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CNN PRESENTS

Joe Biden Revealed

Aired September 13, 2008 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say this as simply as I can -- yes, yes. I accept your nomination to run and serve with Barack Obama, the next president of the United States of America.

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): He's Barack Obama's pick for vice president. Delaware's senior senator and Scranton's Pennsylvania's hometown boy made good. But who is Joe Biden, really? Middle class champion? Washington insider?

BIDEN: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

BOUDREAU: A claim denounced, and, now, revealed.

Joe Biden has been on the national stage for more than three decades.

BIDEN: I'm ashamed at this country puts out a policy like this.

BOUDREAU: A (INAUDIBLE) of the Senate.

BIDEN: I announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.

BOUDREAU: A two-time presidential candidate and these days, Barack Obama's running mate.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For decades he's brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn't changed him.

BOUDREAU: Touted by supporters for his affable middle class roots, strong, Irish Catholic upbringing and crucial foreign policy know-how. Biden has his assets and his baggage. Detractors say he's too inside the beltway. Too close to big banking and credit card companies.

BIDEN: We're delighted to have you back.

BOUDREAU: And then, there's Biden's legendary gifts for gab.

BIDEN: I don't know how delighted you are to be back.

BOUDREAU: Like this 1100 word opening monologue at a 2007 Senate hearing involving General David Petraeus.

BIDEN: U.S. Foreign Service Personnel.

BOUDREAU: That went on --

BIDEN: Our focus must be America's details --

BOUDREAU: And on -

BIDEN: Could spend on housing and education.

BOUDREAU: And on.

BIDEN: He says Iraqi --

BOUDREAU: But Joe Biden wasn't always so famously verbose. Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania. An Irish Catholic neighborhood of Greenridge.

(on camera): And their house is just up the street, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right across the street, stop a few houses. 2446 North Washington Avenue where the foot race began for Joe Biden.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Larry Orr and Tom Bell are two of Biden's oldest friends. They showed me around their old stomping grounds.

LARRY ORR, BIDEN'S FRIEND: This friendship transcends 60 years. I mean, this friendship with us now is as fresh and as strong as it was back in the late 40s and early 50s.

BOUDREAU: The Biden's moved to New Castle County, Delaware, when Joe was 10, after his father got a new job at a car salesman. But the family would come back to Scranton a lot.

TOM BELL, BIDEN'S FRIEND: They came back, virtually, every holiday. They came back a lot of weekends just to come back and they came back in the summer. Larry and I used to joke about it. We didn't know Joe even left because he was here so often.

ORR: He picked up the activities just like he never left. He just picked up the ball, just kept on rolling.

BELL: Yes. Yes.

ORR: It was always that way.

This house right here was a great house.

BELL: We spent a lot of time there. A lot of time. That was a destination house for us.

BOUDREAU: It was here in Scranton, in this house, that Biden's Grand Pop Finnegan instilled in him a love for the art of politics and political debate.

BIDEN: At my grand pop's table, they would always talk about sports and politics, and what it was all about was people being able to do things. I mean, there was a sense of respect though. I mean, politics was thought as honorable. There was the idea that you could change things and my grand pop told me a whole bunch of lessons. And the biggest one was, you know, don't question the other guy's honesty or integrity question his judgment.

BOUDREAU: For Joe Sr. and his wife Catherine Eugenia, family was life's most cherished possession. And that's something they never wanted Joe Jr., his two brothers and sister to ever forget. Valerie Biden Owens is Joe's younger sister.

VALERIE BIDEN OWENS, JOE BIDEN'S SISTER: Mom always told us that there is nothing closer than brothers and sisters. And we had the four of us and that's what we had was each other.

BOUDREAU: Faith, too, played a central role in shaping Biden. He attended Catholic schools. And even thought he might become a priest like many other boys in his class, except for one big problem. He had a horrible stutter.

BELL: I recall when we were early on, Joe stuttered. And his name became Joe Bi-biden. And we would say, what's your name? My name is Joe Bi-biden.

