Former President Barack Obama has spent his time, post-presidency, quietly advising current President Trump’s top foes, including a handful of 2020 presidential hopefuls.
A new report in Politico details Obama’s recent extra-curricular activities, meeting with “Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Deval Patrick” in his Washington, D.C. office for one-on-one counseling sessions he hopes will help them rise to the top of the Democratic field.
“All the meetings were arranged quietly, without even some close advisers to the people involved being told of the conversations, in part because of how much Obama bristles at his private meetings becoming public knowledge,” the magazine reports, though it’s not clear why Obama cares so much that his pow-wows go unreported. It could be because he’s not offering his services to politicians looking to be his heir apparent — like Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) — or because he fears being connected to such a public mess like Warren’s repeated attempts to “own” her suspect “Native American” heritage.
But all the same, Obama is meeting with Biden and Warren, and even, according to Politico, quietly trying to influence how the Democratic party handles the challenge of President Trump. He’s “concerned about how his own party is responding,” Politico says, and fears the next presidential cycle won’t go the way Democrats hope.
In one case, Obama apparently tried to talk Bernie Sanders down from some of his more outrageous ideas.
“They talked about the future of the party and their different roles in it. They talked about what the party should be focused on, and what would be distractions. Obama discussed his views on the differences between idealism and practicality, and Sanders responded with his,” Politico says.
With Warren, Obama was forced to defend his $400,000 speaking fees and Wall Street connections. Their second meeting was “warmer,” but it seems they aren’t friends. With Biden, Obama maintains a close relationship and frequently speaks with his former vice president by phone. There have been smaller meetings, too. Obama sat down with Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans and Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles.
But the real shock may be in the people Obama is shutting out; there’s been no time for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) or former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, both of whom are very strongly connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Clinton family at large. It seems, perhaps, that old rivalries die hard.