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Two arrogant assholes enter the White House…

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REVIEW: “The Long Alliance: The Imperfect Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama”

Andrew Stiles • September 17, 2022 5:00 am

Barack Obama did not even want to choose a running mate in the summer of 2008. Assured of his imminent victory in the general elections, he had already begun to plan his presidential transition and “thought long about his place in the world”. He would have chosen himself had it been allowed, but ultimately settled on Joe Biden, the “overly talkative and overconfident” senator who ranked fifth in the Iowa caucus earlier this that year. The rest is history.

The long alliance: the imperfect union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama by New York magazine correspondent Gabriel Debenedetti is an in-depth examination of this “nearly two-decade relationship that claims to be the most important of all 21st century politics”. The passage of time — not to mention the steady stream of candid remarks leaked to the press — has eroded conventional wisdom regarding the Obama-Biden duo as an unlikely partnership that blossomed into a full-fledged bromance. long wedding ring explores in detail how this relationship was (and still is) “more complicated than widely appreciated”.

Neither Obama nor Biden agreed to be interviewed for the book, but Debenedetti is able to recreate their “decisions, motivations, beliefs, hopes and concerns,” gleaned from hundreds of interviews with aides and associates with first-hand knowledge, in a way that feels authentic. The author succeeds, for the most part, by refraining from superfluous expertise and letting the report speak for itself. The result is a largely sympathetic but not always flattering portrait of the two protagonists.

long wedding ring is a great example of how the benefit of hindsight has improved the media’s ability to assess Obama and his presidency. More than a decade after his historic election as the nation’s first black president, he is no longer the messianic figure who sent shivers down Chris Matthews’ leg and won the Nobel Peace Prize just because. Some journalists, having outgrown the urge to bow at Obama’s feet to prove their opposition to racism, have dared to accurately describe the former president as a “consciously arrogant” narcissist – “never… short of confidence” because “no one who writes a memoir in their thirties is” – surrounded by “a coterie of strategists and calculators who imagined themselves to be brilliant world changers”.

Biden, of course, is a different breed of politician. Debenedetti explores the two men’s contrasting styles at length, while pointing out a crucial similarity: anyone who wants to be president is by definition a self-centered psychopath. The book reveals how Obama viewed the presidency as the ultimate duty or exclusive internship with which to fill his resume, and hated just about every aspect of the job he began running for “almost immediately” after becoming a senator – a public figure who “bristled at the drawbacks” of being a public figure and openly fantasized about being an ex-president before being elected.

The book contains several examples of Obama’s supernatural arrogance and capacity for self-delusion. For example, after refusing to adequately prepare for the first presidential debate against Mitt Romney in 2012, Obama explained his abysmal performance by suggesting “he just wasn’t as desperate as other politicians to get the “. He mused – he was always ‘thinking’ or ‘ruminating’ in ‘big terms’ – that he was ‘ahead of his time’ and that Donald Trump’s shock victory was due to ‘people being bored of all the successes of his. administration.” A notorious aloof crackpot, Obama hates when people call him aloof. In 2016, he spent Election Night watching strange doctor with his wife and Valerie Jarrett.

Biden is also an arrogant crackpot. Most politicians are. That alone might explain why he and Obama got along so well sometimes and clashed with others. Prior to teaming up with Obama in 2008, Biden was repeatedly discouraged that the American people did not share his extremely high opinion of himself. He was not a fan of Obama’s “messianic” cover and the rookie senator’s refusal to wait his turn. He must have been pressured into accepting the nomination for Vice President – the best thing that ever happened to him – because he thought he should be Secretary of State and didn’t want to tarnish his ‘brand’ by accepting a job. less influential.

Debenedetti recounts that Biden’s first thought as he took the stage for the vice presidential debate against GOP nominee Paul Ryan in 2012 was “I could physically take this guy.” Months earlier, the vice president had been “bathed in positive headlines” after spoiling Obama’s carefully orchestrated “evolution” by blurting out his support for same-sex marriage during an interview on Meet the press. Some time later he sat down with his son Beau and “watched the interview again and again, to marvel at what he had done”. He used to blatantly lie to make himself look good, falsely claiming to have supported bin Laden’s raid and suggesting he “asked” Obama not to endorse it in 2020. Historian Jon Meacham didn’t just write his speeches, he helped decorate the Oval Office.

Biden has proven himself right about 2020, winning the general election after Obama urged him not to “embarrass himself” running. He was right about 2016, when he insisted Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate who would struggle to win over working-class white voters in the Midwest, but ultimately decided not to challenge her. for the nomination after Beau’s death in 2015. Nonetheless, Obama is the reason Biden is president today. Their imperfect union covers a tumultuous period in American politics that, more than anything, revealed how little professional politicians and pundits understand American voters: Obama stood no chance against the Clinton machine. Neither does Trump. And Biden couldn’t win against Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren.

Obama and Biden are still in touch, Debenedetti reports, logging on every few weeks for “political therapy” sessions, presumably to sympathize with how Democratic presidents are still victimized by forces beyond their control, which includes ” a skeptical public that does not want to be won over”. by politicians explaining that the economy is actually better than they think according to this graph. Their relationship will soon face another test as Biden decides whether or not to seek re-election at the age of 81 and Obama decides which celebrities to invite to his next birthday party.

The long alliance: the imperfect union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama
by Gabriel Debenedetti
Henry Holt, 432 pages, $29.99