Best office "Secret Santa" ever? Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise shopping blitz through the brand-new Washington, D.C., Costco store on Thursday, emerging with a 32-inch Panasonic flat-screen TV, some kids' books, a big apple pie and Duraflame logs. He then brought his loot back to the White House compound.
"I'm looking for pies," Biden told Costco employee Ivey Stewart, who led him through the wilderness of the big-box store's opening-day frenzy.
Biden, who was welcomed by Costco CEO Craig Jelinek and co-founder Jim Sinegal, flashed his membership card (yes, the vice president has his own membership card). "In all honesty, I didn't have my own card. Jill wouldn't let me have one," he said. "I went to get my wife's card, and she said, 'No, No, get your own card.'"
The vice president stopped frequently to hug fellow shoppers and pose for photos, according to the print pool report from Lesley Clark of McClatchy Newspapers.
Biden enjoyed a couple of samples (one from the bakery section, where a crowd welcomed him with applause) and spent what Clark described as "considerable time" eyeing watches, including a $1,200 model. He put in a call to daughter Ashley to, he said, "get some guidance."
Shoppers snapped photos of the vice president as he took a spin through the store, including the frozen food section. However, he declined entreaties to check out the tires. "Hey man, I don't need tires," he told the Costco employees in that department. "I don't drive anymore." Some shoppers from Biden's home state of Delaware got especially big hugs and handshakes.
(On Twitter, the jokes came fast and furious: Was the bright-grinned Biden buying an industrial-size pack of Crest Whitestrips? Was he treating Congressman Paul Ryan to the $1.50 hot-dog-and-a-soda meal while Mitt Romney prepared for lunch with President Barack Obama at the White House?) He told reporters the kids' books were bound for a Delaware charity started by his wife, Jill Biden. His criteria? "Things I know my grandkids like."
Before leaving, Biden placed a call on the cellphone of Stewart, his store guide. Clark reported that his comments could not be heard, but Stewart burst into tears and got her own Biden hug.
Biden thanked the press for "shopping with me" and quipped: "I know you won't tell anybody what I bought for Christmas."
Turning to politics, Biden urged Congress to extend Bush-era tax cuts that chiefly benefit the middle class. "Consumer confidence is growing," he said. "The last thing we need to do is dash that.
"It's important Congress acts now, right now," he added.
Did the vice president have to submit to the Costco receipt-checker? Sadly, the print pool reporter was too far away to be sure, but the store's membership policies presumably apply even to the man who's one heartbeat away from the presidency.
From a White House official who requested anonymity (because that's apparently the world we live in now) gave this explanation about Biden's Costco membership:
"The Bidens have been Costco members in the past. The Vice President and Dr. Biden's Costco memberships were re-activated yesterday; they paid the $55 membership re-activation fee to receive their new cards. The Vice President received his own card which he is carrying today while shopping at Costco."
So, the watch? A White House official who requested anonymity later told Clark that Biden had indeed bought a watch that will be a gift, but not the $1,200 timepiece.