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Bridging the partisan divide: VP's chief of staff is 'Mr. Fix-It'

Bruce Reed, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, has a reputation for getting along with both parties, and often plays a key role in pushing the Obama administration's agenda.

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Raised in Coeur d'Alene, a small Idaho town near the Washington state border, Reed followed his mother, Mary Lou Reed, a Democrat and former Idaho state senator, into politics. He moved east for school, studying English at Princeton University before becoming a Rhodes Scholar and earning a master's degree at Oxford University. An avid baseball fan, Reed proposed to his wife, attorney Bonnie LePard, at a Pittsburgh Pirates game; they have two children.

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He wrote speeches for then-Sen. Al Gore, D-Tenn., starting in 1985, then joined the Democratic Leadership Council, a now-defunct group that sought to push the Democratic Party toward the political center. He served for all eight years in the Clinton White House, where he was often the public face of the administration's policies on education, guns and welfare reform. Later, he ran the Simpson-Bowles commission, tasked with forging a bipartisan deficit-reduction deal.

That deal never made it to a vote in Congress, but Reed impressed lawmakers from both parties. Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, a vocal critic of Obama, recalled how Reed would flesh out a lawmaker's idea, providing the analysis and figures needed to fully evaluate it.

"It happened again and again," Crapo said. "Even if it wasn't necessarily something he would support from his personal political perspective, he was very focused on helping the individual member."

It's been just over two years since Biden tapped Reed to be his chief of staff, and his cautious and meticulous manner often serves as a counterweight to the more verbose and unrehearsed Biden. In that short time, Biden has played a leading role in winding down the war in Iraq, negotiating a fiscal-cliff deal with Senate Republicans, nudging Obama toward an embrace of gay marriage and spearheading Obama's push on gun control.

Reed declined to be interviewed for this story. But Galston, the former Clinton adviser, said Reed values clarity of expression above almost all else.

"He edits documents the way a sculptor works with a block of marble: by subtraction," said Galston. "You get rid of what you don't want, and what's left is what you have in mind."

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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