BOUDREAU: But Joe Biden was determined to overcome his greatest childhood hurdle.

BIDEN: Major part of my life was overcoming the stuttering. When you stutter, people think you are stupid. They think you -- I don't know what they think, but they don't think very highly of you, and so, I found myself probably as I was going up, refusing to back down to anything. And I was confronted with this as a kid. I think part of it was because of, you know, my feeling kind of stupid when people would made fun of me for stuttering.

BOUDREAU: And how did he do it?

OWENS: We used to take verses from Emerson and Yates, and he would memorize them and try and get a face.

BOUDREAU: So, he would like, literally, looked in the mirror and watched himself talk in the muscles in the face?

OWENS: Yes. Yes. And there are certain ways that you can -- that you have to contort your face or your muscles just get out certain sounds. Not going to be an excuse for him why he couldn't do something because he stuttered. He was going to overcome it.

BOUDREAU: Joe Biden would conquer his stutter but he would soon be tested in ways he could never imagine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can always get another senator but they can't get another father.

BOUDREAU: In the hour ahead, devastating personal tragedy. Embarrassing public scandals. And a fight for life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOUDREAU: One of Senator Joe Biden's first stops after agreeing to run with Senator Barack Obama...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome home.

BIDEN: Thank you. Thanks for all being out here.

BOUDREAU: A homecoming in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he wrote on his old bedroom wall, I am home.

BIDEN: This is where everything came together. This is where my family values and my faith melted. Has Scranton ever left the heart of anyone you knew who move from Scranton. I don't know, not a joke. It's hard for people to believe outside of Scranton.

ORR: This is the happening place back then.

BOUDREAU: Was it called "The Hanks" back then?

Larry Orr and Tom Bell, remember those days from visiting Hanks.

ORR: With the bubble gum you got prizes. And I think Joe and I had most of neighborhood prizes. I think I probably still have (INAUDIBLE).

BOUDREAU: To playing baseball, here, on this very spot.

ORR: I think Joe learned the games of life right here in this field.

BELL: Yes, yes.

ORR: I think so.

BOUDREAU: Why do you say that? What do you mean by that?

ORR: He has learned a lot of leadership. He was always a team player but always a leader.

BOUDREAU (on camera): You can see that in him even that long ago.

ORR: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BELL: Oh yes, without question. Joe Biden was always the lead dog.

BOUDREAU: The lead dog as a kid and a lead dog at Archmere Academy where he went to high school in the late 50s and early 60s. Biden was a football star. Rudy Angelo (ph) remembers those days on the field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I was the canon father that the first team got to run over. I think I have Joe's cleat marks somewhere on my back from one of those practices. BOUDREAU: Biden's love for politics began in high school. He was voted president of both his junior and senior class. He would read biographies of Washington politicians. In his book "Promises to Keep," he writes, what struck me while thumbing through their personal histories was that a lot of them were from wealthy and well- established families. The ones who got there on their own hook were almost all lawyers. So, he studied politics at the University of Delaware with an eye for law school. According to his sister, Valerie, everything was falling into place for Joe Biden, especially on a spring break vacation in the Bahamas.

OWENS: I remember exactly when I heard about Neilia. I was home and I was upstairs in mom and dad's bedroom and he opened the door into the house from spring break and he yelled, Val, Val, and I said, I'm up here. And he came up, run up the step, he said "I met her." I met the girl I'm going to marry. And that was it. I said, who? And he said, her name is Neilia.

BOUDREAU: Neilia Hunter was a student at Syracuse. So Biden applied to the only school that now mattered. Syracuse University's College of Law. They married after Biden's first year and in 1968, after graduation, the Biden's moved back to Delaware, a comfortable place to start a family.

Biden became active in county Democratic politics. But it wasn't until 1971 that he became a real political player, already a father to two young boys and a daughter on the way. Biden decided to balance family life with a campaign for the U.S. Senate.

OWENS: The man that we ran against in 1972 was a legend in Delaware.

