice to be secretary of state or vice president," Jill Biden said during a surprise appearance with the vice president-elect on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on the eve of Obama's inauguration. Her husband blushed bright red, grimaced, laughed, and said a loud "shhhh" that sent the audience into laughter. "OK, he did," Jill Biden said.

The vice president-elect did not deny his wife's statement, but Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander did three hours later in a statement e-mailed to reporters immediately after the exchange aired on television.

"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," Alexander said in the statement. "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."

On the show, Biden said he only accepted Obama's offer to be his running mate after talking it over with Jilly, his nickname for his wife. Jill Biden said she told him that vice president would be better for the family.

"If you're secretary of state, you'll be away; we'll never see you, you know," she said. "I'll see you at a state dinner once and awhile. 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 go to events, they can be with us all the time. And that's what's important to us."

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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