Politics

Obama And Biden Reunite To Talk Trump: “I Don’t Think He Has Any Sense Of Empathy”

The two reunited IRL for a socially distanced conversation and expressed disbelief at the ongoing Trump administration attempts to overturn Obamacare.

Former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden reunite in this campaign video released by Biden on July 23. (credit: Biden campaign)
Former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden reunite in this campaign video released by Biden on July 23. (credit: Biden campaign)

“Can you imagine standing up when you were president, saying, ‘It’s not my responsibility’? ‘I take no responsibility’? I mean, literally…”

“Those words didn’t come out of our mouths, while we were in office.”

That’s how a 15-minute conversation between former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama began, in a new video released Thursday by the Biden campaign. The politicians reunited for a socially distanced conversation, meeting in person for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began and Biden became the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.

“I don’t understand his inability to get a sense of what people are going through. He just can’t relate in any way,” Biden said of President Trump and his handling of the worsening outbreak in the United States.

“One of the things that I have always known about you, Joe, it’s the reason why I wanted you to be my vice president and the reason why you were so effective — it all starts with being able to relate,” Obama responded. “If you can sit down with a family and see your own family in them … If you can connect those struggles to somebody else’s struggles, then you’re going to work hard for them. And that’s always what’s motivated you to get into public service.”

Over the course of the conversation, the two got personal about their own struggles and how those experiences have shaped their public policy. Biden spoke about watching his son, Beau, die of cancer in 2015, while he was serving as vice president.

“I used to sit there and watch him in the bed and in pain, and dying of glioblastoma,” Biden said. “And I thought to myself, what would happen if his insurance company was able to come in, which they could have done before we passed Obamacare, and said, ‘You have out run your insurance. You’ve outlived it. Suffer the last five months of your life in peace. You’re on your own.’”

Obama responded, discussing the stress of worrying about insurance coverage during a time of loss.

“You and I both know what it’s like to have somebody you love get really sick, and in some cases to lose somebody,” Obama said. “And that loss is compounded when you see the stress on their faces because they’re worried that they’re being a burden on their families. They’re worried about whether the insurance is going to cover the treatments that they need.”

Biden said in 2016 that Obama offered to help financially support Beau Biden’s family during his cancer treatment, when the vice president was considering selling his home in order to do the same.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what we got done. Twenty million people have health insurance that didn’t have it because of what we did,” Obama said during the conversation released Thursday, before noting that he “always used to say” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is “like a starter house” that America should continue to build on. Biden agreed, comparing it to “social security when it was first passed … [and then] you kept building it out.”

Related: Can Democrats Flip The Senate? Their Candidates Are Outraising Republicans, Data Shows

The fight to protect the ACA is ongoing, as Republican attorneys general and the Trump administration have continued trying to overturn it, bringing it all the way to the Supreme Court. Congressional Republicans’ attempts to repeal and replace the cornerstone piece of legislation from the Obama presidency have so far failed.

But if the ACA is overturned, 20 million Americans could lose their health insurance. It is unknown when the Supreme Court will decide the case and if it will happen before or after the November election. Some Republican members of Congress and political strategists have said,  “Politically, it’s pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic” — a sentiment the former Democratic president and vice president second, from a moral point of view as well.

“This guy’s in court, in the middle of a pandemic, trying to take away the protection for a hundred million people who have preexisting conditions,” Biden said. “I don’t think he has any sense of empathy or any — I don’t think he can associate at all.”

“You’re absolutely right that it is hard to fathom anyone wanting to take away people’s health care in the middle of a major public health crisis,” Obama responded. “And offer nothing,” Biden added. Obama then pointed out: “And at a time when unemployment is in the double digits.”

A recent report from the nonprofit organization FAIR Health showed that median hospitalization charges for COVID-19 have reached $45,000 in America.

Obama and Biden also spoke about the 2008 financial crisis and how they handled it as the incoming administration in 2009, as well as the racial justice awakening America has seen in the wake of George Floyd’s death and national protests supporting Black Lives Matter.

“If you want the economy growing again, people have to feel safe,” Obama said of the current situation in the U.S., and how the Trump administration has pitted reopening the economy as a choice against handling a public health crisis.

Obama said he has “so much confidence” that Biden would be able to deal with COVID-19 as president, because “I have confidence that you’re actually going to listen to the experts, and you’re actually going to pay attention to the science.”

“Something that I’ve always admired about you, Joe, is your willingness to listen and learn. It is a sign of leadership when you are willing to hear other people’s experiences,” Obama said.

When speaking about the ongoing anti-racism protests, Obama said, “What we have seen is this extraordinary mobilization across the country of people of every walk of life, every race, every creed, who say, ‘It’s past time to do something about this.’”

The two also noted the “gigantic change” in public polling on police reform from their time in office. Obama referenced the 21st century task force on policing that he set up, and how it brought together activists, organizers, law enforcement, and experts to put together “recommendations still pertinent to this day.” 

Biden pointed out that one of those recommendations was that the Department of Justice would intervene in police departments that have patterns of racial bias incidents—something the Trump DOJ undid when the administration came into office. Trump’s Attorney General, Bill Barr, is currently using the power of federal government to send officers into U.S. cities to aggressively attack peaceful protesters under the guise of “federal anti-crime intervention" and "protecting federal monuments."

“There’s two ways in which presidents motivate people,” Biden said in the video. “By doing something really ennobling … Or to do something really bad. This guy has generated a sense out there that people are waking up to, that he ran by deliberately dividing people from the moment he came down that escalator.

“And I think people are now going, ‘I don’t want my kid growing up that way.’”

Related: Obama: “Whatever You’ve Done So Far” To Beat Trump, “It’s Not Enough”