US vice president-elect Joe Biden was all smiles when he paid a courtesy call to the man he will succeed, Vice President Dick Cheney.
But he has insisted he wants to be nothing like him.
Biden has called Cheney “the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history” and said he couldn’t name a single good thing Cheney had done. But even if he won’t acknowledge any similarities, there’s one way that Biden wants to be like Cheney — a strong partner in governing the country.
Biden is proving to be a hands-on No. 2 to president-elect Barack Obama. He is carving out his own niche, specializing in foreign affairs, his area of expertise for decades in the Senate, and sticking close to Obama.
Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former first lady who pushed Obama hard for the Democratic presidential nomination, emerged as a candidate that the president-elect is considering for secretary of state, according to two Democratic officials in close contact with the Obama transition team.
Other people frequently mentioned for the State Department job are Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and critic of the Iraq War; Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate; and New Mexico’s Hispanic Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, a former UN ambassador.
Obama has named several former aides to former president Bill Clinton to help run his transition effort. Biden himself will have an experienced aide who can help his voice be heard in the White House.
He chose former vice president Al Gore’s chief of staff Ron Klain to fill the same job for him, Democrats said on Thursday.
Past vice presidents have often been relegated to ceremonial roles, without major input on daily decisions. But the last two vice presidents, Cheney and Al Gore, have been extraordinarily involved and insisted on private weekly lunches with their bosses.
Biden has said he told Obama, before accepting the running mate slot, that he wouldn’t want a peripheral assignment like reorganizing government, which Gore took on, along with other tasks.
In an interview with The New Yorker magazine last month, he said he told Obama: “I don’t want to be a vice president who is not part of the major decisions you make.”
Biden will have a special interest in the Iraq War, as his son is scheduled to deploy there this month.
So far, Biden has been working closely with Obama. He has been in almost all the president-elect’s meetings at his new government office space in Chicago and has been dispatched to make calls to several foreign leaders.
Biden was asked to smooth over a miscommunication following Obama’s phone call with Polish President Lech Kaczynski last week.
Kaczynski issued a statement saying Obama vowed to continue with President George W. Bush’s missile defense project. But Obama’s advisers denied it, and the Polish foreign minister later said it was a misinterpretation on their part.
Biden called Kaczynski a couple of days later to explain that the Obama administration will assess the program before deciding whether to stick with it.
He also spoke this week with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Brown’s predecessor, Tony Blair. And he spoke with Israel’s foreign and defense ministers, along with Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a statement issued on Thursday by the Obama transition team.
Biden has said he’d like to use his 36 years of experience in the Senate, including leadership of the Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees, to help push Obama’s agenda in Congress.
It is longtime insider’s experience that Obama lacks and a role that has not been Cheney’s focus.
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