WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, the object of heightened speculation this week after his tour of Afghanistan and Iraq at the side of Barack Obama, today played down the suggestion that the Democratic presidential candidate would consider him as a running mate.
"I am interested in serving in the United States Senate and that interest trumps any consideration of serving as a vice president,'' Rhode Island Democrat Reed said in an interview this afternoon.
Reed was asked: "If you were offered this position you would decline, is that correct?''
"Yeah,'' he answered, "but I frankly I don't expect to be offered the position.''
Reed added, "I want to continue to be a legislator,'' and said he thinks he could best help an Obama administration "here in the United States Senate.''
Reed said, further, that he has not been asked by the Obama campaign to answer questionnaires, put investigators in touch with accountants, or take other such steps necessary for checking the background of a prospective vice president. That fact, Reed said, makes his point that a slot on Obama's ticket "is not an offer that I will have to refuse.''
Reed, a comparatively little-known senator outside Washington, is widely known inside the Capitol as an experienced hand on defense and foreign policy issues, having gone to West Point and served as an officer in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. On that basis, some pundits speculated early in this year's Democratic nominating contest that Reed might be a good running mate for Illinois Democrat Obama, should he win the party's nomination.
But Reed issued an almost Shermanesque declaration of non-interest in the vice presidency in February. "I have no intention to seek it,'' he said of the second position on a Democratic ticket, "or even, if offered it, to accept.''
Asked today whether he stands by that statement, Reed said, "I'm exactly where I was six months ago and probably a year -- long before it was obvious that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee.''
But that was also before Obama -- a first-term senator without much foreign policy experience -- drafted Reed and another Army veteran, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., to accompany him on a tour of Afghanistan and Iraq. The three traveled together from Thursday, July 17, until last Tuesday, appearing finally at a dramatically staged press conference on a hilltop in Jordan that got worldwide attention.
Also the topic of avid attention, suddenly, was Reed's potential to add foreign policy luster to an Obama ticket. The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib, for example,
wrote in a column published Tuesday, "If you were to construct the ideal Democrat to engage Republicans in debate over Iraq, he might look something like'' Jack Reed.
But Reed said he has tried to be "so consistently clear'' about his intention to run for reelection this year and serve another Senate term that "I don't think I would be in consideration'' for a place on the ticket.
Asked whether he discussed the topic of the national ticket with Obama or those close to him, Reed said, "I've tried to make everyone aware of my interest to serve in the Senate.''
Did he tell that directly to Obama?
"I've told everybody directly. It's not exclusive to Senator Obama or anyone else,'' Reed replied. "This is consistent. This is not changing. This is a decision I made years ago, basically.''