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Joe Biden's crack about wife Jill? No problem, Nancy Pelosi says

August 23, 2008 |  3:20 pm

DENVER -- So which stumble at today's Democratic lovefest in Springfield, Ill., will live on the longest -- Barack Obama introducing his running mate pick as "the next president," or the Joe Biden crack about his wife that has not been universally well received? Awaiting an appearance in Iowa as he campaigned for president there, Democrat Joe Biden rests his head on the shoulder of his wife, Jill Biden

If it's the latter, at least Biden gets a pass on it from the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. politics -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi had barely arrived in Denver this afternoon before she was holding court at a small luncheon with the media at the city's historic Brown Palace Hotel.

As the session wrapped up, and she was offering the expected prediction that the about-to-begin Democratic National Convention would "achieve its purpose" of sealing any overt cracks in party unity, a pesky reporter asked if Biden's attempt at humor about his mate might exacerbate efforts to get all of Hillary Clinton's hard-core backers on the bandwagon.

Here's what Biden had said in his debut as the presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee:

"Ladies and gentlemen, my wife Jill, who you'll meet soon, is drop dead gorgeous. My wife Jill, who you'll meet soon, she also has her doctorate degree, which is a problem. But all kidding aside ..."

Pelosi, who had spent much of the lunch depicting an America in dire straits after eight years of a Republican administration, didn't miss a beat: "Lighten up," she said. "We've got a planet to save."

She added that if Biden found his wife beautiful, "That's A-OK."

But what about the PhD part of Biden's comment? That's what sparked reaction in the blogosphere, including an item by Adele Stan on Huffington Post headlined: "Careful Joe! 'Smart Women" Jokes a Dicey Game."

Of the "gorgeous" remark, Stan opined: "Nothing wrong with that. Who wouldn't want to be described as such by his or her partner?"

But of the doctorate addendum, she wrote: "It was obviously a failed attempt at humor. Or perhaps I'm just a humorless feminist. Either way, one can only hope this isn't a harbinger of gaffes to come."

Clinton's name came up a couple of times at the Pelosi gathering. The speaker was asked... 

... if she thought Clinton's more "ardent" supporters might have a problem with Obama's selection of a "65-year-old white guy" who's served in the Senate since 1973.

Pelosi chose to focus on the latter part of that formulation, and variations of her response presumably will predominate when other leading Democrats are asked about categorizations of Biden as a political "insider."

"He has experience in Washington, but he is not of Washington," she said.

Reiterating the point, she added: Just because you're experienced doesn't mean you're stuck in the status quo of Washington, D.C."

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

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