February 10, 2003

Asked for an update on his presidential ambitions at the First Unitarian Church public affairs forum, Senator Joseph Biden replied with a resounding maybe. The question was put as an afterthought to the session by its moderator, former governor Russell Peterson.

The audience, which had given Biden a standing ovation and was about to break for post-lecture coffee and cake, stood in rapt anticipation as Delaware's senior senator gave a Bidenesque response which started out sounding like he was about to say 'yes', swung over to 'no', and ended up as 'undecided'.

He said he regards himself as qualified; did not like the prospects of ordering his life to spend four or eight years in the restrictive White House environment; and told the overwhelmingly supportive audience that he probably will decide sometime during the summer and make his answer known in or before October.

"I have significant dispute with the way this [Bush] administration is running the country," he said.

Specifically, he said he finds a problem with "preparing for war and, at the same time, [proposing] a three quarters of a trillion dollar tax cut that will mostly benefit those who least need it."

He said, however, that his role as the trusted former chairman and now the ranking minority member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee puts him in a position where he can best influence public policy and contribute to the good of the country.

He said, for instance, that his ability to relate with Secretary of Sate Colin Powell would vanish instantaneously with an announcement of a run for the presidency. "Powell knows he can confide in me. If I was running, it would become a matter of loyalty [to President Bush]. He's a soldier and he'd believe he was being disloyal."

Biden added that he also is able to work with others in the administration and his colleagues in Congress. "Senator [Richard] Luger and I do not have any great disagreements over foreign policy," he said. Luger, a Republican from Indiana, chairs the Foreign Relations Committee.

Biden said he did not plan to remain a senator the rest of his life, but added,  "I believe my duty requires me to forego making my decision now."

He made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination in 1988.

He said his "fervent hope [is] to see someone in my party come along" to seek the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination whom he would feel confident to support. Biden indicated that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts might fill that bill.

"If one of those fellows catches fire, I'll be glad to support him," Biden said. However, he did not refer to any other aspirant by name.

2003. All rights reserved.

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