Obama-Biden: Time for a Reunion Tour?
I remember a conversation in South Florida in January 2020 with Johnny Burtka, who was then CEO of The American Conservative.
Before the pandemic transmogrified American life, the specifics of the upcoming presidential election seemed bigger than anything else. Given the heterodox history of this publication, the further rise of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was viewed by both of us as complicated from a fiduciary standpoint. Half of our readers would probably dig it up. At least first. It would bring the organization back to its roots – but whip it. TACwas formed, of course, to pelt a seated Republican White House. And it was home to some of the great ObamaCons.
But I didn’t buy it. Personally, I made my bet on the establishment, a thing that has a pulse in the Democratic Party. The candidate I was holding would be Joe Biden or the Mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg, if necessary, and if those in power could find an African American to vote for him. Sanders would be checked, I suspected, especially without the demonic presence of Hillary Clinton to evict in Democratic Elementary School. I submitted a related title piece, calling it a season, in preparation for an election cycle in which Biden challenged President Donald Trump as the unacceptable steward of a bull economy.
I got the first part right. But the conditions of the later primary campaign and the competition against “Forty-five” changed at lightning speed. At first, Biden started with a miserable performance. He finished fourth in the first vote in Iowa. Then he finished fifth in New Hampshire, the land of comebacks. He followed that with a strangely distant second destination in Nevada, the land of new beginnings. That was after even some of Sander’s union acolytes left him (forget it, it’s Vegas).
I must have been his lucky charm, because only in South Carolina, the first (and last, it turned out) electoral state where I was on hand, did Biden seem to show up for work. It only took one time. Biden, of course, raged for the nomination from then on (late February), essentially securing a coronation in an unprecedented two-week blitzkrieg. It squeaked past just below the coronavirus buzzer. He de facto accepted control of the Democratic Party when the nation launched a previously unfathomable national lockdown.
In an anecdote recently exhumed by The Atlantic, The reality of the Wuhan virus likely caught Biden earlier than most. The long-time employee of the former Vice President, Larry Rasky, tweeted (deliberately) on March 13: “COVID-19. You can’t bomb it. You can’t yell at it. You can’t ignore it. You can’t bully it. You can’t really blame anyone for it. You can only solve the problem. This is a card that #DonaldTrump doesn’t have in its deck of cards. “On March 22nd, Rasky was – described by The Atlantic as Biden’s press secretary for his first White House offer in 1988 and someone “who never lost faith in him even when others did” – was dead at 69, positive for COVID-19.
It doesn’t matter whether it was Biden’s personal closeness to tragedy or his party’s upcoming extremism on COVID-19 that inspired them. Biden’s hermetic strategy to reach the summit of world power was developed in March. From then on, Biden borrowed from the “Veranda Campaign” from William McKinley and stood as a steady hand against a bellicose populist. The man who is supposed to be “forty-six” perfected his “cellar campaign”.
The warfare brought a November victory, albeit amid yelling and howling from Donald Trump and his entourage over election fraud, all amid an unexpectedly close result. 2020 was a Farrago. With such a clandestine campaign, a new president begs the question of what Joe Biden will do with all that power. Two new books try to do this.
Biden’s previous appointments sound like Barack Obama’s third term: Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, Alejandro Mayorkas as Head of Homeland Security, Tom Vilsack again as Secretary of Agriculture, Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury, Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor, John Kerry as Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, and Ron Klain as chief of staff. All served the 44th President (Klain led the response to the Ebola crisis).
The former president himself, intentionally or unintentionally, engaged in such gossip by publishing his long-awaited memoir (or the first part of it). A promised landshortly after election day.
“If I were seen as spirited, cool and collected, judging by the way I used my words,” writes Obama, “Joe was warm-hearted, an uninhibited man who liked to share what jumped on his mind.” Obama says it was “an endearing quality, e.g. [Biden] People really enjoyed ”- which, interestingly, implies he didn’t. But “Joe’s enthusiasm had its downside,” recalls Obama. “In a city full of people who liked to hear each other talk, he had no colleague.”
Most of the time, throughout the book, Obama speaks warmly of his former lieutenant and emphasizes that he was “not disappointed” with his election as a fellow campaigner. But the subtly ambiguous language that Obama often uses about Biden is evidence of a rift between the two men that is wider than is commonly understood.
Since the 2012 election, it has been reported that Obama weighed Biden on his second White House bid when he was flirting with Hillary Clinton. This insult was just a forerunner. Obama and the Democratic establishment would essentially get Biden out of the 2016 race. It is true that Biden mourned the tragic loss of his son Beau, the former Delaware attorney general, and the second of his children who survived Biden. Apart from the family, Biden, who was elected to the Senate at the age of 29, knows little else besides politics. He tried it in 2016.
