After two terms working in the shadow of Obama, Biden has struggled at times to differentiate himself from his predecessor, especially on foreign policy. And Obama has been mindful of allowing Biden room to govern as an independent man.
While Obama has spoken occasionally with Biden over the past year, their phone conversations have been infrequent, according to people close to both men, seeing each other only a handful of times in the past 15 months, even though Obama resides only 10 minutes. away from the White House in Washington.
In public, each likes to highlight a warm friendship that developed during the Obama presidency. Biden often slips a reference to “Barack” into his comments, recalling a piece of advice or inside joke they shared. Sometimes the results are a bit painful: On “Best Friends Day” in 2019, Biden shared an image of friendship bracelets with “Joe” and “Barack” spelled out in beads.
When Obama visits the White House on Tuesday, he will join Biden for lunch in addition to attending the health care event in the Rose Garden. Obama and Biden had lunch together every week when they served in the White House.
“They are true friends, not just friends of Washington,” press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “I’m sure they will talk about events in the world, as well as their families and personal lives.”
He said it was “exactly the right time” for Obama to return to the White House after more than five years away.
Still, there have been limits to their friendship. Biden revealed last year that he had been invited to Obama’s private residence only once during the eight years they spent together in the White House. They have very different personalities and work styles. And their relationship has been marred by various slights, real or perceived, that still linger.
Obama refused to endorse Biden over other Democrats in the 2020 primary, a step both insisted was necessary to allow for true intra-party contention. Four years earlier, Obama had seen Hillary Clinton as his Democratic successor rather than Biden, who decided not to run as he dealt with the death of her child.
All of that makes Tuesday’s event a significant moment for every man. For Obama, it also marks the beginning of a series of public events, including a keynote address on disinformation that he will deliver at Stanford later this month.
A popular substitute emerges
That could potentially contrast with Biden, whose approval ratings remain near record lows heading into the campaign season. Biden is eager to campaign for the Democrats next year, but he has also made it known that he is open to any role his party sees fit.
Obama is no stranger to uphill battles in between; he endured losses in both 2010 and 2014. Yet he left office with among the highest approval ratings for any outgoing president and remains popular with Democrats.
The Obamas have not yet determined how visible they intend to be in the fall campaign, but advisers say they will spend time on Democratic efforts to maintain control of the House and Senate.
The decision to have Obama appear alongside Biden in the White House this week was designed to shine a brighter light on one of the Biden administration’s often-overlooked accomplishments: strengthening the Affordable Care Act. Price.
It’s reminiscent of former President Bill Clinton’s arrival at the White House to help explain the economic efforts employed by Obama during the fiscal crisis in the early years of his term. That appearance, in 2010, was remembered primarily for Clinton’s presence from the briefing room podium for half an hour, long after Obama had left the room.
The health care law remains one of the enduring legacies of the Obama administration. When it happened, Biden made one of the most infamous asides from him when she whispered to Obama that he was a “big deal.”
It is no small irony that the complicated fight over health care, one of the main reasons Democrats lost control of Congress under Obama’s watch more than a decade ago, ended in a law that is now considered widely popular with Americans. Republicans have all but abandoned their efforts to repeal and replace it after failing to do so for years.
Obama has remained committed to the law since leaving office, recording videos encouraging Americans to sign up and breaking the silence on political issues to criticize Republicans for trying to undermine it. He and Biden appeared together in a video last August encouraging Americans to sign up, one of their only joint appearances since Biden took office.
“We’re going to cover more people in the years to come under your guidance,” Obama told Biden in the video. “I love you man.”
In parting, when Obama told Biden he was proud of him, the sitting president said he hoped he would keep in touch.
“I’m still going to call you for advice,” Biden said.
Obama’s visit to the White House on Tuesday will not be his last.
Plans have been in the works for months for the formal unveiling of his portrait, a presidential rite of passage that was cut short during the Trump administration and delayed during the first year of the Biden administration, when the Covid-19 pandemic limited such events. at the White House.