It's October 2019. Barack Obama is meeting with some elite black donors for his foundation and gets into a discussion about the current top crop of the 2020 Democratic field. This based on the excerpts Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency by Amie Parnes and Jonathan Allen. The excerpt described how Obama, who usually doesn’t like to “glad-hand” with donors, but the authors noted that the former president was on a “covert political mission” with this gathering held across from Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca. He wanted to get back into the game…without getting back into the game. Love him or hate him, Obama knew how to win elections and knew what it took to win. He gave remarks and during the Q&A session, the question was rested at his feet: “If Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris asked for advice, what would you tell them?”
At the time, this was the emerging cream of the crop. Obama offered some rosy remarks about Warren, but just stopped short of the water’s edge of endorsing her. He made sure to make a joke of the situation while making sure that yes—he wasn’t endorsing the Massachusetts liberal. He didn’t really go into Kamala Harris much, other than saying that he knew her. But it’s Mayor Pete and Joe Biden that things get interesting. For starters, Obama said that Mayor Pete couldn’t win because he was too gay and short. For Biden, well, the silence said everything, according to Parnes and Allen. The Daily Caller News Foundation obtained the excerpt:
Usually, Obama eschewed making substantive remarks at informal shindigs like this. A touch on the shoulder here, his classic “How are you?” there, a pat on the back, and out the door. But these were guys who liked him and guys he genuinely liked— a group with whom he intended to leave an important if subtle message about the election. Obama made his way back toward the door and delivered an announcement to the crowd of forty or so people.
“I’m gonna take a few questions,” he said.
The session began with a fastball, a pitch down the middle for the issue Obama wanted to address. “If Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris asked for advice, what would you tell them?” a prominent executive queried.
“They all did!” he popped back, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Obama paused for a moment, collecting himself before shocking the audience with the singular message that he had wanted to deliver. He embraced the prospect of a Warren presidency. After nearly eleven months of campaigning, the race looked like it had stabilized with four truly competitive candidates: Joe, Bernie, Elizabeth, and Pete. Each had a claim to the advantage; no one was a prohibitive favorite. Until the past week or two, though, Warren had been rising steadily. The biggest obstacle to her success, it seemed, was convincing the establishment that she was truly different from Bernie, enough of a mainstream politician to be trusted with the reins of government. Now Obama was making that case for her.
Ignoring the other candidates, he launched a lawyerly argument, methodically ticking off the objections to Warren he knew existed in the minds of his corporate and financial friends. He knew Elizabeth, he said, very well. They had intersected during his time at Harvard, and then again during his time in the Senate where she often testified as an expert witness. He’d also “hired” her to stand up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And while he didn’t appreciate the smattering of attacks she’d made during his presidency, he said he was sure that she was a tough- as nails campaigner who could get things done in Washington, should she succeed him as the next Democratic president.
After establishing himself as an authority on Warren, Obama underscored that she had cleared his threshold for viability not only as a candidate but as president. Standing before the crowd, he said he had encouraged all the candidates to ask themselves a three- question litmus test. “Why you?” Obama said. “Why now?” and “Is your family behind you?” He expressed confidence in Warren, saying she had considered each question and had a satisfactory answer to all three. “Many candidates like the idea of being president,” he told the crowd. “But few really have a ‘why,’ ” or a rationale for running.
Obama paused again, before making his final appeal, squarely addressing the elephant in the room, in a tone that was half- ribbing and half- reprimanding. “So what if she raises your taxes a little bit? Compare that to what we have now.” This was definitely not a time to sit on the sidelines, Obama said with some urgency. If Warren won
the nomination, he said he would support her and stressed that he wanted Wall Street and corporate types to do the same. “Everyone in this room needs to pull their weight,” he said. Republicans, he continued, are winning cycle after cycle, up and down the ballot, because their donors care more than the Democrats’ donors.
Like so many other Democrats, he saw Warren, who had taken the lead in Iowa from Biden in late September, barreling toward the nomination. It was time to start swinging folks in his coalition be- hind her. The persuasion effort among Black men would be as difficult as it was crucial. Hillary’s loss could be attributed in part to insufficient support among Black men in major cities, and she had never had the support of elite Black men that she had among Black women. Things would have to be different for Warren. She would need the votes of Black men on the ground and the money of Black men in boardrooms— especially because she had forsworn buck-raking with wealthy donors. “Now, this is not an endorsement!” he said with a grin. His audience got the joke and laughed with him. He’d just given his seal of approval to Warren without using the “e” word.
“It was a ninety percent Warren sermon,” said one donor in the room. When he was asked to return to the original question on his advice, Obama said he liked Buttigieg, a rising talent who’d worked on his own campaign. But despite his affinity for the South Bend mayor, he rattled off a list of reasons why Buttigieg couldn’t win.
“He’s thirty- eight,” Obama said, pausing for dramatic effect, “but he looks thirty.” The audience laughed. Obama was on a roll, using the tone of light ridicule he some-times pointed at himself— “ big ears” and “a funny name,” he’d said so many times before. Now, it was directed at Buttigieg. “He’s the mayor of a small town,” the former president continued. “He’s gay,” Obama said, “and he’s short.” More laughter.
Only months earlier, Buttigieg had sat in Obama’s post presidential office in Washington seeking counsel on how to maintain equanimity in the face of homophobia on the campaign trail. Now, behind his back, Obama was riffing on him to some of the wealthiest Black men in America at a time when Buttigieg had been dubbed “Mayo Pete” by critics who believed he couldn’t connect with African American voters.
Obama kept going, acknowledging that he knew Kamala Harris but offering no further commentary. But when he wrapped up, he had left someone out. “You forgot Biden,” one executive said, reminding him of his two- term vice president.
Obama seemed apprehensive, according to a source in the room. “His support for Biden was tepid at best,” the person said. At that point, it didn’t matter what he said about Biden. His silence spoke for him.
Ouch. Well, we’ve all known that Obama and others are looser lipped at these sorts of events. The former president did describe rural Americans as bitter clingers who clung to their guns and religion during the 2008 election, but in an era where anything offends the Left and gets the woke mob riled up—saying someone can’t win a national election because they’re too gay maybe striking that chord. Whatever. That’s a debate for liberals to have with one another. The Joe Biden part of this excerpt is short but revealing. This isn’t the first time Obama has made it known that he really didn’t want Joe to run for president. He also made it known that he wasn’t too keen on Biden’s propensity to screw things up—royally. Maybe opinions have changed now that Joe is president, but the confidence level that he could do it was certainly not there. Hence, the name of the book, I guess. There’s a reason why top Biden aides are saying the quiet part out loud to some folks about the 2020 election, which is ‘thank God for COVID’ because Trump would have slaughtered Biden in an election with no pandemic—easily.