Former President Barack Obama and his running mate turned gaffe-prone 2020 Democratic hopeful Joe Biden apparently have a complicated relationship. The New York Times published a profile on Friday, August 16, which attempted to explain why Obama has remained conspicuously mum on his former VP’s presidential campaign.
According to the Times, Obama reportedly tried to gently nudge the former veep from entering the 2020 field during one of several chats the friends had ahead of Biden announcing his candidacy in April.
“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Obama reportedly told Biden. However, the former veep would not be deterred, telling Obama that he believed he could have beaten Trump in 2016, and refused to pass up another shot at him.
Obama has publicly distanced himself from Biden’s run, which is due, in part, to his reported refusal to endorse any candidate during the primary. Although the former president has been quiet on the subject of presidential candidates, according to numerous reports, Obama has also made himself available to meet with and offer advice to all the 2020 hopefuls, but he’s reportedly paid extra special attention to Biden’s campaign.
Obama’s behind-the-scenes counsel to Biden’s team may have less to do with helping the veteran establishment Democrat win the presidency than with protecting the Obama/Biden legacy. From the Times:
In March, Mr. Obama took the unusual step of summoning Mr. Biden’s top campaign advisers, including the former White House communications director Anita Dunn and Mr. Biden’s longtime spokeswoman, Kate Bedingfield, to his Washington office for a briefing on the campaign’s digital and communications strategy with members of his own staff, including his senior adviser, Eric Schultz.
When they were done, Mr. Obama offered a pointed reminder, according to two people with knowledge of his comments:
Win or lose, they needed to make sure Mr. Biden did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” during the campaign.
It’s a reasonable request, given how Biden’s brain seemed to short circuit when it came time to plug his own website during the second round of Democratic debates. Also, the former vice president has a terrible track record with presidential campaigns. During his first bid in 1988, Biden had to drop out of the primary in disgrace over a plagiarism scandal. In 2008, Biden pulled the plug on his underwhelming campaign after finishing fifth in the Iowa caucuses with less than one percent of the vote.
Apparently, Obama was too polite to tell his pal that the third time isn’t necessarily the charm.