Biden: Criticism of Obama During Democratic Debate ‘Surprised Me’

By Zachary Stieber

Former vice president Joe Biden said that the criticism of the Obama administration during the Democratic presidential debate on July 31 surprised him.

“I was a little surprised at how much incoming there was about Barack, about the president … I’m proud of having served with him. I’m proud of the job he did. I don’t think there’s anything he has to apologize for and it surprised me, the degree of criticism,” Biden said in Detroit, where he stayed Thursday following the debate Wednesday night.

He said that President Barack Obama’s record on immigration was nowhere near what’s happening now under President Donald Trump, calling any comparisons “absolutely bizarre.”

“I hope the next debate we can talk about how we fix the things that Trump has broken, not how Barack Obama made all these mistakes,” he added.

Biden faced criticism from rivals during the debate, who wondered if he tried to slow down the millions of deportations that happened while he was vice president.

biden in detroit restaurant
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to Detroit One Coney Island Restaurant in Michigan on Aug. 1, 2019. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

He said that the number of deportations would not rise if he were elected before he said he does not want to decriminalize illegal border crossings, in contrast to some of the further-left candidates such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Julian Castro, who served as Obama’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development, accused Biden of not learning “the lessons of the past” and added “it looks like only way that we’re going to guarantee that these kinds of family separations don’t happen in the future is that we need to repeal this law.”

After hitting back at Castro, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wondered if Biden influenced the number of deportations, prompting Biden to say it was Obama’s decision.

“You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) responded. “You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”

joe biden says "sent back"
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) listens as former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the second of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit on July 31, 2019. (Paul Sancya/AP Photo)

While Biden has been portrayed by some as a moderate, and he attempted to shoot down the socialist Medicare for All proposal on Wednesday, he told reporters on Thursday that he’s actually quite liberal.

“I wish you had called me ‘moderate’ when I was running for reelection in Delaware,” Biden said jokingly to reporters.

“It’s not about moving left or right. I think I represent the party,” said Biden, who promised to win Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio if he were elected as the Democratic nominee. “There’s a lot of really, really good people who got elected who are really pushing the envelope. … But the idea that they represent what the party is today does not comport with who gets elected.”

President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, walks back into the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, on Nov. 9, 2016. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

Some top Democratic thought leaders expressed dismay about the attacks on Obama during and after the debate.

​”This whole suicide mission of going after Barack Obama smells like desperation, and I think it certainly shows that some of them are just not ready for where they are​,​” ​Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist who was defended by many of the Democratic contenders after attacks from President Donald Trump this week, added on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Appearing on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS late Wednesday, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, claimed that ObamaCare’s benefits to Americans should be used by presidential candidates.

“I don’t know what the Democrats are doing,” Emanuel said. “It is very popular not only with the Democrats, it’s very popular with the country. And ready? It’s working—like breaking news! That’s what legislation is supposed to be doing. I don’t get it.”