BARACK AND JOE by Steven Levingston


The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership
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The chronicle of a political “bromance.”

Journalist Levingston (Kennedy and King: The President, the Pastor, and the Battle Over Civil Rights, 2017, etc.), nonfiction book editor of the Washington Post, examines the partnership between Barack Obama and Joe Biden, which, the author gushes, “evolved into a friendship of profound depth, one never before witnessed in the history of the American presidency.” His admiration for this relationship serves to justify this book. Unfortunately for Levingston, neither Obama nor Biden consented to interviews or replied to emails, although he did manage to interview sources such as Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. From those responses, along with videos, blogs, twitter posts, various media reports, speeches, and the protagonists’ memoirs—all public documents—Levingston weaves a lively narrative about an unlikely alliance between the taciturn Obama and gregarious, voluble Biden. After an initially cool assessment of one another, growing mutual respect led Obama to choose Biden for vice president due to his experience and skill working with Congress, his popularity among working-class voters, and their agreement “on matters of international import.” Obama, Levingston maintains, admired Biden’s personal story: “his character in the face of profound setbacks,” his willingness to question “the meaning of life and his place in it,” and his “devotion to his family,” traits that Obama felt he shared. The author stretches to include any commonalities he can identify—for example, that both men used sports metaphors. Nevertheless, as Levingston recounts their relationship during the campaign’s high and low points and throughout eight years of facing economic, social, and military crises, he points out many occasions when the two men seemed close. In particular, Obama’s demonstrative sympathy for Biden when his son Beau died of brain cancer is compelling evidence of the sincerity of his friendship and love. But the author is at a loss to explain Obama’s reticence in supporting Biden’s current campaign for the presidency, and he ends simply by proclaiming the bromance mesmerizing and inspiring.

A nostalgic portrait of the last presidency.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-316-48786-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Hachette
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2019


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