Washington: Joe Biden, the US senator known for foreign policy expertise and a command of Washington’s ways, is on the cusp of being more than Barack Obama’s No. 2 guy.
He will soon be the second-in-command.
Late Tuesday morning, on the West Front of the Capitol, the 66-year-old Biden will raise his right hand and take the oath as the 47th vice president of the United States.
And so he will mark one half of the transition of power, to be capped a half hour later when Obama takes his own oath before a dizzying crowd watching on site and around the globe.
Biden and his wife, Jill, began Inauguration Day by attending a private service at St. John’s Episcopal Church with Obama and the incoming first lady, Michelle Obama.
The four then headed to the nearby White House for coffee with President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, and leaders from Congress. Biden will then head to the Capitol for the inaugural ceremony, where he will be joined by several family members.
Elections are not built around or decided by running mates, and given the enormity and the history of the moment surrounding Obama on Tuesday, Biden will retain second billing.
But his ascendancy to the vice presidency is a major turning point for the country too as Biden replaces Cheney, who assumed huge powers under Bush.
Cheney was a major voice on war and harsh interrogation techniques of suspected terrorists, and insists the Bush administration kept the nation safe. Biden accused him of doing more harm than any elected official in recent memory in “shredding the Constitution”.
All that will be quickly be history, but Biden expects to play his own active role. The vice presidency is open to be shaped by the person in the job and by his boss. The most important role, of course, is that Biden assumes the presidency if Obama is unable to serve.
“This is a partnership,” Biden said Monday in a television interview.
Biden ran for the presidency twice, in 1988 and in 2008, but never came close. He has served 36 years as a senator from Delaware, long establishing himself as a respected voice on foreign affairs and national security. He is well travelled and knows world leaders.
A lawyer by trade, Biden won election to the Senate at a young age and has spent most of his life working there, but has still made a daily train commute home to Wilmington, Delaware.