BOUDREAU: That man was Cale Boggs, a two-term Republican senator endorsed by President Richard Nixon. It was a tumultuous time in America. The Vietnam War raging on.

OWENS: They wanted to end the war and because of civil rights, and they are the two reasons that he got involved in the race in 1972.

BOUDREAU: Biden was only 29, one of the youngest candidates to ever run for Senate.

TED CUFFMAN, LONG TIME FRIEND: Then I became involved because his sister Valerie asked me to get involved in the campaign.

BOUDREAU: Ted Cuffman (ph) is a long time friend, and has been there since the beginning.

CUFFMAN: Senator Biden was running. He was 29 years old. His father really looked like a senator, and people would think Joe Sr. was a candidate, not Joe Jr.

BOUDREAU: It was an uphill battle.

BIDEN: I'm Joe Biden, and I'm a candidate for the United States Senate.

OWENS: I mean, we had no political contact. No political connections. And before the Republican Party realized that we were there we had caught up and we won by less than 3,000 votes.

CUFFMAN: I've been watching races for 36 years. Someone has yet to show me a race that was more of an upset than that 1972 race. 29 years old. I mean, it was just an incredible thing.

BOUDREAU: Coming up, Biden's victory celebration is tragically cut short.

OWENS: He was devastated. I mean, his world was gone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good evening, everyone. Here's a quick weather update for you. The center of what will soon be tropical depression Ike will be north of (INAUDIBLE), right above there. Now, the east side of this storm is where we think they'll probably have a chance of some tornadoes tonight. That's why there are two boxes out there. These big boxes, usually they are as big as states. And that's just about right. They are the watches.

That means in this box, something could happen. Not that something is happening, something could happen. We would other little boxes. Warning boxes if that was actually happening. Now, so, we had some couple of warnings last time about an hour ago, but so far so good right now all those warnings have had gone away.

A couple of showers around Kankakee. Showers in Chicago. Airport is doing really well right now, although the only one that's not doing well -- two of them, actually, Houston, Hobby and Intercontinental there. That's going to be a mess for a long time.

Rain showers across parts of New York State as well. Here are all the planes in and out of Houston right now. Every single plane, nothing. There are no planes in Hobby. The planes are actually gone at Hobby. There won't even any planes on the ground. They flew them all out and they're not getting anymore back in right now. So, any type of travel through and into Houston is going to probably have to be on the ground for the next couple of days I'm afraid.

There's Ike. 40-mile-per-hour winds, 132 miles from Dallas, Texas. Still moving to the north and it's moving very quickly. Later on tonight, this thing is going to move in 25 or 30 miles per hour. In fact, by Monday morning, it will be over Buffalo. Not as a wind event but still, there will be rain. I'm meteorologist Chad Myers. Joe Biden, right up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOUDREAU: November 20th, 1972, cameras are there as senator elect Joe Biden celebrates his 30th birthday with family and friends. With Christmas just a few weeks away, these are happy times for the Biden Family. But a few weeks later, tragedy strikes. His wife, Neilia, 13-month-old daughter, Naomi, and two sons Beau and Hunter, were driving down this road on their way to buy a Christmas tree. At this intersection, the unthinkable. Neilia and Naomi were killed. Four-year-old Beau and three-year-old Hunter critically injured. Tom Bell is Biden's life-long friend.

BOUDREAU: What did it do to him?

BELL: Oh, my God. It destroyed him. I mean, really, the guy was a basket case. You can imagine. Your three children, your wife -- two, which are dead and two, which are terribly injured? You know, there was a long period there. He was, you know, not to be talked to. Not to be -- you know, he was just in mourning.

BOUDREAU: Just days before he would take his oath as Delaware's junior senator, Joe Biden considers stepping aside and even considers suicide. In his autobiography, Biden writes, "I began to understand how despair led people to just cash it in. How suicide wasn't just an option, but a rational option."

BIDEN: For me, it was simple. I had two sons who were alive. I had two sons that had barely made it through the accident. They were recovering and how is a father could I let them know how devastated I was? Because their devastation had to be, you know, eclipse everything. They lost their mother. They needed to know that their father was alive and well and was there for them.

