Joe Biden’s Israel war response shows he’s not a puppet: A conspiracy theory spreading in recent weeks, sometimes endorsed by Donald Trump, claimed that Barack Obama was secretly in charge of the Biden Administration. Events last week have cut against that theory.
Joe Biden Is No One’s Puppet
Throughout this fall, one idea has begun to spread on the political right: That Barack Obama is in fact secretly pulling the strings of the Biden Administration.
Where’s the evidence of this? There really isn’t any aside from the idea that quite a few staffers who worked in the Obama Administration have returned to government service in the Biden presidency- certainly far from a rare thing for that to be the case for two different presidencies, within a short period of time, of the same party.
Even Donald Trump bought into this theory, earlier this month.
“It’s never been worse than it is now under crooked Joe Biden and, frankly, his boss, Barack Hussein Obama,” Trump said in a New Hampshire speech. “I think it’s his boss.”
It exists alongside the equally baseless notion that Michelle Obama aspires to run for president, and the Democrats will “switch out” President Biden, “at the last minute,” and replace him with the former First Lady, who has been adamant for her entire career in public life that she has no interest in running for president himself.
Another notion is that Biden is being “puppeted” either by Vice President Kamala Harris or by young, progressive staffers, the sort of people who probably supported Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren for president but ended up working for Biden.
According to one writer, Biden’s response to the attacks in Israel, and the subsequent war, have disproven some of those notions.
Jonathan Chait of New York magazine writes that Biden, who went to Israel days after the attack and has expressed unwavering support for that country, is not under the control of others to his left.
“But Biden’s hawkish policy on Israel proves clearly that he is in control of his administration and is very capable of resisting the left,” Chait writes. “Put aside the merits of Biden’s policy. (I consider his blend of publicly hugging Israelis while privately warning them against overreach very shrewd, but time will tell.) The point simply is that Biden himself is the primary, if not sole, author of this policy.”
At the same time, more leftist staffers in the Biden Administration have made objections to Biden’s policy on Israel, and there has even been speculation that his Israel position could cost Biden Muslim voters in 2024, especially in swing states like Michigan with large Muslim populations.
The other idea, among those who consider Biden a puppet of former President Obama, is the long-held belief on the right that Obama disliked Israel. This idea spread frequently from the moment Obama first began running for president, although Obama’s Israel policy — approving aid and weapons for Israel while pushing them to make peace with the Palestinians — was not significantly different from those pursued by the three presidents before him. Obama did often clash with Benjamin Netanyahu, then as now the prime minister, but he also approved hundreds of millions in funding for the Iron Dome defense system.
Indeed, that Obama was “anti-Israel” was always wildly overstated- here’s a video of him in Israel, wearing a kippah, in front of Israeli flags, while delivering a eulogy for former Prime Minister Simon Peres, the last of Israel’s founding fathers and a man Obama considered a friend.
“It’s obviously true that the ideological character of a staff has an effect. A Biden administration that was staffed entirely by people who voted for Biden in the primary would look noticeably different,” Chait writes.
“At the same time, there are limits to what a staff can do, as the Democratic Party’s staff revolt over Israel reveals. Staff can help shape policy, but they can’t run it as long as the president has his own preferences and the managerial capacity to have them prevail. In his Middle East policy, Biden has proven decisively that he does.”
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.