A high profile piece in a political junkie establishment rag like Politico that claims extensive insights into Obama’s thinking is obviously a planted narrative by Obamaworld. The timing is right. Obama has made a sudden return to politics with his Democracy Alliance speech warning the Soros group against backing radicals. Deval Patrick was seen as his candidate, but the profile contains a claim that Obama told Patrick not to run.
Is that really the case or, now that Patrick’s launch faltered, is Obama backing away from him?
Much of it is the usual fluff about Obama’s cerebral nature. But it’s safe to assume that the claims about his positions on candidates are real, not in that they represent the truth, but the truth that Obamaworld wants to put out.
And the truth is that Obama hates Bernie. And hates him enough to block him.
That’s a potent threat considering the black electorate of the Democrats.
Back when Sanders seemed like more of a threat than he does now, Obama said privately that if Bernie were running away with the nomination, Obama would speak up to stop him.
When it comes to Sanders, I asked one close adviser whether Obama would really lay himself on the line to prevent a Sanders nomination. “I can’t really confirm that,” the adviser said. “He hasn’t said that directly to me. The only reason I’m hesitating at all is because, yeah, if Bernie were running away with it, I think maybe we would all have to say something. But I don’t think that’s likely. It’s not happening.” (Another close Obama friend said, “Bernie’s not a Democrat.”)
The article repeatedly disses Biden. That’s not a surprise. Obama never believed that Biden had it in him. And, despite the article’s efforts to paint Obama as noble, he’s predictably petty.
He told Patrick earlier this year that it was likely “too late” for him to secure “money and talent” if he jumped in the race. Occasionally, he can be cutting. With one candidate, he pointed out that during his own 2008 campaign, he had an intimate bond with the electorate, especially in Iowa, that he no longer has. Then he added, “And you know who really doesn’t have it? Joe Biden.”
There’s that high ground.
Biden’s people meanwhile wanted Obama to speak out over Ukraine. And never got their wish granted. The last thing Obama wants would be to open that can of worms since he was the one with the final say.
One person who is very close to both Obama and Biden said the only time the Biden campaign has been disappointed in Obama is over Trump’s Ukraine scandal. “I don’t think anybody in the Biden world challenges Obama’s affection for Biden, or challenges his strategy of not weighing in for anybody,” this person said. ”I do think there’s frustration when Joe Biden and Hunter Biden get attacked by Republicans on the Ukrainian thing and they say, ’Obama and his administration looked the other way back when this was happening,’ and Obama doesn’t say anything. The Biden people ask, ‘Why won’t Obama say something?’”
Predictably, Obama didn’t want Biden to run, didn’t think he should run, and doesn’t want to be associated with him.
But Obama had already passed over Biden for Hillary Clinton in 2016. With Biden out of the race in 2020, the psychodrama of their relationship and the intrigue about Obama’s assessment of Biden could have been avoided. Obama’s commitment to non-interference would have seemed less fraught.
Biden, Obama told people close to him before Biden even entered the race, would have to “earn” it. There would be no endorsement. (Biden has said he never asked for one.)
And, apparently Holder was serious about running. And Obama hurt his feelings.
Last year, Obama let it be widely known that he would not make his preference known or, in the phrase that his close advisers frequently use, “put his thumb on the scale.” It wasn’t just Biden who was disappointed. Holder was particularly wounded that his close friend wasn’t more encouraging of his own ambitions. ”He’s still pretty sensitive about it,” said someone close to Holder. “He was really frustrated about having arrived at the decision not to run. Holder couldn’t get in because Biden and Holder have the same set of people. Once Biden was getting in then Eric couldn’t get in. So that frustrated Holder. It blocked him. And Biden has turned out the way they all feared, and that’s really frustrating to Eric.”
There are also the petty shots at Trump.
“He knows absolutely nothing,” Obama privately told a visitor about Trump, immediately after the meeting.
Now say that in Austrian.
The $64K question is whether Obama’s newfound high profile is an attempt to stop not just Bernie, but Warren.
As for Warren, the candidate who has tried to bridge the worlds of Sanders and Obama, Obama’s relationship with Warren is famously complicated. Back in early 2015, when Warren was considering running for president and started to excite progressives, Obama said privately that if Democrats rallied around her as their nominee it would be a repudiation of him—a clear sign that his economic decisions after the Great Recession had been seen as inadequate. There are very few former senior Obama officials in Warren’s campaign.
So the Democrats have now been warned that if Warren or Sanders are the nominees, they may not have Obama on the campaign trail.
There’s a direct shot across the bow at Sanders. For now, not across Warren’s bow. The piece pulls back and suggests that Obama may be open to backing her. Or not.
Kiss the ring.
All told, the Democrats may not leave the 2020 primaries united. And that’s going to cost them.