Many commentators have referred to the next four years with Joe Biden as president as Barack Obama’s third term. Given the fact that Obama did not endorse Biden until five days after Bernie Sanders suspended his presidential campaign, it always seemed as if the former president was trading his endorsement for influence. Now we can all be assured that Obama weighs in pretty regularly.
During Monday’s press conference, a reporter noted the former president is involved with Protect Our Care. This group describes itself as “the communications, organizing, rapid response, research and messaging center” in the fight for affordable healthcare. Apparently, Obama has joined the group to celebrate the 11th anniversary of Obamacare by making videos and promoting his signature legislation’s successes. The same reporter then asked if the former president had visited the White House yet and how often President Biden has spoken with him. Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded:
“Well, I will say having a unique view of this question, they were not just president and vice president. They are friends. They consult and talk about a range of issues and I would expect that continues through the course of President Biden’s presidency. That can be done over the phone it turns out, and I think if President Obama had been here, you would all know. He’s a recognizable figure.”
” But I expect given former President Obama’s work on the Affordable Care Act, President Biden’s commitment to expanding access to healthcare throughout his presidency that it’s an issue they’ll talk about. But in terms of what he’ll be involved with I would point you to his team.”
She did not offer a specific number of calls but said the two are in touch regularly, and their teams are also on a range of issues. This news should not come as a big surprise. Obama administration veterans fill the Biden White House. Of Biden’s 16 original Cabinet appointees, 12 are veterans of Team Obama. With Neera Tanden out as Director of OMB, that calculus could change slightly, but the lower-level appointees also have quite a few Obama White house veterans.
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For such good friends, it seems odd that Obama did not immediately endorse Biden in the 2020 primary. This hesitancy is unusual for a former president when their vice president is running. Instead, back when the press was not all in for Joe, they leaked stories about how Obama really felt about Joe. Politico billed their relationship as “complicated” and reported that Obama had told one Democrat during the 2020 primary, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up.” Oddly, in the article, quotes from some Biden appointees indicate they were not always so pro-Joe:
Neera Tanden: “The good thing about a Biden run is that he would make Hillary look so much better.”
Denis McDonough: Denis McDonough, Obama’s former chief of staff, said Biden “always wanted to have had two conversations with someone before he would ask that person for something. … Once in a while you’re like, ‘Hey, can we get through those two touches so you can make the ask here,’ but he just wouldn’t do it. That’s the kind of operation he runs.”
Jen Psaki: “You could certainly see technocratic eye-rolling at times,” said Jen Psaki, the former White House communications director, speaking about Biden’s style of interaction.
Ron Klain – “It’s been a little hard for me to play such a role in the Biden demise,” Klain wrote to Podesta in October 2015, a week before Biden gave in and announced he would not run. “I am definitely dead to them—but I’m glad to be on Team HRC.”
These were the quotes that got attributed. There were several sentiments or quotes in the piece attributed to staff or a “senior advisor.” You have to wonder how many of them are on Team Biden now and who insisted they receive a job. And who is inside the White House keeping an eye on things for Obama?
Had the Spygate documents not been released by Acting DNI Richard Grenell, it’s legitimate to question whether the vice president would have Susan Rice instead of Kamala Harris. She was one of Obama’s closest and most trusted advisors, and Biden placing her in a domestic policy advisor role seems odd at best. Her entire career has been in foreign policy. And Harris has still not been able to rid of that horrible cackle when she is asked uncomfortable questions despite a noticeable PR-driven makeover between the end of her primary campaign and the general election.
It is a safe bet that Rice, McDonough, and Samantha Power (if the GOP really allows her to be confirmed) are all Team Obama. And from Rice’s perch inside the White House, she has a bird’s eye view. It will not be at all surprising if Rice is sitting in on Harris’ calls with foreign leaders and guiding foreign policy nearly as much as she is dealing with domestic policy. It should also surprise no one if Rice is Harris’ pick for vice president when they finally wheel Joe out of the Oval Office and back to Delaware.