Posted: June 5, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

If the Congress had a Kumbaya caucus, the way it has a women's caucus and a youth sport caucus and even a "Friends of Denmark" caucus, Tom Carper could be counted on as the first to sign up.

He does not carp, he compromises. Guess which Democratic senator from Delaware put out a press release Tuesday to show how proud he was of co-sponsoring a bill along with both John McCain and Barack Obama? (It had to do with making more information about federal spending searchable on the Internet.)

Delawareans do not need to be reminded of the effort Carper invested last year to try to turn Lt. Gov. John Carney and Treasurer Jack Markell from Democratic rivals for governor to running mates.

Carper has been so steadfast with a similar approach for the Democrats' presidential ticket that it pushed him to the fore of national attention. In a New York Times analysis on the chances of Obama tagging Hillary Clinton for vice president, it was Carper who was quoted.

The paper wrote: "'I think the world of both of them,' said Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware. 'I want to see them run as a team.'"

Carper was so reluctant to take sides, that even when he did, it was hard to tell. He waited until Wednesday, the day after the last presidential primaries when Obama collected enough pledges for the nomination, to collaborate with seven other Democratic senators in a tepid press release.

The others, all also unpledged until now, were: Barbara Boxer of California, Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Ken Salazar of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

They headlined their statement, "Neutral Democratic senators call for unity in November." They described themselves as coming forward to "lend support" to Obama. Nowhere did they use the muscular term "endorse," although they did eventually get to the c-word -- "commitment."

Their language got no stronger than promising to give Obama "every ounce of our support, every bit of our energy, and our total commitment to do everything in our power to win the presidency."

At least Carper went that far. His embrace of Obama left only one of the Delaware Democrats' national delegates still on the sidelines. Of the 23 members of the delegation going to Denver this summer, there are 14 for Obama, eight for Clinton -- and Joe Biden not saying.

The only candidate Biden has come out for this year is himself.

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While Joe Biden is keeping private an endorsement that should be public, there is something else public that should be private.

He recently landed in "Heard on the Hill," a saucy column in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. HOH, as the column likes to call itself, unapologetically trades in "hot tips" and "juicy gossip."

It wrote: "As the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden (D, Del.) knows a thing or two about secrets. State secrets, classified secrets and the like.

"It seems old Diamond Joe was on a fact-finding mission Monday in search of a very different kind of secret: those belonging to one Victoria, the purveyor of lacy negligees. An HOH operative ran into the senior senator in the Union Station Victoria's Secret, that trove of ladies' underpinnings.

"Biden, we're told, was browsing around the more 'G-rated' section of the store (as opposed to the racier bras-and-undies section), where pajamas and other casual lounging togs are on display.

"Biden was wearing the pin that identifies him as a member of Congress, and when our spy greeted him and inquired as to what he was up to, he mumbled something about shopping for a present. The 66-year-old finally settled on a pair of gray sweatpants, the spy says.

"Biden takes the Amtrak train to and from Delaware when Congress is in session, so we know he spends a bit of time in the station. HOH is going out on a limb here and postulating that the senator was doing some last-minute shopping for his wife, whose birthday was Tuesday, although his office wouldn't confirm that.

"Hey, Senator, if you want a more discreet shopping experience, Vicky's puts out a catalogue. And if you really want our unsolicited advice, we'd suggest something a teensy bit more romantic for your wife's birthday than gray sweatpants."