Biden seeks to learn from Obama errors

President BidenJoe BidenIRS to roll out payments for ,000 child tax credit in July Capitol Police told not to use most aggressive tactics in riot response, report finds Biden to accompany first lady to appointment for 'common medical procedure' MORE is applying lessons he learned from his time in the Obama administration as he deals with an array of pressing issues. 

Those close to Biden and sources who have talked to him recently say he has consistently drawn from his experiences as vice president, particularly when it comes to reaching across the aisle to Republicans and aggressively promoting his accomplishments to the public.

“He learned the lessons with [former President] Obama and now he’s saying, ‘You ain’t got to tell me twice,’ ” said Michael Eric Dyson, the prominent professor and author who recently met with Biden at the White House as part of a small group of historians. 


Biden campaigned on a promise to unite a divided country. He’s talked about how he’d leverage the relationships he built from his time in the Senate and in the Obama White House to work with Republicans to achieve bipartisan legislation.

So far that effort has been futile, with no Republicans voting in favor of the COVID-19 relief bill, which was passed with full Democratic support through the arcane budget reconciliation process.

Biden now faces a new dilemma about whether to negotiate with Republicans on his infrastructure spending package or to once again go it alone.

Dyson said Biden vividly remembers the tantalizing possibility of bipartisanship at the beginning of the Obama administration that quickly devolved into the extreme partisan battles that have defined the modern era of politics.

He summed up Biden’s attitude as, “I want to be bipartisan too, but I ain’t falling for it.”

“He learned from Obama’s mistakes and Obama’s hesitancy,” Dyson said.


Future fights await Biden and the Democrats, who are battling over whether to scrap the filibuster in a 50-50 Senate. Doing so could allow the party to push through its policy wish list before the midterm election plans complicate their agenda.

Former Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) has long been a proponent of eliminating the filibuster, or at the very least returning to a talking filibuster, which Biden is considering.

“He’s been there, he saw how it worked under Obama, so I believe he’ll continue to extend a hand to Republicans, but he’ll be a realist about it,” said DeConcini, who served for nearly two decades with Biden in the Senate. “He knows the atmosphere is polarized, and he’ll expect Republicans to actually negotiate, if that’s what they want to do. But even if they say they’ll negotiate, they really might not, so he’ll be a realist about that.”

One longtime Biden aide who also worked in the Obama administration acknowledged that Biden’s approach is different in some ways than his former boss’s, thanks in part to the lessons learned from 2008 to 2016.

“Obama was always like ‘Check, we got this done,’ and he wanted to move on to something else, but he never really got into explaining how it would work.”

“We were always on defense,” the aide said. “And Biden’s approach is more proactive as opposed to reactive.” 

The aide said Biden has acknowledged behind the scenes that Obama and his team should have done a better job of explaining what the Affordable Care Act would do for Americans.

“For whatever reason he was hesitant to do it,” the aide said about Obama. 

Biden is not leaving anything to chance with his American Rescue Plan.

The legislation, which delivered $1,400 directly into the bank accounts of millions of Americans, is broadly popular in the polls.

Nonetheless, Biden has spent weeks traveling the country and doing events to promote the bill and to educate the public on what is included in the package.

The White House has focused on traveling to swing states to sell its plan.


Biden visited a small business in Pennsylvania to tout how the law would help business owners, and he traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to highlight parts of the bill aimed at lowering health care costs.

A trip to Atlanta for a drive-in rally to promote the law was scrapped after shootings there that killed eight, including six Asian women, but Biden still raised key aspects of the legislation in a speech condemning the violence.

Vice President Harris traveled to Nevada and Florida as part of the Help is Here tour. First lady Jill BidenJill BidenBiden to accompany first lady to appointment for 'common medical procedure' Biden, first lady send 'warmest greetings' to Muslims for Ramadan Biden dog Major to get 'off-site' training after incidents MORE visited schools in New Hampshire and New Jersey to emphasize how the law would help students return to in-person learning. And second gentleman Doug EmhoffDoug EmhoffHarris moves into official residence after delay Harris puts DC condo up for sale The Hill's Morning Report - Biden, McConnell agree on vaccines, clash over infrastructure MORE went to Iowa to spotlight aid for farmers.

During the closed-door meeting with the historians, Biden also wanted to talk about big ideas, according to those in the room, an indication he is thinking about his legacy.

Biden posed questions about Democracy, asking, “Is our Democracy really under threat?” The meeting covered other ideas including religion, faith and race. 

He was “humble enough to say I’ve got something to learn,” Dyson said.


“In many instances, understandably, previous presidents would want you to carry their water and deliver their message,” Dyson said. “Biden was bringing us there to ask our ideas and ask what we thought.”

Biden entered the White House with the twin issues of race and identity at the forefront of the national conversation.

Biden, a 78-year-old white man, is an unlikely leader of the Democratic Party as it seeks to dramatically shift how the nation talks about and views race and identity.

In a recent conversation, former NAACP President Cornell Brooks told The Hill that Biden’s focus on equity in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine would go a long way in defining his record on race.

“He still has headwinds from the Trump presidency, but he vigorously stepped into the leadership void created by COVID,” Brooks said. “People have been hearing for months about the profound racial, regional and class disparities in respect to COVID, and his response has been to signal to people of color that we care about you and what you’ve gone through. COVID has served as a proxy for his compassion and competence, and at least for me, has put him on the threshold of credibility when it comes to navigating the issues of race and gender.”