In the most recent Democratic debate, Senator Cory Booker called Joe Biden to task for his constant name-dropping of Barack Obama. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not,” he said in what was one of my favorite moments ever in any of the debates.
According to the New York Times, while Joe Biden was seeking counsel on whether to run for president, Barack Obama tried to talk his former vice president out of running.
The two men spoke at least a half dozen times before Mr. Biden decided to run, and Mr. Obama took pains to cast his doubts about the campaign in personal terms.
“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Mr. Obama told Mr. Biden earlier this year, according to a person familiar with the exchange.
Mr. Biden — who thinks he could have defeated Donald Trump four years ago — responded by telling Mr. Obama he could never forgive himself if he turned down a second shot at Mr. Trump.
Mr. Obama has said he will not make an endorsement in the primary, and has offered every candidate his counsel. But he has taken an active interest in the inner workings of his friend’s campaign, to an extent beyond anything offered to other candidates.
What is so interesting about this story is how it conflicts with Biden’s prior claim that he specifically asked Obama not to endorse him. “I asked President Obama not to endorse me. He doesn’t want to. Whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.” If Obama was trying to persuade Joe not to run, it’s highly unlikely that Biden would have had to ask for him not to endorse him. Not that anyone really believed Joe’s story anyway.
Another fun nugget in this story is what is revealed about Obama’s search for a running mate. According to the New York Times, Obama specifically wanted someone to balance the ticket on the issue of experience. Obama said at the time he wanted someone older, with gray in his hair. Biden was a top contender, but thirty alternatives were considered. It came down to Biden and two younger options: Tim Kaine of Virginia and Evan Bayh of Indiana. “In Mr. Biden, [Obama] found a running mate who would conjure the comforting past and provide experience he did not possess, but would not maneuver for the presidency from the No. 2 slot.” After settling on Joe, Obama told Kaine, “You are the pick of my heart, but Joe is the pick of my head.”
It’s obvious that Biden was always meant to counter Obama’s lack of experience and nothing more. And Biden’s experience ain’t all that great. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has noted in his memoir, Joe Biden “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue of over the past four decades.”
If there’s anything that we can gather from this story it’s that Obama really doesn’t think as highly of Joe Biden as Joe Biden wants us to believe.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis