A Washington Post 2019 Notable Selection
A vivid and inspiring account of the "bromance" between Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
The extraordinary partnership of Barack Obama and Joe Biden is unique in American history. The two men, their characters and styles sharply contrasting, formed a dynamic working relationship that evolved into a profound friendship. Their affinity was not predestined. Obama and Biden began wary of each other: Obama an impatient freshman disdainful of the Senate's plodding ways; Biden a veteran of the chamber and proud of its traditions.
Gradually they came to respect each other's values and strengths and rode into the White House together in 2008. Side-by-side through two tension-filled terms, they shared the day-to-day joys and struggles of leading the most powerful nation on earth. They accommodated each other's quirks: Biden's famous miscues kept coming, and Obama overlooked them knowing they were insignificant except as media fodder. With his expertise in foreign affairs and legislative matters, Biden took on an unprecedented role as chief adviser to Obama, reshaping the vice presidency. Together Obama and Biden guided Americans through a range of historic moments: a devastating economic crisis, racial confrontations, war in Afghanistan, and the dawn of same-sex marriage nationwide. They supported each other through highs and lows: Obama provided a welcome shoulder during the illness and death of Biden's son Beau.
As many Americans turn a nostalgic eye toward the Obama presidency, Barack and Joe offers a new look at this administration, its absence of scandal, dedication to truth, and respect for the media. This is the first book to tell the full story of this historic relationship and its substantial impact on the Obama presidency and its legacy.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were a match made in heaven, according to this starry-eyed study of bromantic leadership. Washington Post books editor Levingston (Kennedy and King) styles them as an odd couple who overcame a rocky courtship to become essential helpmeets, with the gregarious, glad-handing Biden "loosen up" the reserved, calculating Obama while "Obama showed Biden the path to discipline." Their relationship, he gushes, left Americans "mesmerized, our eyes locked on these two glowing figures as if we were in the presence of beauty." (As evidence, he cites a woman who said, "I want a man who looks at me like Biden looks at Obama.") Alas, Levingston's rhapsodies on the Obama-Biden bond "crying, laughing, whispering, walking arm-in-arm, eating ice cream" don't reveal much of political substance in it. He notes that Obama appreciated (but rejected) Biden's advice on Afghanistan and cared deeply about Biden's son Beau's battle with cancer, but was persistently exasperated with Biden's verbosity and gaffes and considered dropping him from the 2012 ticket. Biden in turn appears flagrantly unpresidential here, a reckless windbag with few accomplishments and "an emotional mess" when Obama surprised him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Levingston's overripe exercise in Obama nostalgia feels unconvincing.