Press: What Biden could have taught Obama

Press: What Biden could have taught Obama
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In the first volume of his memoir, “The Promised Land,” former President Obama says the smartest decision he ever made was choosing Joe BidenJoe BidenWarren calls for US to support ceasefire between Israel and Hamas UN secretary general 'deeply disturbed' by Israeli strike on high rise that housed media outlets Nation's largest nurses union condemns new CDC guidance on masks MORE as his vice presidential running mate. And he’s right. Too bad he didn’t listen to Biden more, once he got to the White House.

It’s no secret that Obama and those around him never took Biden seriously. They praised him publicly, but privately they clucked, raised their eyebrows, and made him the butt of jokes. To this day, Obama’s treatment of Biden is nothing short of embarrassing.

Obama wanted Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCongress won't end the wars, so states must Democrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit MORE, not Biden to succeed him and pressured Biden not to challenge Clinton in the 2016 primary. He tried to talk Biden out of running in 2020 and didn’t endorse him until every other Democratic challenger had dropped out. As Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen reveal in their new book, “Lucky,” after Biden won the presidency on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Obama didn’t call to congratulate him until Saturday, Nov. 7.


And, as Biden himself confessed to CNN, not once in eight years — not once! — did Barack and Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama describes Barack's favorite movies: 'Everybody is sad, then they die' Michelle Obama on coping with low-grade depression: 'Nobody rides life on a high' Sarah Silverman urges Congress to pass voting bill: 'What kind of politician wants to keep people from voting?' MORE invite Joe and Jill BidenJill BidenWashington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Here's why Joe Biden polls well, but Kamala Harris does not Jill Biden visits Smithsonian as DC museums reopen MORE to their private quarters in the White House. Ouch!

Too bad. If only Obama had paid more attention to Biden, he might have proven a more consequential president. In only 63 days, Biden’s already shown more skill in dealing with Congress than Obama did in eight years. Like Obama, he reached out to Republicans on his first big legislative priority. He held his first Oval Office meeting with Senate Republicans. He offered to work with them in responding to the coronavirus pandemic with a robust stimulus package.

But, unlike Obama, he didn’t waste two years, waiting for Republicans to come around. Once it was clear that Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRomney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans MORE (R-Maine), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' Immigration experts say GOP senators questioned DHS secretary with misleading chart Top border officials defend Biden policies MORE (R-Utah), and others weren’t serious about compromise — offering only a $618 billion alternative to his proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus plan — Biden decided to charge ahead with Democratic votes only. On March 11, he signed the “American Rescue Plan,” for which Biden is already being compared to FDR and LBJ (a comparison which Biden himself would admit is premature, at best).

What Biden gets, which Obama never did, is that once you arrive in the Oval Office, you can’t waste any time. As president, you have to strike first and fast. Your best opportunity to get big things done is in your first two years, when you still have the wind at your back, popular support, and, most importantly, all the votes you need.

Despite a 256-vote majority in the House and Senate majority that was filibuster-proof for part of his first two years, Obama failed to take advantage of it.


Even though he didn’t need them, he tried to win Republican votes by agreeing to a paltry $800 billion stimulus package, yet not one House Republican and only three Republican senators voted for it. He wasted a year trying unsuccessfully to convince Sen. Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyOn The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Grassley criticizes Biden's proposal to provide IRS with B The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Infrastructure, Cheney ouster on deck as Congress returns MORE (R-Iowa) to support the Affordable Care Act.

Even with only a razor-thin advantage in both houses of Congress, Biden’s not going to make that same mistake. He knows that when you’ve got the power, you’ve got to use it before you lose it. Having secured the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Biden now plans to move on infrastructure, voting rights, climate change, and other priorities. If Republicans want to come onboard, fine, but Biden has determined to plough ahead with or without them.

Americans want action more than they want bipartisanship.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”