Barack Obama caused a stir when he campaigned for his former right-hand man this month, and took direct swipes at the current President and Mr Biden’s rival Donald Trump. He joked that Mr Trump was “jealous of COVID’s media coverage” and accused him of “incompetence and disinterest” — even though former Presidents tend to avoid direct criticism of their successors. BBC Radio 4’s ‘Americast’ also noted how unusual it was for a former President to step on stage in such a manner.
Journalist Emily Maitlis explained: “We saw something we could not have predicted even a week ago — Obama himself became Mr Biden’s wingman. He was the funny man on stage, making the jokes, cracking the jives.”
She added: “It’s kind of weird to think that the President himself — Obama — is sort of playing the best man to Biden.”
Mr Obama’s friendship with Mr Biden has become highly sentimentalised after their eight years in office together, with many referring to it as a surprising “bromance”.
The former President’s unusual speech this month only reinforced the idea that the two men have an exceptional friendship.
Yet, it has not escaped commentators’ notice that Mr Obama did not endorse his Vice President as his immediate successor for the 2016 election.
He backed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instead, which reportedly left Mr Biden’s camp privately devastated.
Mr Biden wrote in his memoir, ‘Promise Me, Dad’, that Mr Obama “was convinced I could not beat Hillary” and that “a long primary fight would split the party”.
Upon further inspection, it’s also clear that Mr Obama and Mr Biden’s relationship may not always have been as idyllic as the Democrats have implied.
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For instance, Mr Biden had put his foot in it when he told a reporter for The New Yorker Observer that Mr Obama was “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”.
However, the two started to build on their relationship when they were both seeking the Democratic nomination, across the debate stage.
Yet, even after losing out on the nomination, Mr Biden resisted any idea that he could be Mr Obama’s secondary because he did not want to be anyone’s “second banana”.
As Mr Obama’s campaign progressed, however, the two became closer, with the future President regularly leaning on Mr Biden’s depth of experience.
They spoke regularly on the phone, with the Delaware senator offering the advice and insight which Mr Obama lacked.
Their relationship had changed significantly within a short time.
An insider then told Mr Thrush that Mr Biden made a monumental promise to Mr Obama which sealed his fate as the Democratic nominee’s favourite choice for secondary.
Mr Biden allegedly said: “You make a decision and I will follow it to my death.”
The now Democratic nominee also suggested that he would not run for President again, due to his age — although both sides just assumed that promise stretched for Mr Obama’s time in office and no further.
As Mr Thrush wrote in The New York Times last year: “Mr Biden’s simmering ambition was a source of unease for both men.”
Although initially discouraging of Mr Biden’s campaign, Mr Obama is reportedly now “driven by affection and loyalty” and allegedly even requested a private briefing from Mr Biden’s campaign before he stood forward in the battle for presidency.
Astonishingly, the former President spoke directly to Mr Biden’s top campaign advisers in March last year and ordered them to make sure he did not “embarrass himself” or “damage his legacy” in the fight for the White House.