Biden garners praise from White House

CRAWFORD, Texas — The Bush administration passed up a chance Monday to criticize Sen. Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s would-be vice president.

To the contrary, Biden won plaudits from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a spokesman for President Bush, who was vacationing at his Texas ranch here.

Talking to reporters while en route to the Middle East, Rice called the Delaware Democrat a “true patriot” and a “very fine statesman.”

Then came the White House, which was pressed to respond to Rice’s fond account of Biden, a foreign affairs veteran and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “He’s done tremendous work over a long period,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. “And I know he has been supportive of Secretary Rice’s State Department.”

Fratto also said the White House was happy for Biden and his family, given that being chosen to run on a national ticket is a “great honor.”

The spokesman quickly added, “I think Secretary Rice has made clear who she intends to vote for, and that will be Senator McCain and whomever he chooses to join him on the ticket.”

There was also room for a little poke, too.

As the Democratic National Convention was preparing to open with a flourish, Fratto was asked if Bush would be watching. Fratto suggested the president, vacationing at his ranch, might have a higher priority: “I’m sure there’s also a baseball game on tonight, too.”

In Denver, Biden chatted up delegates on the convention floor on the opening night of the convention. Earlier, he arrived in the convention host city and appeared at a downtown barbecue stand where he picked up five pulled-pork sandwiches to go.

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