Still the Bidens

Joe and Jill are on Capitol Hill, but Delaware will always be their home.

Here is a special message for the wife of our new vice president: Thank you, Jill.

After the election, with Senator Joe Biden’s staff buried by press requests from outlets far, far bigger than Delaware Today, we despaired of scheduling a photo shoot for the cover of this issue.

So we appealed, via email, to the one person we thought held real sway with our country’s second-in-command. In so many words:

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“Dear Mrs. Biden, We’re planning a commemoration of the vice president-elect. We’d like to photograph you both for the cover. Can you help?”

Her gracious reply, in so many words: “We’d love that. Call the campaign office again. If they can’t do it, I’ll take care of it myself.”

A week later, we gathered at photographer Luigi Ciuffetelli’s studio for the big event. And it was, to us, a big event, indeed. People we have always known as Joe and Jill had suddenly become one of the most powerful couples in the world.

They arrived at the studio accompanied by five of the 24 Secret Service agents who now shadow the Bidens at all times—just a few of the 156 assigned exclusively to them. Luigi had brought a pizza. Could the Bidens partake? Sorry, no, not without someone having approved it first.

“Our own daughter can’t even get to the house, if she’s not expected, without getting checked by all the Secret Service,” Joe says. “Now, if I want to go eat at Attilio’s, it has to be arranged. That’s the biggest adjustment right now.”Joe and Jill Biden. Photograph by Luigi Ciuffetelli

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Yet the Bidens remain the Bidens—warm, enthusiastic—and still very much a part of Delaware.

“These Secret Service guys, they can’t believe I stop to talk to the guys at the train station,” Joe says. “They say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ But that’s what I’ve been doing for years. Your Aunt Helen,” Joe tells Luigi, “still calls just to say, ‘What’s going on, Joe?’”

Helen Ciuffetelli was the Bidens’ housekeeper for 20 years. Luigi spent a summer as a teen doing the Bidens’ yard work and has photographed them many times since. The two degrees of separation between us all is what makes this place special—especially at a time like this.

Though they’ll move to Washington, D.C., for awhile, Delaware, Joe and Jill say, will always be home. Which is why, after turning down Newsweek and other national publications (Joe’s staff now gets 200 requests a week), and in the full transition mode of meeting after meeting, they agreed to pose. Would the Obama team prefer that Joe work the media? Yes. Do they get annoyed that he doesn’t? It seems they do; Joe could do more for the administration by talking to the national press than by fooling around with little ol’ us.

But that’s Joe—at all times, fiercely himself. “We Bidens,” he says, “are nothing if not loyal.”

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Hence my gratitude to both, and to Jill especially. Her first comment during the photo shoot was, “I’ve been wanting to thank you for what you said in the last issue. It was such a validation of what we’ve been doing for the past few months.”

I’m still baffled. All we did was point out that Joe’s nomination as candidate for vice president was, until Election Day, Delaware’s brightest hour. Despite the pride we felt, it was a simple statement of fact.

Just the same, it’s nice to be acknowledged by the source closest to the subject. So all thanks go to Jill. Her words, and her willingness to help us, are the real validation—a validation that what the media here in Delaware do remains important to some important people.

By the way, Joe snagged a slice of that pizza on his way out. He took a bite, too. I saw it.


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