The president is so "distracted by his vice president's indiscipline" that he has been forced to rebuke privately Vice President Biden, according to a new book by Richard Wolffe.
By Bill Sammon
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
President Obama is so "distracted by his vice president's indiscipline" that he has been forced to rebuke privately Vice President Joe Biden, according to a new book by Newsweek journalist Richard Wolffe, who interviewed Obama a dozen times.
"He can't keep his mouth shut," Wolffe quotes a "senior Obama aide" as saying of the gaffe-prone Biden in "Renegade: The Making of a President," set for release June 2.
As evidence, Wolffe reports that during the presidential transition period, Biden insulted Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's closest friends and confidantes. Jarrett had been considered Obama's top choice to fill his vacated Senate seat in Illinois, but took herself out of the running just hours after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly told a wiretapped conference call he would not heed any Obama recommendation without a payoff.
"Soon after Jarrett pulled out of consideration for the Senate seat, the senior transition team met to discuss cabinet picks," Wolffe writes. "Biden tried to compliment Jarrett after one contribution. 'You should be in the Senate,' he quipped. After the meeting, as everyone returned to their offices, Obama stopped Biden to warn him not to say anything like that again. 'It's not funny,' he told him."
Obama ended up naming Jarrett a senior presidential adviser. After taking her post in the White House, Jarrett remarked on her boss's private communications with his inner circle.
"Very few people have his BlackBerry e-mail," she told Wolffe. "And they are very careful about using it."
Although Obama was ranked as the most liberal member of the Senate by National Journal magazine, he had high praise for former President Ronald Reagan, a staunch conservative.
"Reagan would probably go down as a great president," Wolffe quotes Obama as saying.
"I don't think there's any doubt that Ronald Reagan had a profound effect on our economy, on our politics, on our culture."
Wolffe describes Obama's youth as "filled with drink and drugs and lazy days in Hawaii." But he said that all changed when Obama attended Columbia University in New York.
"That's when I stopped drinking. I stopped partying," Obama said. "This was my ascetic phase. Everything was stripped down."
Obama, who will travel to Egypt next month to give a major speech to the Muslim world, told Wolffe he wants to convene a "Muslim summit."
"If I had a Muslim summit, I think that I can speak credibly to them about the fact that I respect their culture," Obama said, "that I understand their religion, that I have lived in a Muslim country, and as a consequence I know it is possible to reconcile Islam with modernity and respect for human rights and a rejection of violence. And I think I can speak with added credibility."
The son of a white mother and black father, Obama said his election does not solve America's racial challenges.
"Solving our racial problems in this country will require concrete steps, significant investment," he said. "We have a lot of work to do to overcome the long legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. It can't be purchased on the cheap.
"I am fundamentally optimistic about our capacity to do that," he added. "And I do assert that there is a core decency in the American people and in white Americans that makes me hopeful about our ability to deal with these issues. But these issues aren't just solved by electing a black president."