How Obamas drove Biden to White House

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020 10:00 |
President -elect Joe Biden with former President Barack Obama at a past function. Photo/PD/File

When Barack Obama declared he had picked Joe Biden as his running mate in the 2008 US presidential election, the veteran senator literally ran to the podium for introduction.  

It has been his signature run. The 77-year-old President-elect on Sunday morning made a similar dash to the podium to make his victory speech.

Obama to date believes his selection of Biden was the best decision he ever made in his political career. 

And not just as his runningmate, Obama believes Biden will unite America. In  a statement after Biden was announced as the winner Obama worte: “We’re fortunate that Joe’s got what it takes to be President and already carries himself that way.

Because when he walks into the White House in January, he’ll face a series of extraordinary challenges no incoming President ever has – a raging pandemic, an unequal economy and justice system, a democracy at risk, and a climate in peril.

“I know he’ll do the job with the best interests of every American at heart, whether or not he had their vote.

So I encourage every American to give him a chance and lend him your support.”

Picking Biden, a veteran white lawmaker was a natural fit for Obama, then a 47-year-old freshman senator facing questions about his age, inexperience and whether the nation would elect a black president.

A guru in foreign policy, who had spent more than three decades in the Senate, Biden’s experience came in handy.

“Joe Biden brings extensive foreign policy experience, an impressive record of collaborating across party lines and a direct approach to getting the job done,” Obama said then.

Biden would go ahead to serve as Obama’s deputy until their exit from State House four years ago.

Come this year and Obama came out of retirement to forcefully make the case for Biden’s election, repeatedly describing him as a “brother and friend”.

In fact, Obama spent the last three days of the campaign pitching for Biden in battle ground states such as Michigan during which he projected Trump as clueless, arrogant, racist and irredeemably incompetent. 

And it was not Obama; Michelle, former first lady, threw her weight behind Biden not only before the elections but even after. 

Michelle’s speech at the August Democratic Party Convention was acclaimed as one of the best campaign pitches in recent history.

She set the tone of what would become Biden’s campaign messaging, using her unique position as former First Lady to tell the world that Trump was the wrong President of America.

Wrong President

“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can. Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country.

He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head.

He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.

“I know Joe. He is a profoundly decent man, guided by faith. He was a terrific vice president. He knows what it takes to rescue an economy, beat back a pandemic, and lead our country.

And he listens. He will tell the truth and trust science. He will make smart plans and manage a good team.

And he will govern as someone who’s lived a life that the rest of us can recognise.”

And as a testament to his leadership Michelle told the world thus: “His life is a testament to getting back up, and he is going to channel that same grit and passion to pick us all up, to help us heal and guide us forward.”

Obama too hailed Biden as a safe bet for the US.

“He made me a better president. He’s got the character and the experience to make us a better country,” Obama said.

“Joe Biden is my brother. He confessed that when I invited him to join me on the ticket. I didn’t know him very well. But we became family,” added Obama.

Dr Herbert Kerre, a political scientist, argues that Obama’s statesmanship and the support of former President Bill Clinton helped persuade Americans about Biden’s competence and preparedness for the job. 

“Obama and Clinton have sat in the Oval office. Obama is credited to have made very critical decisions after the election especially on economic recovery and the killing of Osama bin Laden.

He credited Biden for the decisions saying he was in the room,” says Kerre.

Obama reportedly activated his networks in the battleground states, some of which he won, to Biden’s rescue, seeing the president-elect secure critical victories amidst immense competition.

“Biden had to use his service in the Obama administration as his record. He was keen to attach himself to the successes of the Obama administration. And the former President appeared keen to share his legacy,” argues Kerre.

But Prof Peter Kagwanja, a political scientist, maintains that Biden was elected due to a multiplicity of factors that go beyond his past life as Obama’s deputy, majorly the perception America was declining.  

“Obama still remains an influential figure. But America is divided and he is one of the reasons.

The fact that Trump still got the support of millions of Americans tells you that there is still a good chunk of Americans beholden to his ideas,” argues Kagwanja.

“Obama was elected for the same reasons Biden was elected. To restore America’s place in the world,” noted Kagwanja.

Trump has refused to concede defeat claiming he won the election and has vowed to contest the outcome in court.

The US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter, yesterday expressed confidence that Americans will weather the election stalemate and move on.

McCarter, who paid a courtesy call on Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi, said countries go through a lot of challenges but at the end, good decisions must be made for the sake of peace and prosperity. 

“Countries have challenges. For example, look at mine. We are currently going through things right now but as I said, we shall get through and then move on.

We shall get legal solutions and move on. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we make good decisions but as the US, we have grown with Kenya and we shall continue to partner in every sector of trade and healthcare, among other areas,” said the Ambassador

Kingi said the US will resolve the election impasse because of its strong institutions. 

“I know with strong institutions, that should not really shake America. I would be worried if that would be happening in one of these African countries but back in the US, you have everything to surmount that challenge and I know you are going to surmount that,” he said.

When he was a kid, Joe’s father lost his job. When he was a young senator, Joe lost his wife and his baby daughter.

And when he was vice president, he lost his beloved son. So Joe knows the anguish of sitting at a table with an empty chair, which is why he gives his time so freely to grieving parents.

Joe knows what it’s like to struggle, which is why he gives his personal phone number to kids overcoming a stutter of their own.

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