For the tail end of the Obama presidency, a minor thorn in his side was his half-brother, Malik Obama. During the 2016 campaign, Malik openly backed Donald Trump and expressed “deep disappointment” in how his brother had governed.
“I like Donald Trump because he speaks from the heart,” Malik Obama said at the time. “Make America Great Again is a great slogan. I would like to meet him … Mr. Trump is providing something new and something fresh.”
At that time, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was ensconced in the Obama White House as the nation’s vice president.
I’m sure Malik Obama was a minor-league problem in those days, but he was doubtless a problem — a problem Biden could have learned a lesson from when Hillary Clinton lost and Biden instantly became a 2020 frontrunner. If he had any malcontent or too-chatty relatives, maybe then was the time to mollify them. Reach out to them. Maybe send them on a cruise. Then tell them to please, please keep quiet until November of 2020 and — should he be lucky enough — for the eight years beyond that.
But it turns out the former vice president has a younger brother who could complicate any prospective Biden campaign to win the White House in his own right.
At least Frank Biden isn’t trashing his brother, or at least not yet. However, in what can only be described as another example of familial non-mollification, the younger brother of the former vice president revealed that some of his family members voted for Donald Trump in 2016 because they “felt slighted” by the Clintons.
— Intl Breaking News (@intlbreaking) January 13, 2019
To be fair, Frank Biden made the revelation to bolster the claim that his brother would have been a better candidate against Trump in 2016, so perhaps it’s a mere indication that the elder Biden’s habit of verbal solecisms is a genetic one.
Do you think Joe Biden will be the 2020 nominee?
“We never would have lost Pennsylvania, and all my relatives — the Finnegan family — who voted for Donald Trump because they felt slighted by Hillary and her campaign,” Biden said in an interview with the Palm Beach Post published last week.
“We never would have not gone to Michigan as the campaign decided not to do because they felt entitled to the votes of those people.
“Assumptive politics is losing politics,” he added. “You have to work for every single vote and people have to know individually, collectively and severally that you care about them, that they’re important.”
He also said that Hillary’s infamous “basket of deplorables” remark didn’t work electorally — which, as post hoc political analysis goes, isn’t exactly Tim Russert material.
“The idea of declaring a whole swath of people ‘deplorables’ is just the most idiotic political calculation, number one, and two, the most — in the Catholic Church, they would call that the sin of pride,” Frank Biden said.
“Who in God’s name am I to say that you have a fundamentally wrong moral position? Talk about lacking humility.”
If Palm Beach Post reporter George Bennett decided to ask a follow-up question regarding Joe Biden’s September remark that a swath of Trump’s supporters were “virulent people, some of them the dregs of society,” he wasn’t charitable enough to include his brother’s response in the published work.
If you want more shockingly prescient analysis from Frank Biden, he also thinks that his brother — currently the unquestioned leader in the 2020 Democrat polls, a man who’s run for president twice and was almost certainly going to do it a third time before the death of his son — will be a candidate next year.
“I think we’re going to run,” Frank Biden told the Post. “You can say that ‘Frank thinks his brother’s going to run.’ Now, he could surprise me. But I know the family’s behind him 100 percent.”
He said the family will meet “very soon” to discuss the candidacy.
“I believe Joe should run. I’m urging him to run and have been for a long, long time,” he said.
“The decision the party has to make is almost an existential one … Are we going to go with someone that everyone implicitly trusts, has confidence in, and no one doubts Joe’s ability to do the job?” he added.
“Who do you think that the disaffected Republicans and the disaffected Democrats that we need to win over to win Pennsylvania, to win Michigan, to win Wisconsin, to win Ohio, to win Florida — as a strictly Machiavellian question, who is best positioned to win those folks back?”
Well, then. Frank Biden doesn’t sound like a terribly self-aware guy. Here’s why that’s problematic: Hillary Clinton has an insanely long memory.
One of the stories that flew under the general radar of the political media as the government shutdown turned was a report from Axios about Hillary Clinton quietly meeting with potential candidates who were kissing her ring and laying the groundwork for a possible endorsement.
“A bunch have picked her brain,” a source described as “a longtime Clinton confidant” told Axios.
“Hillary wants Trump gone,” the source added. “She doesn’t know who’s best able to beat him, but she knows about grueling nomination fights.”
Even if independents and conservatives still view her with some admixture of exasperation and disdain, Hillary still commands a lot of support — and a lot of party machinery — on the Democrat side of the aisle. She also has an obvious desire for some degree of cultural rehabilitation, something endorsing a successful candidate would go a long way toward getting her.
If Hillary were to decide that Joe Biden were the best chance the Democrats have of beating President Trump — or at least the likely winner of the fight, no matter what she did — an endorsement could end the nomination process early.
Biden may have provided no small degree of obloquy to the Clintons in the aftermath of the 2016 loss by implying he would have been a better candidate, but he’s not so prone to lapsus linguae as to continue trashing her if it means avoiding a protracted battle in the primary season.
As for Hillary, Biden is exactly her kind of candidate — the sort of safe, establishment figure who’s just as comfortable spinning platitudes over a burger with voters as he is participating in a Davos Q&A.
I don’t know how much Frank Biden is going to factor into her endorsement calculations, but this interview is clearly going to end up in her inbox with a high-priority header on it.
If Hillary is going to get that cultural rehabilitation out of her endorsement, the last thing she needs is a candidate’s imbecile younger brother giving local newspaper interviews about her various perfidies and then having the whole thing splashed on CNN.
She’d just sooner go with someone — anyone — else and leave the drama about the “existential” crises faced by the Democrats behind.
So, no, Frank Biden isn’t a Malik Obama yet, inasmuch as he’s not trashing his own brother. In political terms, however, one could imagine this loose cannon inflicting far more damage. That should be a reminder to the former vice president:
It’s never too late to send a chatty relative on a cruise.
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.