“It was a little difficult for me to play such a role in Biden’s death,” Klain wrote to Hillary Clinton Campaign Chairman John Podesta in the fall of 2015. With the defeat of Clinton and the presidency of Donald Trump and Klain, Biden is now to become chief of staff. But Biden was almost forced to be the master hand of the parlor game behind the scenes with Obama in 2015 – something he doesn’t write about in his new memoir.
Biden’s public language at the time reflected this dictated reality. In October of this year, Biden said in the rose garden: “When my family and I worked through the mourning process, I kept saying what I kept saying to others that it can be very good like this. The process closes the window as soon as it is we went through it. I have come to the conclusion that it is closed. “Biden didn’t exactly deny his ambition because all things were the same. As Obama writes in his book on Biden,” His style was old-fashioned, he liked the spotlight and he wasn’t always aware of it. “
In the days following Trump’s shock victory in 2016, Obama granted an interview The New YorkerDavid Remnick. He did not mention Biden as his heir. When asked about the Democratic Bank, Remnick writes: “He mentioned Kamala Harris, the new Senator from California; Pete Buttigieg, a gay Rhodes Scholar and Navy veteran who was twice elected Mayor of South Bend, Indiana; Tim Kaine; and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. “Obama does a lot of things in A promised landwhich is more than 700 pages long, but does little thought, especially about his own political instincts.
Obama stopped Biden from running in the presidential election, in which he would eventually triumph. “You don’t have to do that, Joe, you really don’t,” Obama was quoted by the New York Times Obama now has plenty of time to continue his memoir. Far from being the author’s first choice, Biden must now write the next chapter in American history.
Bidenology is, of course, an emerging discipline with a surprising lack of experts. One problem of having been in national politics for 50 years and not peaking until around 80 is that most of the people you have known are dead. A young Biden is described in What it takes by Richard Ben Cramer, the archetypal campaign book of New Journalism, but he is only one character in a cast that George H.W. Bush, Al Gore, Gary Hart, Bob Dole and other figures from the 1988 presidential campaign.
The Payoff: Why Wall Street Always Wins by disgruntled ex-Biden employee Jeff Connaughton and The unwinding George Packer (where Connaughton Packer’s source is) wrestle with the political figure who “disappoints everyone,” as long-time Biden advisor Ted Kaufman quotes (Kaufman denies this). Biden has a biographer, 93-year-old Jules Witcover, long-time collaborator with the late Jack Germand. He published Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Salvation in 2019 before the pandemic and Biden’s late rise.
Evan Osnos Joe Biden: The Biography appears to be the first real attempt at full treatment in the so-called Biden years. Unfortunately, it’s not the full treatment.
Osnos has written extensively on subjects as opaque as the Chinese government. Even to skilled journalists, America’s new president seems, in some ways, even more mysterious and unknown – strange to someone who supposedly never shuts up. Osnos had access to Biden during the pandemic and published his book in May. There are the interesting personal tidbits – “His hairline has been reforested, his forehead seemed calm,” notes Osnos – but much of the book tells the reader what he or she already knows: “The 2020 trials have some of the most basic Stories dismantled we Americans tell us. “
It’s barely 200 pages, and if that sounds easy and rushed, maybe it’s because many were preparing to write Sander’s essays just a year ago. Still, it’s probably as good a primer as we are – which I think is worrying.
Biden told Osnos he wants to rule as the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he sees it. But Biden’s early selection has outraged the progressive left. For example, he elects Neera Tanden, the current President of the Center for American Progress, for the Office of Management and Budget. She was one of the leading tormentors of Bernie Sander’s followers. Biden will send her before the Senate Budget Committee, where Sanders will be listed as a member. You don’t have to be a member of the honored society to recognize Mafia tactics.
For all of his rifts with the 44th president, perhaps by default, Biden relies heavily on the democratic establishment that once quietly tried to bypass him. Even choosing Osnos for an authorized biographer implies Biden will keep it in the family – the Obama-Biden family – despite everything. Who was the editor of Obama’s first memoir? Dream about my father, in 1995? Peter Osnos of Time Books, the father of The New YorkerEvan.
Perhaps the key to understanding the future has less to do with Biden’s ideology than with his temperament and style. “I felt [Biden] could get prickly if it doesn’t mature, a quality that could flare up when dealing with a much younger boss, ”writes Obama in his new book. No such problem now.
It was reported that Hillary Clinton had impressed Obama, previously her bitter rival, with her notes and preparations during his tenure. Biden, a deeply indifferent student in his youth, took a less timely approach. What does America look like under Joe Biden? Perhaps a country that wants to give it wings.