BOUDREAU: Friends and politicians encouraged Biden to press on. To take the Senate seat he won, and he did, to honor Neilia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter so help you God.

BIDEN: I do.

BOUDREAU: Joe Biden was sworn in on January 5th, 1973 at a Wilmington Hospital as his son, Beau, watched from his hospital bed.

(on camera): You were so young at that time. Did you have any idea what your father was going through?

BEAU BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S SON: I thought I did. But I have a different appreciation for it now as a father of two. You know, I look back on those days, and I look at myself as a lucky boy and a lucky young man. It's because of him. I don't look back on those days with any pain. And in fact, it's the opposite. We were showered in love by my dad, by a lot of people.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Delaware's new senator was now also a single father. So he commuted, 100 miles between Wilmington and Washington every day, to spend nights at home with his children.

BIDEN: If in six months or so there's a conflict between my being a good father and being a good senator, which I hope will not occur, I will contact Governor Tribbitt as I had earlier, and tell him that we can always get another senator but they can't get another father.

BOUDREAU: Biden's early years in the Senate saw seismic political change. The end of the Vietnam War, the impeachment of Richard Nixon and Biden got lucky earning a seat on the powerful Senate Foreign Relation's Committee where his work over the next 30 years would shape his view of the world.

Professor Joseph Pica teaches international relations at the University of Delaware where Biden attended.

JOSEPH PICA, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE: He had his eye set on foreign policy and international relations from the beginning, and once he got on that committee, he kind of found his feet.

BIDEN: Because abdominal threatening is the most discredited theory there is with regard to foreign policy objectives.

BOUDREAU: Two years after the loss of his wife and daughter, his Senate career well underway, Biden was given the phone number of a woman his brother thought he might be interested in. Her name, Jill Jacobs. Biden called and asked her out. He writes in his book, she didn't ask a single thing about my career, about Washington, about the famous people I've met. So, we talked about family and mutual friends in Delaware. We talked about books and real life.

OWENS: The great thing about Jill is she wasn't at all impressed that he was a United States senator or he was somebody's quote, unquote, "supposed to be important," and Joe came home and said, I met a really wonderful woman.

BOUDREAU: They dated for two years.

OWENS: He was smitten and he pursued her. She put my brother's life back together.

BOUDREAU (on camera): You got your brother back?

OWENS: Yes, the whole person.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): I asked Senator Biden to read a passage from his book about Jill.

BIDEN: I asked her once not long before our wedding how she could marry me knowing how much -- knowing how much I adored Neilia, and she didn't hesitate. She said, and quote, "that's the reason I can marry you." She told me. Anybody can love that deeply once can do it again. That's when I realized exactly what Jill's love had done for me. And had given me permission to be me again. God, I'm sorry. She did. I mean, she restored my life. I know that sounds corny but she really did. I mean, she gave me permission to -- that one statement, sort of gave me permission to -- anyway, it's accurate.

BOUDREAU: Joe Biden and Jill Jacobs were married in June 1977.

BIDEN: I announced my candidacy for president of the United States of America. BOUDREAU: Coming up, Joe Biden's run for the White House. And the scandal that derailed it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BIDEN: It says continue the same, we put no timetable on it. We make no specific demands.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Joe Biden had been a senator for 14 years but now his political sights were aimed higher. Ted Kauffman, long- time friend and confidant.

TED KAUFMAN, BIDEN SENIOR ADVISER: For his whole career people had been talking about him being president. He said, I'm willing to put everything in place so if I decide to run for president, I can run. And then I think he kind of found out that you can't put everything in place to run for president and then not run. And looking back on it even then, he just kind of drifted into it.

BOUDREAU (on camera): Do you think he was ready at that point to become president?

KAUFMAN: Yes, I think he was ready to become president.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): On June 9th, 1987, Biden in his home state of Delaware announced that he would run for president. He says fewer than one in five Americans even knew who he was.

BIDEN: Today, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America.

