Barack Obama

Was Biden offered choice of two big jobs?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Did Joe Biden have his choice of two jobs for Barack Obama, vice president or secretary of state?

US Vice President-elect Joe Biden waves at volunteers after honoring National Day of Service by working on a Habitat for Humanity house in Washington January 19, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

His wife, Jill Biden, suggested on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Monday that her husband had his pick of either job -- prompting an official statement later from the Biden team clarifying her remarks.

Jill Biden said on the Oprah show that she wanted her husband to be vice president instead of secretary of state, chiefly because it would involve less travel.

“If you’re secretary of state, you’ll be away, we’ll never see you, you know,” she said, describing how she and her husband had talked about it.

“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 come to our home. They can go to events, they can be with us all the time. And that’s what’s important to us,” she said.

Biden, seated at his wife’s side, looked sheepish and tried to shush his wife after she made the remark.

The Bidens were surprise guests on the Oprah show, which was moved from Chicago to Washington as part of celebrations surrounding Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday.

Obama chose Hillary Clinton to become his secretary of state after passing her over for the vice presidency.

The vice president becomes president in the event of the death or incapacitation of the president. But the job carries few official duties compared with those of the secretary of state, who has a lead role in conducting foreign policy.

Biden spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander issued a statement that clarified Jill Biden’s comments, saying Joe Biden had only been offered the vice presidency.

“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,” she said.

“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,” she said.

(Editing by Chris Wilson)