Styles of Obama & Biden/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on August 17, 2020

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Alex Thompson is the Political National Reporter for Politico.com. On August 14, 2020, he wrote a piece discussing the relationship between President Obama and his VP, Joseph Biden. (“The President Was Not Encouraging: What Obama Really thought About Biden”)Clearly the two men had different styles and personalities. Some of the insights found in the article that touch upon mediation process include the following vignettes:

As Senator, Joe Biden always tried to remember advice given to him by the long-serving Majority Leader, Mike Mansfield. The counsel was this: “Your job here is to find the good things in your colleagues…and not focus on the bad.” When dealing with an opponent, it is easy to remember why you dislike something (or everything) about them. Mediation succeeds best when the parties can start thinking of things they like or respect about their opponent.

The article captured a quote by the former House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor. (R-VA). Mr. Cantor said that as Vice President, Mr. Biden understood that “You’re gonna have to agree to disagree about some things.” A mediation always works effectively when the parties realize they will never see the world with the same perspective. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.

Mr. Thompson sums up how deals were viewed differently by the former President and his Vice-President. “When a deal was finally made, Obama would bemoan the compromises while Biden would celebrate the points of agreement.” This is akin to the glass being half-full or half-empty. In virtually no mediation will either party get all that they want. It is simply not a practical goal. There is much to be said about celebrating the points of agreement. And of course, mediate don’t litigate.