BOUDREAU: It was his first time on the national stage, and Biden seemed to love it.

BIDEN: I'm here to have you look me over, and if you like what you see, I'd like your help.

PROF. JOSEPH PIKA, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE: Biden is the kind of guy that is very charming when you meet him in person. He has got a megawatt smile and he's very attentive. He's very interested in the people that he meets. When you meet Joe Biden, you are impressed and you remember the encounter.

BIDEN: Hello, again. I'm Biden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live from the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

BOUDREAU: One of the primaries major events, a forum of the legendary Iowa State Fair. It was August, 1987.

BIDEN: I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?

BOUDREAU: But his speech sounded familiar. Just like a speech by British Politician, Neil Kinnick. NEIL KINNICK, BRITISH POLITICIAN: What am I? The first Kinnick in a thousand generations...

BIDEN: Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university?

KINNICK: Why is Kinnick is the first woman in her family.

BIDEN: Why is it that my wife, who is sitting out there in the audience, is the first in her family to ever go to college?

BOUDREAU: Biden had attributed Kinnick's speech many times before, but this time he didn't give credit. Three weeks later, it was front page news. Joe Biden was accused of plagiarism.

KAUFMAN: And the irony is after the speech was over, he was standing around with some of our advisers, and somebody said, hey, you didn't attribute it. Everybody kind of agreed -- well, let's not make a big fuss of this note, because the press has already heard him attribute it so many times before.

BOUDREAU: One week later, more plagiarism charges. The press was zeroing in. Biden held a news conference to address the crisis and to admit he failed to properly footnote a portion of a law school paper. He claimed he misunderstood the rules of citation.

BIDEN: I made no mistake in my view in using the Kinnick quote, and on all but one occasion to the best of my knowledge, I attributed directly to Kinnick, or I even went and told the whole story about Kinnick. I'm in this race to win and here I come. Thanks a lot, folks.

BOUDREAU: But six days later, a complete turnaround.

BIDEN: The exaggerated shadow of those mistakes has begun to obscure the essence of my candidacy and the essence of Joe Biden. I've concluded that I will stop being a candidate for president of the United States.

What bothered me most was my integrity was questioned. You know, my dad talked about this notion of personal integrity and here I was in the midst of a presidential campaign and I was being accused of being a lying, cheating, son of a gun and it was, in terms of my life outside the effects on my physical affects of my family, the most devastating thing that I ever had to deal with.

BOUDREAU: With his presidential aspirations over, he now focused on what he considered an even more important issue. President Ronald Reagan's controversial nomination of a staunch conservative, Judge Robert Bork, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

BIDEN: I didn't want to be this asteroid from history who went out to save his career and, in return, walked away from the main responsibility he had.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hearing will come to order, please BOUDREAU: It was September 1987. Joe Biden was the chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee.

ROBERT BORK, FORMER JUDGE, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS: He is genius, but that doesn't just stop him from putting the knife in when the time comes. So he does it in the most genuine sort of way.

BOUDREAU: Biden writes in his book that he met with Bork before the hearings, and assured him he would get a fair hearing. But Bork saw it differently.

BORK: It was quite clear that Biden, who said he would support me, then he said that the interest groups would tear him apart for doing it but he would do it. As I left his office, the interest groups lined up and they went in to see him. And immediately, he changed his position and came out publicly and said he would not only oppose me, he would lead the opposition.

BIDEN: I conclude that Judge Bork should be immediately confirmed.

BOUDREAU: Biden had said that special interest groups wouldn't tell him how to vote. Nevertheless, Biden decided to fiercely oppose Bork. He didn't object to his credentials, which even critics acknowledge were impressive, but to his judicial philosophy.

BIDEN: Does a state legislative body or any legislative body have a right to pass a law telling a married couple or anyone else, they can or cannot use birth control?

BORK: I don't know what rationale the state would offer or what challenge the married couple would make? I have never decided that case. If it comes before me, I will have to decide it.

BOUDREAU (on camera): A lot of conservatives still dislike you over the handling of the Robert Bork situation.

