The timing seemed perfect. Biden had just called out Donald Trump, old school: "I wish we were in high school -- I could take him behind the gym. That's what I wish." Trump responded in kind: "I'd love that. I'd love that. Mr. Tough Guy."
I intended to revisit that spat. But the night before the interview, my focus shifted. Politico reported that Hillary Clinton's transition team had put Biden's name at the top of a list of potential secretaries of state. That seemed like perfect fodder. Unfortunately, Friday morning, a reporter in Duluth got Biden on the record saying he was not interested. Now I was scrambling for a focus, and the calling out of Trump seemed stale.
Then came a divine intervention. The interview was scheduled for 5 p.m. backstage at the Pageant, a historic theater at which Biden was appearing at a rally for Missouri Senate candidate Jason Kander. Early that afternoon, FBI Director James Comey sent shockwaves through the election when he alerted Congress that agents were reviewing newfound emails from Clinton's time as secretary of state. I crossed my fingers and hoped no one would ask Biden about Comey before me.
The veep ran about 90 minutes late. I waited in a small dressing room. CNN producers covered the mirrors with black bed sheets from Walmart and installed an American flag, which would appear over the vice president's right shoulder. Finally he arrived, and we chatted for 20 minutes. There was one key exchange:
BIDEN: "I think Hillary -- if she said, what I'm told she said, is correct -- release the emails. For the whole world to see. To the best of my knowledge, it won't prejudice the investigation, but that's the stilted language the agency always uses. And it doesn't mean anything. It's unfortunate."
SMERCONISH: "I'd be remiss if I didn't note that if she had released all the emails from the get-go, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
BIDEN: "Well, that's true. But I don't know where this email, where these emails came from --
SMERCONISH: "Apparently, Anthony Weiner."
BIDEN: "Well, oh, God. Anthony Weiner. I should not comment on Anthony Weiner. I'm not a big fan. And I wasn't before he got in trouble. So I shouldn't comment on Anthony Weiner."
His face, at my mention of Weiner -- the former congressman who has been embroiled in sexting scandals -- said everything. It was classic, unguarded Biden.