Remember all of those puff-piece profiles about the ‘bromance’ between former President Barack Obama and his vice president and erstwhile rival Joe Biden?
What if we told you that those stories were, for the most part, slickly executed PR plants, and that, from the earliest days of their joint candidacy, Obama and Biden got along about as well as Tony Soprano and his uncle, Junior. That is to say, Biden’s resentment over losing out to the young, charismatic Nobel Peace Prize laureate never really cooled – and Obama never really stopped questioning Biden’s competence, particularly during the early days post-convention, when the veteran Senator from Delaware seemingly couldn’t avoid sticking his foot in his mouth.
Of course, the narrative preferred by left-leaning outlets like BuzzFeed is much more palatable to the public, which is probably why it has endured for so long.
But as speculation about Obama’s refusal to endorse his former running mate mounts, Breitbart has resurfaced some passages from John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book about the 2008 campaign to remind the public that the relationship between the two men was far more acrimonious than they let on in public.
And that was due, in large part, to Biden’s gaffe-prone behavior and arrogance, exhibited by his inability to stop “running his mouth” to reporters in the weeks before the historic vote.
Obama’s antipathy toward his running mate was so intense, that the campaign never included Biden on its daily call – in fact, they held a separate ‘fake’ daily call to make Biden feel included, while allowing senior staff to keep the future VP in line.
A chill set in between Chicago and the Biden plane. Joe and Obama barely spoke by phone, rarely campaigned together. Not only was Biden kept off Obama’s nightly campaign conference call, he wasn’t even told it existed. (When the idea of having Biden join was put to [campaign manager David] Plouffe, his response was ‘nah.’) A different daily call was set up for Joe, with [senior staff], so they could keep a tight reign on him.
Obama reportedly asked his senior staff to “fix this problem with Biden” – something they never quite got a handle on. Thus, Biden went on embarrassing the top of his ticket during both private fundraisers with big-time donors, and with the general public.
The bitterness only escalated from there, especially as Biden began making more frequent gaffes on the campaign trail. In the final week of September alone, Biden “equated paying higher taxes with patriotism,” told voters both he and Obama were opposed to coal—contrary to their platform – and second guessed the campaign’s messaging strategy.
In the wake of such gaffes, Obama purportedly told his staff to “fix this problem with Biden,” but refrained from getting involved himself. All of that changed two weeks before Election Day, when Biden claimed at a fundraiser that Obama, if elected, would stare down an international crisis in his first six-months.
The prophesy would not have stirred much concern, except Biden gave the impression to those in attendance and the media that he was “showing off” for wealthy donors, and the crisis in question would be “generated.”
“Mark my words,” Biden told the crowd. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy … Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”
Biden’s inability to stop making cracks about Obama’s ‘lack of experience’ infuriated the candidate in a way that even the sharpest jabs from Hillary never quite managed to do. Halperin and Heilemann described how, during one call not long after the above-mentioned remark, a furious Obama fumed about “how many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?”
On Obama’s nightly call, the candidate hit the ceiling. ([Chief strategist David] Axelrod was already up there, needing to be peeled off, having let fly a string of F-bombs when he first found out what Biden had said.) ‘Golly, man!’ Obama said, with more anger in his voice than ‘gollys’ normally carry. He was, in fact, as pissed off as most people on the call had ever heard him, more so than he’d been at even the wickedest jabs from Hillary Clinton. ‘How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?’”
Not long after, Obama set up a private call with Biden where he laid into his running mate, accusing him of failing to ‘have his back.’
A couple of days later, Obama phoned Biden and laid into him. You were supposed to have my back, he said, not be out there creating problems…More than that, though, what rankled Obama was that Biden hadn’t bothered to pick up the phone and apologize. Worse, Biden didn’t say that he was sorry when Obama called; he showed no remorse for his…comments or understanding that they posed a real political problem.
All of this is why Obama reportedly told Biden during a private call before the 76-year-old launched his campaign that he ‘didn’t need to do this.’
“You don’t have to do this, Joe, you really don’t,” Obama told Biden before the 76-year-old formally launched his campaign in April.
For Democratic primary voters, this is definitely something worth keeping in mind.