BIDEN: They have good reason to. Seriously, think about it. I challenged Judge Bork on his judicial philosophy. And it turns out, the vast majority of the American people agreed with my view and not Judge Bork's. And this is the first time there's ever been a frontal, straight-forward acknowledgment this is about ideology. Not about how you'd rule, but about your judicial philosophy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The yeas are 42, the nays are 58.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): In the end, Bork was voted down. And many look at those hearings as the ushering in of an era, a partisan attack on judicial nominees. Today, it's known as "Getting Borked."

When we come back --

BIDEN: They gave me the last rights.

BOUDREAU: Joe Biden in the fight of his life.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Live here in the CNN NEWSROOM in Atlanta. Here's what's coming up at the top of the hour in the NEWSROOM. Breaking news to tell you about this hour. And it is from Russia, where an error plot jet carrying 81 people has crashed.

The pictures are just coming in. The story is as well. And airline spokesman, though, is saying there are no survivors. The Boeing 737 was headed from Moscow from the City of Perm. We're going to update you on that. Coming up at the top of the hour.

Meantime, search and rescues happening right now in Texas and Louisiana, and they are dramatic, where residents are reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ike. At least four people in Texas were killed and almost 3 million others are still in the dark tonight. And there is major damage in downtown Houston as well. And serious flooding from Galveston to western Louisiana. People there say things are worse than they were after Hurricane Rita. An unbelievable story.

And the death toll keeps climbing in that California train disaster, we have been telling you about. It was breaking news today. 25 people are dead and 130 people injured in the collision between a commuter train and a freight train outside of Los Angeles. Commuter train operator, Metro Link says, it looks like its engineer failed to stop at a signal. That investigation continues tonight.

Breaking news out of Russia, also here in the United States, the ravages of Hurricane Ike, all next in the CNN NEWSROOM at the top of the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOUDREAU: In the months leading up to his run for the White House in 1987, Joe Biden began suffering from headaches, feeling shooting pain in his neck and down his back.

BIDEN: My name is Joe Biden. I'd like to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America.

BOUDREAU: At first, he thought it was stress. He says he popped up to 10 Tylenol a day. Still, the headaches would not go away. The pain persisted throughout the judicial confirmation hearings on Robert Bork.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hearing will come to order, please.

BOUDREAU: And throughout the confirmation hearings of another Supreme Court nominee, Anthony Kennedy. Then, in 1988, a year after the headaches began and five months after dropping out of the presidential campaign, he woke up in a Rochester, New York, hotel room, with searing pain.

He writes, it was something like lightning flashing inside my head, a powerful electrical surge and then a rip of pain like I've never felt before. After returning home to Wilmington, his family rushed him to the hospital. Joe Biden was suffering from a brain aneurysm. His older son, Beau, was just 19 at the time.

BOUDREAU: When your family learned that your dad had suffered two aneurysms, what were you thinking, knowing you had already lost your mom?

JOSEPH R. "BEAU" BIDEN III, JOE BIDEN'S SON: Is dad going to be all right? He's relying on your faith, your hopes. And, in our case, and in my father's case, obviously, it worked out.

BIDEN: Before they took me into the operating room, I asked each of my boys to come in alone to talk to me in the I.C.U. Unit, and in general terms, I told them how much I believed in them and what I expected of them if I died.

After two life-threatening surgeries, Biden survived. His wife, Jill, thought he could have died had he stayed on the campaign trail.

JILL BIDEN, JOE BIDEN'S WIFE: I would be a widow today, because he would not have stopped. He would have gone on.

BOUDREAU: Would Joe Biden return to Washington, four months later, he was a changed man.

BIDEN: Thank you very much. You all are very nice.

It gave me a lot more patience, and it made me realize there's very few things in your life, individual things, short of life and death issues that matter. I don't feel nearly as driven as I did before that happened. It just gave me a slightly different perspective.

BOUDREAU: But over the course of the next 20 years, Biden would be faced with more controversy including his ties to the credit card industry, and a battle over Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hearing will come to order.

