Author Topic: ‘The President Was Not Encouraging’: What Obama Really Thought About Biden  (Read 96 times)

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Offline Ptarmigan

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‘The President Was Not Encouraging’: What Obama Really Thought About Biden

The way Joe Biden explained it on the campaign trail in Iowa, he and his friend Barack Obama had long talked of Biden succeeding him in the White House, continuing the work of their administration. It was only tragic fate, in the form of the loss of his son Beau, that intervened. Now, after four years, the plan could finally go forward, with Biden running as the administration’s true heir.

Barack Obama, Biden solemnly declared in his campaign announcement in Philadelphia, is “an extraordinary man, an extraordinary president.” On the social media-generated #BestFriendsDay, the campaign posted a picture of “Joe” and “Barack” friendship bracelets. Biden relabeled himself an “Obama-Biden Democrat.”

But behind all the BFF bonhomie is a much more complicated story—one fueled by the misgivings the 44th president had about the would-be 46th, the deep hurt still felt among Biden’s allies over how Obama embraced Hillary Clinton as his successor, and a powerful sense of pride that is driving Biden to prove that the former president and many of his aides underestimated the very real strengths of his partner.

Joe Biden and Barack Obama have a more complicated relationship.

Interviews with dozens of senior officials of the Obama-Biden administration painted a picture of eight years during which the president and vice president enjoyed a genuinely close personal relationship, built particularly around devotion to family, while at the same time many senior aides, sometimes tacitly encouraged by the president’s behavior, dismissed Biden as eccentric and a practitioner of an old, outmoded style of politics.

“You could certainly see technocratic eye-rolling at times,” said Jen Psaki, the former White House communications director. Young White House aides frequently mocked Biden’s gaffes and lack of discipline in comparison to the almost clerical Obama. They would chortle at how Biden, like an elderly uncle at Thanksgiving, would launch into extended monologues that everyone had heard before.

Former administration officials treated Biden dismissively in their memoirs.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, who was known for his mind-meld with the president, wrote in his memoir that “in the Situation Room, Biden could be something of an unguided missile.”

Even Biden did not like Obama much.

Biden, for his part, felt Obama too often let his head get in the way. “Sometimes I thought he was deliberate to a fault,” he wrote in his 2017 book Promise Me, Dad.

But, as is sometimes the case in a troubled marriage, there were three people in the Obama-Biden relationship.

And the person who ultimately came between Obama and Biden was Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton ruined the relationship between Joe Biden and Barack Obama.

But numerous administration veterans, including loyalists to both Obama and Biden, remember it differently: Obama had begun embracing Clinton as a possible successor years before Biden lost his son, while the vice president was laying the groundwork for his own campaign.

Just after Obama’s second inauguration in 2013, Democrats turned on their TVs to see Obama singing Clinton’s praises in a joint “60 Minutes” interview on the occasion of Clinton’s departure from the State Department—one that two Clinton aides say was suggested by Obama’s team, albeit as a print interview.

“Why have them sit together for two hours and have 200 of their words used?,” recalled Philippe Reines, Clinton’s press aide at the time. “I always just prefer TV. And I’m like, ‘Let’s go for gold. Let’s do ‘60 Minutes.’ And Ben [Rhodes] said, ‘I love it.’”

“I was a big admirer of Hillary’s before our primary battles and the general election,” Obama enthused. “You know, her discipline, her stamina, her thoughtfulness, her ability to project, I think, and make clear issues that are important to the American people, I thought made her an extraordinary talent. … [P]art of our bond is we’ve been through a lot of the same stuff.”

Barack Obama was slow to endorse Joe Biden.

Lingering tensions between the Biden and Obama camps were subtly visible in the 2020 primary campaign, in which Obama declined to endorse any candidate.

Many top Obama administration and campaign officials sat on the sidelines or worked for candidates other than Biden. Top former aides including strategist David Axelrod and the young hosts of Pod Save America—Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett and Dan Pfeiffer—at times ridiculed the former vice president’s campaign. Biden is one of the few candidates to have not gone on either of their popular podcasts during the campaign, despite having been invited: “I can’t speak for his campaign’s scheduling decisions,” said Vietor, “but the Zoom is always open.”
« Last Edit: August 16, 2020, 10:39:31 AM by Ptarmigan »
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