He has returned with a vengeance. After four years of hiding while Donald Trump occupied the White House, Barack Obama is suddenly everywhere again: on television, on the radio, online, and in bookstores.
The 44th President of the United States’ memoir, A Promised Land, was released this week and, displacing almost 890,000 copies In its first 24 hours, it is likely to become the best-selling presidential memoir in modern American history. He topped his wife Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, which sold 725,000 copies on the first day.
While promoting the 768-page tome, Obama is asked what influence he and his allies can wield when his former MP, Joe Biden, takes office in January. It is a double-edged sword. Biden knows he can always ask his old boss for advice, but he has big shoes to fill and could suffer in comparison.
“I’m sure Barack would be happy to react to any question or request from Biden,” he said. David garrow, author of Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama. But I wonder, having spent eight years as vice president [vice-president]If Biden would hesitate to trust Barack in any meaningful way due to the feeling that it would be like trusting his older brother. “
At 59, Obama is still in his political prime. He writes in the book that, in the month after he and Michelle Obama left the White House, “they slept late, dined quietly, went out for long walks, swam in the ocean, took stock, replenished our friendship, rediscovered our love, and planned for a less rugged but hopefully no less satisfying second act. “
That second act will include another memoir volume and a $ 500 million presidential center in Jackson Park on Chicago’s south side. Obama demonstrated a model of this by 60 minute program on CBS, explaining that it will include a mockup of the Oval Office and Michelle Obama’s dresses, “which will undoubtedly be very popular.”
But the former commander-in-chief’s series of interviews, including a penetrating diagnosis of how division and misinformation threaten democracy, has also reminded supporters of his rare political gifts and raised the tantalizing prospect of a return to the arena.
In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Obama said that Biden “does not need my advice and I will help him in any way I can. Now, I don’t plan on suddenly working on the White House staff or something. “
When asked if he would consider a Cabinet position, Obama responded, “There are some things I wouldn’t be doing because Michelle would leave me. She would say, ‘What? What are you doing? ‘”
Biden, 78, was a Delaware senator from 1973 to 2009, then Obama’s vice president until 2017. Obama this week praised Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, as the nation’s best hope to restore stability after the turmoil of the Trump years.
But he didn’t always see Biden as his heir apparent. It is said that in 2015 he anointed Hillary Clinton and dissuaded Biden from participating in the race. When Biden ran in 2020, his third attempt, Obama was supposedly skeptical again and he did not endorse him until he was the presumptive candidate in mid-April.
And now, Obama’s book has confirmed that Biden advised against the Navy Seal raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, a theme that Trump tried to exploit in the election campaign.
Garrow observed: “They ended up disagreeing so much privately on various foreign policy issues, such as the downing of Osama bin Laden. Somehow I think Biden would feel that calling Barack would diminish him. But I would say that of almost any former vice president, so it is a role function rather than an individual personality. “
Still, as Biden contemplates a daunting inbox that includes the coronavirus pandemic, an economic depression and race riots, Obama could prove to be an invaluable source of advice. That would agree with John F Kennedy consulting Dwight Eisenhower during the Cuban missile crisis and a tradition of presidents, with the exception of Trump, of sharing the burden with their predecessors.
David litt, a former speechwriter for the 44th president, said Obama and Biden “had a very strong working relationship and a lot of personal respect and trust, so I think it’s an interesting situation.
“I’m sure President Obama would have supported any Democratic president anyway asked, but he will see more continuity among the staff than he could otherwise because a lot of people worked in the Obama administration and then the campaign. from Biden and will presumably join the Biden administration. “
Obama alumni reportedly being considered for key positions under Biden include Susan rice, former national security adviser, and Michèle Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy.
But it would be a mistake to regard Biden’s presidency as Obama’s third term, according to Litt, author of Democracy in One Book or Less. “If you look at the speeches and campaign of Biden and his team, they were very clear that Joe Biden’s role as Vice President of President Obama was an important part of his biography, but Joe Biden was running his own campaign and this will be the Presidency of Joe Biden “.
To underline the point, the Axios website reported that Biden’s transition team has told Obama veterans that they can apply for jobs, but that people who worked on Biden’s campaign will get priority.
A potentially crucial factor in Biden’s thinking could be how Obama is perceived not by the Democratic base but by the 73 million people who voted for Trump, a man who broke into politics by pushing the racist conspiracy theory that Obama he was not born in the United States. The pragmatic Biden has vowed to heal the bitter schism between the red and blue states.
Larry Jacobs, The director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota predicted: “Obama is very popular with Democrats, but a mixed bag with Republicans. It is quite possible, at least in terms of the public presentation, that we get to see a little George W Bush. He could well be the kind of Republican leader Joe Biden will need on Inauguration Day and other key moments to signal normalcy after Donald Trump’s deranged presidency. “
Other commentators suggest that Obama could be a valuable bulwark for the moderate Biden, as he faces pressure from his left flank on issues like police reform and the climate crisis. Pointing to the Democratic losses in the House of Representatives, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said: “I think Obama is going to be important in keeping progressives at bay.
“I think the country is a center-right country. Democratic friends may believe it is a center-left country. What is common there is that the country as a whole is focused on politics and I think Obama can be helpful at times to thread certain needles that could otherwise be problematic for the Biden administration. “
Biden spent eight years in the shadow of Obama. He’s about to find out if, even with the powers of the presidency, he can really get out of it. But given the multiple crises you face from the moment you enter the Oval Office, it could turn out to be a good deal.
Moe Vela, A former senior advisor to Biden when he was vice president said, “Joe Biden is a very confident man. It is very comfortable in your skin. He knows who he is and frankly he loves and admires Barack Obama. He is not threatened by the adoration of Barack Obama. In any case, he is equally a great admirer of yours.
“I can’t even imagine him threatened by it at all. The task at hand is so severe and so serious that the last thing Joe Biden worries about, I’m sure, is whether Barack Obama is turning heads with his book tour. This is not even on your radar screen. He is happy for Barack Obama. He has bigger fish to fry. “
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