BOUDREAU: In 1991, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden took center stage at Thomas' confirmation hearings. But the nationally televised hearings turned into a daytime drama over charges that Thomas had sexually harassed a former aide, Anita Hill.

BIDEN: Professor, do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.

BOUDREAU: What most Americans remember are the salacious allegations made against Thomas involving pornography and inappropriate sexual comment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a black American, as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching.

BOUDREAU: In the end, Biden and the committee were strongly criticized for the way they handled the hearings. BOUDREAU: Looking back, what would you have done differently?

BIDEN: The president insisted it be opened. Not me. The Clarence Thomas' people insisted it be opened. What I would do all over again, I think that should have been conducted in a way under the Senate rules where the witness should have been able to do this in private.

BOUDREAU: Ultimately, a divided Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. And Joe Biden, he voted against him. Recently, Biden has also been criticized by consumer groups for his relationship with the credit card industry. Some refer to him as the senator from MBNA, a credit card company in his home state of Delaware, a center for banking in the U.S.

MBNA employees and political committees contributed $214,000 to his various campaigns since 1989. MBNA is now owned by Bank of America. Biden was pushing. And MBNA was lobbying hard for a bankruptcy reform bill which passed in 2005.

At the same time, his son, Hunter, was being paid as an MBNA consultant. Hunter has been a registered lobbyists for other clients until recently furthering speculation of a possible conflict of interest between father and son.

BOUDREAU (on camera): Politics is so much about appearance. Did you ever wish that your son, Hunter, had not become a lobbyists?

BIDEN: I don't care about my career versus my son, for God's sake. He doesn't represent any major corporations. And he's not out there. He never lobbied for MBNA. He was in their management division. My son is not even a registered lobbyist now.

BOUDREAU: But he didn't get out of it because of you. You never asked him to stop.

BIDEN: I never asked him to do that. I never would.

BOUDREAU: Critics like Travis Plunkett argued that Biden's legislation makes it more difficult for America's middle class.

TRAVIS PLUNKETT, CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA: By making it more difficult for people to file bankruptcy, it's made -- the law has made it more difficult for people to keep their homes.

BOUDREAU: Joe Biden has repeatedly denied any influence from MBNA or lobbyists. He told NBC's "Meet the Press" he was looking out for the middle class when he supported the bill.

BIDEN: I'd block the bank, the first three bankruptcy bills that the credit card companies wanted. I would not support a bank (INAUDIBLE) until they did three things. They put women and children first. Every single social welfare agency relating to alimony and child support supported this bill. 85 senators supported this bill.

BOUDREAU: But Republican strategists like Alex Castellanos aren't so forgiving.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think a lot of credit card companies would tell you don't leave home without Joe Biden. He's the senator who's delivered for the credit card companies that charged, you know, 18 percent and 20 percent.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

BOUDREAU: Coming up, candidate Biden under the microscope.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOUDREAU: By 2006, conditions in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and growing anxiety at home, had Joe Biden thinking he was ready for one more run at the White House. But was his family? Biden worried the pain and scrutiny of his failed '88 campaign still weighed heavily on his wife and children. That fear, however, was quickly put to rest.

(on camera): You said that you guys had talked about it quite a bit. What were some of those private family moments when you discussed whether or not he should run for president?

B. BIDEN: We thought that based on what he had done over the course of what is nearly a 36-year career in the United States Senate that he had some of the answers or at least ideas about the direction this country should go in.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Biden's family was behind him, but less than a year after announcing his candidacy, it became apparent voters were not. After reports showing in the '08 Iowa caucuses, Biden abandoned his second presidential campaign.

BIDEN: Thank you very, very much.

BOUDREAU: And with that, it was over. Or so it seemed. In August, presumptive presidential nominee, Barack Obama, was in search of a running mate. Speculation was rampant. Would it be Hillary Clinton? Or governor from a crucial swing state? Those closest to Joe Biden, however, believed Obama was leaning towards the north, to Delaware. Their suspicions were soon confirmed. Barack Obama made his call, and Joe Biden answered. He was on the ticket.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Democrats we spoke with say this only --

BOUDREAU: And immediately...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even somebody like Joe Biden

BOUDREAU: ...under the microscope is probed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Biden is well-known for his experience.

