Barack Obama Privately Worries Joe Biden Might, ‘F— Things Up’
The famous “bromance” friendship between former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama became a source of hilarious
The famous “bromance” friendship between former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama became a source of hilarious memes in 2017, a year when politics were becoming heavy and burdensome to many Americans. Even detractors of the former Vice President and President team often found the memes sweet, funny, and relatable. Now, as Biden gears up for his own potential presidency, it seems as though Obama may have private misgivings about Biden’s ability to close the deal with voters.
Book smarts versus street smarts
When Obama ran for president leading up to 2008, it became apparent to Democrats that he was a book-smarts politician. Intellectual and often seen as aloof, Obama was more prone to lecturing and scolding than compromising. Biden was his polar opposite. An old-school politician with a penchant for negotiation, Biden was charismatic, friendly, and eager to hear the concerns of the other side in any discussion. Together, they made a pair who complemented each other’s weaknesses.
In public, Biden & Obama presented a strong front
Outwardly, they seemed to be the perfect team. When Obama’s presidency began in 2008, he faced harsh criticism from Republicans who found him distant and uncompromising. They often referred to him as an arrogant intellectual elite, something their base voters found offensive. Biden was always quick to Obama’s defense. A more down-to-earth sort of guy, Biden was staunch in standing up for his running mate and never hesitated to take swings at people targeting the president. They effectively navigated Washington together.
Behind the scenes, Obama chafed under Biden’s personality
But it seems that, under the surface, the pair’s bromance wasn’t as picture perfect as they wanted people to believe. Biden often went on tangents, which Obama seemed to politely tolerate but not enjoy. Obama, as the first Black president, simply didn’t fit into the old boy’s club that Biden easily navigated, and exchanges with Congressional Republicans often highlighted the basic differences between the pair.
In 2015, things turned decidedly chillier between Obama and Biden. Obama and former Secretary of StateHillary Clinton had long been friendly, and they shared a similar approach to politics. Both Ivy League university educated, they share criticism of both being aloof and arrogant, and they were both the book-smarts, over-prepared, discuss from a distance sort of politicians. Their similarities and friendship may be why Obama had long looked at Clinton as his natural successor, rather than his running mate Biden. This would cause tension, as Biden looked to his friend and co-worker to endorse his candidacy for President heading into the 2016 election. In 2015, however, Obama seemed to slide in line behind Clinton. Biden allegedly felt betrayed, and despite discussions with Obama where the former President signaled his enthusiasm for a Biden presidency, behind the scenes some major Obama staffers were beginning the shift into Clinton’s campaign staff.
Tragedy pulls Biden away from the campaign trail
And just as Biden’s campaign was getting off the ground in May of 2015, he was devastated by the loss of his son, Joseph “Beau” Biden lll, who died from cancer at the age of 46. Beau, an Iraq War veteran and former Delaware Attorney General, was not Biden’s first loss as a parent. In 1972, Biden’s wife and 1-year-old daughter were tragically killed in a car accident. Grief from the loss of his son convinced Biden that he wasn’t ready to launch a campaign against assumed successor to Obama, Clinton, and he opted not to run against her in 2016.
By 2019, Biden was ready to try again
When the 2020 election cycle began, Biden signaled his intent to run and began calling in favors from Democrats to endorse him. Although he expected, to some degree, an Obama endorsement, those close to Biden suggested that he hesitated to appear as an Obama legacy. Biden didn’t want to appear to be standing on Obama’s shoulders, so he tried early on to play the delicate balance between pulling enthusiasm from Black voters who backed Obama and intellectual elites, and sticking to his down-to-earth style of politics to appeal to Democrats who may have felt disenfranchised by the intellectually-heavy-hitting progressive candidates running against him for the 2020 presidency.
Whatever balance he struck worked. Despite detractors considering his campaign slogan of, “fighting for the soul of the nation,” hokey and unappealing, voters lined up behind Biden early in the primary season. Before the Democratic National Convention was held, all major opposing democrats had withdrawn their nomination and Biden had already become the assumed candidate.
In private, Obama worried about Biden’s ability to win the presidency
But privately, Obama worried that Biden wasn’t up to the challenge of beating incumbent President Donald J Trump. Trump’s pull-no-punches, vicious campaign style hits Biden in his weakest point; his ability to pivot on his feet to attacks. The non-Ivy-league-educated former VP, while an effective debater, often struggles to respond on the fly to accusations made by the opposition, and Democrats beyond just Obama worry about his ability to hold off Trump attacks and secure the presidency. This was evident in a primary debate where US Senator Kamala Harris slammed Biden for his controversial opposition to busing, an attack which left Biden floundering for a defense. Obama told an unnamed Democrat, “don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f— thing’s up.”
Obama’s criticisms aren’t necessarily a death knell for a Biden presidency
However, given the criticisms of being arrogant and elite that follow Obama and Clinton past their political careers, it’s possible that Biden offers a breath of fresh air to voters who want a candidate they feel is closer to the average Joe. With his campy use of colloquialisms, and his right-fighting style of tackling controversial issues, Biden offers a bit of what appeals about Trump to his voters, while retaining an old-school Democrat platform that appeals to Boomer generation voters who felt uncomfortable with Obama and Clinton.
With Harris as Biden’s pick for VP, they offer a team very similar to the one offered by the Obama and Biden administration. The team offers an intellectual, and Biden’s earthy and broadly appealing approach to politics. Obama’s reservations aside, Biden seems to be handling the voters easily and currently leads Trump in most polls across the country. Whether Obama’s concerns will prove to be prophetic, or Biden will continue to dominate and clinch the presidency, Democrats will have to find a way to unify behind a Biden/Harris ticket if they have any hope of prying Trump from the White House.