Politics Biden, Obama ten minutes apart but rarely together
How Biden and his team rushed to save him from his infrastructure blunder
President Joe Biden planned to spend a peaceful weekend at Camp David -- but instead, he spent two days working to salvage the bipartisan infrastructure plan he had imperiled with a stray comment to reporters as he celebrated the announcement of the deal. © Jacquelyn Martin/AP President Joe Biden, with a bipartisan group of senators, speaks Thursday June 24, 2021, outside the White House in Washington. Biden invited members of the group of 21 Republican and Democratic senators to discuss the infrastructure plan.
President Biden and his one-time boss, former President Obama, haven't seen each other in person since the Inauguration.
And those close to both presidents don't expect them to meet until Obama's long-awaited portrait unveiling at the White House this fall.
It's a significant amount of time apart for two men who live roughly 10 minutes apart and consider themselves close.
Even their phone contact is sporadic. They talk "from time to time," one source estimated. "It's not daily, weekly or even monthly. It's as needed." But this person also insisted that the two men "have a great relationship." Another source added, "there's an open door."
Biden's infrastructure backtracking shows pattern of shifting when pressure is on`
President Joe Biden’s reversal over the weekend on a threat to block bipartisan infrastructure legislation unless it arrives on his desk alongside a massive spending package is the latest example of an administration that has proven susceptible to outside pressure. © Evan Vucci/AP President Joe Biden speaks during an event to commemorate Pride Month, in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 25, 2021, in Washington. Biden’s backtrack came in a rare Saturday statement, in which he claimed his remarks about infrastructure days earlier had been misunderstood.
Other sources in Biden and Obama's orbit also play down any suggestion of aloofness or unease, saying COVID-19 is a big part of why they have stayed away from each other.
The Biden administration has promoted social distancing during the pandemic, at times even discouraging visitors to the White House to keep the virus under control. Obama has amplified their coronavirus messaging externally.
The one time the former president and current president were together recently was for a virtual event to promote an Obama-era achievement that Biden has expanded: more sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act.
"Love you, man," Obama said cheerfully at the end of the 3-minute Zoom chat.
"I'm still going to call you for advice," Biden replied with a grin.
Biden, DeSantis set aside politics in tragedy response
President Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who just might challenge him for the White House in 2024, were unlikely partners this week, united by tragedy. © Getty Images Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and President Biden discuss the collapse of the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside Biden and DeSantis sat shoulder-to-shoulder at a meeting Thursday during the president's trip to South Florida to offer federal assistance to Surfside, the site of a terrible condo building collapse where the death toll appears set to reach above 140.
The clip is a window into the familiar and jovial dynamic the two often exhibited during the Obama years. Off camera, however, their one-on-one gatherings have been non-existent- something which points to the complexities in their relationship, despite their allies' protestations to the contrary.
Biden was Obama's loyal lieutenant for eight years, but the president backed Hillary Clinton as his natural successor in 2016, pushing the vice president to the side.
When the 2020 election approached, Obama stayed neutral during most of the primary-privately questioning some of Biden's decisions on his campaign-and only eventually endorsing when he had already effectively won the nomination in April.
Biden insisted that he told Obama not to back him at the time, but sources close to the former president say that never happened.
Biden's victory over former President Trump was linked to Obama, who campaigned hard for his old number two. Black voters who remembered Biden's allegiance to the nation's first Black president salvaged the Biden campaign during primary season, first in South Carolina and then on Super Tuesday.
Joe Biden Welcomes America 'Coming Back Together'—But Ideological Chasms Remain
While the president spoke of people physically coming together, the gaping split in public opinion on key issues of the day remains.Events across the U.S. over the holiday weekend have marked a fledgling return to normalcy, as restrictions put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic continue to lift.
And former Obama officials, including chief of staff Ron Klain, are dotted throughout the new Biden administration, a fact that underscores the affinity between them and their wider networks even as Biden and his Cabinet have been public about not falling into some of the traps they believe captured the Obama agenda in 2009.
Aides and allies downplay the reasons why the two leaders haven't gotten together.
One White House source said that Biden and Obama's teams have "closely coordinated" on a variety of domestic and foreign policy areas, including steps to get more people vaccinated, an ongoing effort over which the administration has struggled at points in recent weeks.
"The two, I would say, keep in touch and talk regularly about work stuff," the White House source said, adding they also "have personal catchups just to chat" when pressed about details.
Beyond COVID, the two camps have also collaborated on what the Biden administration considers important international progress, a final troop withdrawal out of Afghanistan by September.
White House helped form ethics agreement with art gallery that's selling Hunter Biden's paintings, sources say
Hunter Biden's artistic debut is sparking ethics concerns for the White House as some critics raise eyebrows over the high-priced pieces and whether they pose a conflict of interest. © BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images Hunter Biden walks to Marine One on the Ellipse outside the White House May 22, 2021, in Washington, DC. Sources told CNN the White House was involved in forming an agreement between a SoHo New York Gallery owner, Georges Bergès, and Hunter Biden in an effort to address any ethics concerns. The Washington Post was the first to report on the White House's involvement.
The source pointed to Obama's statement of support for that decision as an example of an ongoing dialogue. In a release, Obama heralded the change as "bold leadership in building our nation at home and restoring our standing around the world."
The image of Biden and Obama is sometimes of best buds. A recent video of Biden joking to the former president about the signing of the Affordable Care Act, and photos of the two attending a basketball game together in Washington, D.C., showed off their political friendship.
Yet the two aren't really the kind of friends who go out of their way to socialize in their free time and there was a distance between the gregarious Biden and the more studious Obama during the White House years.
Earlier this year, during a CNN town hall, Biden admitted he'd never visited Obama in the residence when he was vice president.
"I had been in the Oval Office a hundred times as vice president-more than that-every morning for the initial meetings, but I had never been up in the residence," he told Anderson Cooper.
Some observers brush off talk about the Obama-Biden relationship as so-much navel gazing.
"It's not like they're dating," said one source directly familiar with both presidents' interactions.
In the West Wing, Biden has reached out to his old boss, according to the knowledgeable source, but they have still not yet sat down together. With Obama spending the summer at this Martha's Vineyard home, where he arrived last week, and working on the second act of his memoirs, a meeting seems unlikely anytime soon.
Early into his first term, Biden has logged one main legislative success under a Democratic White House and Congress. His top immediate priority, the Recovery Act, passed with party-line support and helped revive an unstable economy. Biden was praised for his fast action.
"I think Biden has proved to be far more worthy of the support that should have been received and potentially more effective in his first two years than even Obama," said Michael Eric Dyson, the prominent historian and author who knows both presidents and was part of a well-documented meeting with Biden earlier this year.
He also said things have changed for Biden, who has now won the White House.
"He doesn't have to depend on Obama nearly as much for public certification, validation, or authentication. He's a superstar in his own right."
Abigail Goldberg-Zelizer contributed.
Biden’s Spaghetti-at-the-Wall Vaccine Campaign .
The play-it-safe approach to inoculating Americans against COVID-19 may cost more lives.You might think that, in his quest to quell the coronavirus, President Joe Biden would be ready to try anything. But there are indeed some things he won’t try, and the reason is a familiar one. Biden’s vaccination drive has the feel of a political campaign that’s targeting the persuadable middle, when what’s really needed is a novel way to reach the proudly irrational. He’s using many of the same tools he employed in 2020: celebrity endorsements and door-to-door contacts, TV ads and the bully pulpit. Fewer and fewer unvaccinated Americans are heeding the message.