BOUDREAU: His cant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's somebody who is very long-winded.

BOUDREAU: Hotly debated. Was he the right VP choice for Obama?

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He got 36 years in the United States Senate. He's been chairman of two major committees. He's had the benefit of extraordinary life, from every kind of -- from the worst kinds of tragedy to overcoming, you know, some of the most terrifying kind of illnesses that's someone can have.

BIDEN: Hello, folks.

CASTELLANOS: I think Biden was a pretty solid choice. Of course, for the candidate of change to pick somebody who has been in Washington for 36 years, somebody who's never actually had a job outside of politics that raises some real questions.

BOUDREAU: Biden's long tenure in the Senate, his expertise in foreign policy were quickly viewed as bolstering Senator Obama's perceived lack of experience. David Wilhelm is an adviser to the Obama/Biden campaign.

DAVID WILHELM, ADVISER, OBAMA/BIDEN CAMPAIGN: By naming Joe Biden his vice-presidential candidate, I think he sent an unmistakable message to the country. I'm willing to engage on national security. I'm not going to back down in presenting a robust Democratic point of view when it comes to international affairs.

BOUDREAU: But Biden's record on foreign relations wasn't without its drawbacks. He voted for the war in Iraq, only to become an outspoken critic of its handling. He then called for a partitioning of Iraq, a plan largely denounced after violence fell in the wake of the surge, which he voted against. These events left Biden, the foreign policy expert, vulnerable. Struggling to reconcile his actions.

WINHELM: I think at every step of the way, he gave the best he could. He made the best decision he could representing the people of his state and his nation at the time he made it.

BOUDREAU: Biden's senior leadership status in the Senate had others wondering if he could really play second fiddle.

BIDEN: So, I want to publicly apologize for keeping the president waiting.

PIKA: He is and has been his own boss. That's one of the reason he's so outspoken.

BIDEN: If that's what the American people are looking forward --

PIKA: He speaks his mind. He speaks it bluntly and colorfully, so I think it's going to be very difficult for him if Obama and Biden win, to take that second spot, kind of step back and to realize that he can't be quite as outspoken as he always has been.

CARVILLE: I think Senator Biden has been waiting quite a while for this event and I think he can probably keep himself under control here, at least until November.

BOUDREAU: Though he ranks in the middle among senators when it comes to earmarks, Biden also isn't immune to the controversy surrounding pork barrel spending. Earmarks are add-ons suspending bill that direct funds to specific projects. According to the non- profit group "Citizens Against Government Waste," Biden got more than $119 million in earmark this is year alone.

CASTELLANOS: Joe Biden has taken home a lot of pork to Delaware. Now he's the vice-presidential nominee for the candidate who is opposed to all those things. That's a real conflict in the campaign, and I think raises real issues for Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy birthday to you.

BOUDREAU: At home in Wilmington, Delaware, at a birthday party for two of his five grandchildren, Joe Biden happily removed from the tit-for-tat sniping of pork barrel politics. For the moment, the Biden clan is celebrating, undeterred by the criticisms and concerns of the campaign trail.

(on camera): People call your dad a Washington insider. He's a 6th term senator. I think is that a fair statement?

B. BIDEN: No.

BOUDREAU: How can you say no?

B. BIDEN: Ask anybody in Washington whether or not Joe Biden is part of the D.C. establishment. My dad has gotten up in the morning, either taken us to school or done something around the house, gotten on the train, gone to D.C. to vote. When the last vote is called, he gets back on the train and comes home.

BOUDREAU (voice-over): Aside from the occasional family get- together, the road is home these days for Joe Biden. Another city, another campaign speech. The life of a vice-presidential candidate. Biden's life, right up to Election Day.

BIDEN: God bless America and may God protect our troops. Thank you very much. Thank you.

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