Posted: May 20, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Repaying a kindness can get complicated when it involves the vice president's family.

Connor Bifferato tried, and tried hard, but security is so uptight these days, the milk of human kindness is regarded as just another concoction to slip something dangerous in. Forget about it.

Bifferato is a lawyer, the managing director of the Bifferato firm. He comes from a family of lawyers. His brother is a lawyer, his mother is a lawyer, and his father is "Judge Biff" -- Vincent Bifferato Sr., much revered within the Delaware bench and bar for the years he spent on the Superior Court.

Connor Bifferato wanted to do something to comfort a friend who once comforted him during a dire crisis, but his friend is Beau Biden.

Not even Florence Nightingale reincarnated could have made it to the bedside of an attorney general who has the vice president for a father, not on the day he was taken to Christiana Hospital with a mild stroke and the family there, too.

This, even though Bifferato is a good Democrat.

Bifferato's motivation was rooted in events from the fall of 1998, when he was a 31-year-old lawyer in his early years of practice. One day he was working at his law office after working out.

"I got an excruciatingly unbearable headache," Bifferato said.

It was so bad, he had another lawyer take him to an emergency room. A 16-year-old messenger at the law firm was the son of a neurologist and jawboned his reluctant father into showing up. It was a good thing.

Bifferato had a brain aneurysm, life-threatening no matter what. He could die if he did not have surgery, or he could die if he did.

The Biden family knew about aneurysms. Joe Biden had two that nearly killed him in 1988. Naturally the Biden and Bifferato families were well-acquainted. Connor Bifferato had even been a campaign volunteer for Joe Biden, then in his fifth Senate term. The Bidens sprang into action.

"Beau was one of the first people, with the exception of my wife, who was with me," Bifferato said.

The episode turned into one of the more dramatic moments in the memory of the state's legal circles. Bifferato was stricken on the day marking the 75th anniversary of women being admitted to the Delaware bar. There was a huge celebratory dinner in Wilmington with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Joe Biden squiring her around.

Bifferato's predicament was announced at the dinner to heartfelt gasps and groans. As soon as Joe Biden could leave the event, he went to be with Bifferato.

Bifferato first was admitted to Christiana. The medical staff got a look at his family of lawyers, and he said the next thing he knew, he was shipped off to Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

His surgery was on Joe Biden's 56th birthday. Biden spent it with the Bifferato family, waiting.

Bifferato came out fine, and after about six months of convalescence, he went on to a thriving law practice. Beau Biden joined the Bifferato family firm in 2004 and was there when he was elected attorney general in 2006.

This is the reason Bifferato headed for Christiana last week when Beau Biden wound up there.

A state trooper was the first to stop him. Bifferato explained. The trooper made some phone calls to state security and Secret Service personnel to try to get Bifferato in, but no luck.

Next Bifferato tried to make his case to the hospital administration. He waited for an hour and a half, eventually to be told thanks but no thanks. That was that.

Bifferato was not surprised Biden was moved to Thomas Jefferson. He figured the Bidens remembered the care he had there. Beau Biden was attended by Robert Rosenwasser, the same neurosurgeon Bifferato had. Rossenwasser sent Biden home Tuesday for rest and recuperation.

"I'm sure that's why Beau went there. He was certainly in the best hands," Bifferato said.

Maybe in that sense, Bifferato was able to help his friend, a kindness repaid from afar, but what a shame. Power isolates, and the security catering to power isolates absolutely.