Where the heck is President Obama? Sane Democrats must be wondering why their popular former president is not stepping in to protect their party from leaping into the Wild Blue Yonder of unsustainable freebies and Big Government run amok.
And….why isn’t he sticking up for Joe Biden?
Here’s where Obama is: enjoying the fruits of his labors. Recently, he and his family vacationed in Provence, staying in a villa costing $62,000 a week. With Michelle raking in a $65 million advance on her book “Becoming,” the couple signing a Netflix deal worth $50 million and Barack charging $400,000 to give the occasional speech to Wall Street firms, the former president’s net worth has skyrocketed to an estimated $135 million. Good for him.
Maybe not so good for Democrats, who could surely use a unifying voice and definitely not good for his former vice president. Biden has come under attack, not only for historical positions like voting for the Iraq war or supporting the Hyde Amendment that are out of sync with today’s Democratic sensibilities but also for policies enacted by President Obama.
During the second round of the Democratic debates, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker ripped Biden for the record number of deportations of illegal immigrants carried out during Obama’s time in the White House. Others chided Biden for having supported Obama’s massive trade agreement known as the TPP. Biden looked stricken as the pummeling proceeded, shocked that these upstarts would dare to criticize his former boss.
He did not see this one coming.
Biden invokes Obama’s name constantly, clearly hoping that Democrats’ love affair with the former president has legs and that they will reward his eight years serving as faithful vice president. For some voters, the connection is magic. Visiting South Carolina, where 61 percent of Democratic primary voters are black, Biden boasted about “my buddy Barack;” Biden has a 25 point lead in the state, his biggest advantage in any contest.
Touting his ties to the former president is awkward. Early on, Biden dubiously claimed he had asked his former boss not to endorse him. That was after Obama’s spokesperson delivered a statement which said, in part, “President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made.” The statement went on to say that the two “remain close today,” but there was no endorsement.
As Biden and his time in the White House come under increasing attack by the crowded primary field, the frontrunner might expect that Obama would weigh in on behalf of his loyal lieutenant. He need not endorse his former veep, but at least he could offer some support.
As in declaring, “I know Joe Biden and he is not a racist.”
After all, Biden is the favorite of Democratic pundits and politicians worried that policies like “Medicare-for-All” and free college tuition will scotch the party’s efforts to oust President Trump. They contend that moderate voters in important swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will not climb aboard the Bernie Express, or swallow Elizabeth Warren’s vitriolic attacks on the American economy.
For those Democrats, Joe Biden is The Man, the one candidate who they think can beat President Trump. That confidence, backed up by polling, quickly boosted Biden to Leader of the Pack and has kept him afloat.
Despite coming under fire during recent debates, he still tops the charts by 16 points, according to an average of polls.
However, his performance on the campaign trail and in the debates have shaken perceptions of his infallibility. He could use a boost from Obama.
Unfortunately for Joe, though President Obama has not endorsed anyone in the Democratic race, it is well known that he has his favorites, and they are not named Joe.
Word is that Obama reached out early in the race to some of his former big-money bundlers and asked them to support Beto O’Rourke. The wunderkind former congressman from Texas apparently impressed Obama by spending an unheard-of $80 million only to lose to incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Despite the favorable whisper campaign from Obama, O’Rourke’s candidacy has come and gone. After a brief surge of popularity earlier this year, he has dropped to about 3 percent in the polls. Many dismissed him as an empty suit after he indulged in some widely mocked publicity stunts, including posting a video on social media of him getting his teeth cleaned (my personal favorite.) His Spanish-language opening statement during the first debate, and Cory Booker’s comical reaction, became a much-circulated meme.
More recently, some have speculated that Kamala Harris is Obama’s pick. Harris and Obama have been pals since 2004 when she was Attorney General of San Francisco and he was an Illinois State Senator. She was one of the first elected officials to back Obama, and he returned the favor, hosting a fundraiser for her in 2005.
The senator from California has shown herself to be a tough debater, taking on Joe Biden in the first round of Democratic debates and encouraging others to make the former veep a veritable piñata in the second round. Her aggression appeals to those Democrats worried that standing up to President Trump will require a stiff spine, in addition to a credible policy handbook.
But the Democrats’ circular firing squad is shooting real bullets, and candidates are sustaining serious injuries. Could President Obama help, by backing a moderate candidate who could take back the White House and talk up party unity? Yes, but don’t hold your breath.
After all, he left Democrats broken and bankrupt at the end of his eight years, losing a record 1,000 legislative seats during his tenure. The surprise is not that he’s not riding to the rescue of his party or Biden; it’s that he isn’t speaking out to protect his legacy. Because that, after all, is something he cares about.