To hear Joe Biden talk, he and “Barack” are the best of friends. BFFs whose relationship transcends politics. Brothers whose unquestioning loyalty and steadfast support for one another is unshakable.
Except, maybe not.
According to a new report from Politico, tensions between the two men and their respective camps have lingered throughout Biden’s 2020 campaign — if not before it even began.
The report, which contains quotes from a number of unnamed sources close to both Obama and Biden, portrays a former president who had serious doubts — and still does — about the fitness of his former vice president to serve as the country’s next president.
This is not to suggest that Obama and Biden didn’t — or still don’t — genuinely like one another.
To the contrary, interviews with dozens of senior officials of the Obama-Biden administration, Politico said, “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.
That “close personal relationship” was apparent on social-media-concocted #BestFriendsDay in June, 2019, when the Biden campaign posted a picture of a “Joe” and “Barack” friendship bracelet.
Yes, Biden can make even “Best Friends Day” creepy. Who knew?
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 9, 2019
Creepy friendship bracelets aside, even then, as reported by Politico, “deep hurt” remained among Biden and his allies over Obama’s 2016 enthusiastic support of Hillary Clinton as his heir apparent.
Leon Panetta, who served as both Obama’s White House chief of staff and Defense secretary, explained how he thought Biden felt at the time.
“He was loyal, I think, to Obama in every way in terms of defending and standing by him, even probably when he disagreed with what Obama was doing. To some extent, [he] oftentimes felt that that loyalty was not being rewarded.”
Biden aides interviewed for the report shared Panetta’s assessment, pointing out that even when Obama finally endorsed Biden in 2020, the endorsement lacked the energy of his 2016 endorsement of Clinton.
In the 2016 video endorsing Hillary, Obama said: “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.” Yet his 2020 endorsement of Biden was not nearly as exuberant.
Moreover, Obama sounded as if he were trying to put voters’ minds at ease by suggesting Biden will have all the help he needs if he wins.
“I believe Joe has all of the qualities we need in a president right now [..] and I know he will surround himself with good people,” Obama said flatly, in the video.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Tensions linger between Biden and Obama camps throughout 2020 primary campaign: reporthttps://t.co/oheKs2425w
— Jeffrey Lord (@realJeffreyLord) August 15, 2020
Obama’s trepidation about Biden’s candidacy was summed up by Ben Rhodes, the former president’s deputy national security adviser, who Politico said “was known for his mind-meld with the president.” In his memoir, Rhodes wrote that “in the Situation Room, Biden could be something of an unguided missile.”
This excerpt suggests Obama’s patience with Biden often wore thin:
Biden’s tendency to blurt out whatever was on his mind rankled Obama, who wasn’t afraid to needle him for it. In his first press conference in 2009, the young president quipped “I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to—not surprisingly,” when asked about Biden’s assessment that there was a 30 percent chance they could get the economic stimulus package wrong.
[…] anonymously sourced quotes from Obama kept appearing through the race. One Democrat who spoke to Obama recalled the former president warning, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up.” Speaking of his own waning understanding of today’s Democratic electorate, especially in Iowa, Obama told one 2020 candidate: “And you know who really doesn’t have it? Joe Biden.”
And there it is.“Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up.”
Other sources told Politico young White House aides also made fun of the vice president behind his back.
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.
I’ve often described Biden as your favorite uncle who lives in one of your upstairs bedrooms. You love him to death, but hope like hell he doesn’t come downstairs in his tighty-whities and wife-beater t-shirt in the middle of a dinner party, and start telling dirty jokes to your guests.
Fox News host Laura Ingraham said of the Politico report:
“This article proves what we all knew — that Obama just doesn’t think Biden is very smart.”
This article proves what we all knew — that Obama just doesn’t think Biden is very smart. “The President Was Not Encouraging’: What Obama Really Thought About Biden – POLITICO https://t.co/YPElXwXoEV
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) August 14, 2020
As the old saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows.
When it comes to the relationship between an elitist 59-year-old Harvard Law School graduate and a 77-year-old gaffe-prone career politician who grew up in the industrial town of Scranton, PA, it couldn’t be more strange — not to mention more politically expedient.