President BidenJoe BidenThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Split screen: Biden sells stimulus; GOP highlights borderRNC to shadow Biden as he promotes COVID-19 relief billDems’ momentum hits quagmire over infrastructure plansMORE, who ran for the Democratic nomination last year as former President Obamas closest ally, has recently begun voicing criticism of his predecessor. 

However mild the critiques might be, they risk being seen as nitpicking at the legacy of the most popular Democrat in the nation.

Biden has said that Obama was not assertive enough in selling his economic stimulus plan, which the 44th president signed into law in February 2009 amid a huge financial crisis. 

Biden cast the problem as one in which Obama was too modest and we paid a price for it, ironically that humility.

Others in Bidens circle have argued that the Obama stimulus was too small an error the current administration was adamant it would not make as it forged ahead with a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Another, related critique is that Obama was too eager to get Republicans to sign on to his policy goals, from economic stimulus to the Affordable Care Act, when they had no real interest in doing so. Suggestions that he was naive in this effort have long irked the 44th president.

The turbulent crosscurrents between Biden and Obama as well as the left of the Democratic Party, which has been skeptical of both men made it onto the pages of The New York Times on Tuesday. 

Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) suggested that Democrats were too willing to make concessions at the start of the Obama presidency. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocrats move smaller immigration bills while eyeing broad overhaulWaPo critic chastises CNN for its ‘love-a-thon’ interviews between Cuomo brothersJohn Oliver calls Tucker Carlson a ‘vessel … for white supremacist talking points’MORE (D-N.Y.), while not criticizing Obama explicitly, said that she came of age watching Democratic governance fail me and my family.

Those kinds of observations especially the ones emanating from Bidens circle   elicit a strong counter-reaction from some.

I think they are utterly unnecessary. I mean, what point are they proving? That was then and this is now, said Democratic pollster and strategist Paul Maslin.

One of the most prevalent tendencies in politics is to keep fighting the last war. But to Obamas defenders, like Maslin, that kind of approach sometimes amounts to pointless carping.

We are in an entirely different situation, entirely different circumstances. No president is perfect. Maybe [Obama] could have pushed to do more. So what? It doesnt matter, Maslin said. He had to do stopgap things to save the economy, which he did.

The Obama-Biden relationship has always been a complicated one. The two have a genuine affection for each other, but it is also permeated by a strain of rivalry. 

Biden ran for the presidency himself in 2008 and got nowhere in a year when Obama and then-Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton on Zhao, Fennell: About timeDNC gears up for midterm pushTrump and Hillary: Forever connected by self-created failureMORE (D-N.Y.) dominated the Democratic contest.

Obama went on to pick Biden as his running mate, of course. But even then, the Obama camp was irritated by Bidens propensity to speak in an undisciplined way, while Biden loyalists would bridle when they thought their man was being treated condescendingly.

It has been widely reported that Obama discouraged Biden from running to succeed him in 2016, believing he would be a weaker candidate than Clinton. In 2020, Obama did not endorse any candidate during the most competitive phase of the primary.

Yet, for all that, friction between two presidents of the same party is not that unusual. 

Obamas own relationship with former President Clinton was uneasy. Clinton, while campaigning for his wife in the 2008 primary, had raised pointed and racially-loaded critiques of Obama.

Obama, for his part, had said that he hoped to be a transformative president, citing the example of former President Reagan, whom he said had changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWhite House would welcome Trump urging supporters to get vaccinatedThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – Biden: Back to ‘normal’ still means ‘beat the virus’Poll: Majority approve of Biden, but challenges remainMORE did not.

We shouldnt be surprised at all at the fact that there are some lingering tensions between the Biden and Obama camps, said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University.

Still, Lichtman added, Biden loyalists should tread carefully. There is very little to be gained from criticizing Obama, who in many ways was an extraordinarily successful president. The stimulus may not have been as extensive as one might have hoped. But he gets a lot of credit for saving the financial industry, saving the automotive industry and for the Affordable Care Act, which is probably the singular domestic achievement of Democrats since the days of Lyndon Johnson.

Some Democrats seek to calm the waters, contending that Team Biden is really talking about learning lessons from the Obama era rather than criticizing the former president per se.

Democratic strategist Tad Devine recalled a conversation he had with a senior presidential advisor at the White House early in Obamas tenure. Devine said he warned the top aide, regarding Republicans, that I just dont ever think these guys are going to play ball a viewpoint that was largely borne out.

But Devine added that, when it comes to looking back on that era, I dont view it as infighting or criticism. I think its much more about a recognition of what happened, and taking that into account in terms of what we do now. Are we just going to let 50 Republicans filibuster, for example?

The idea that there can be lessons learned from the Obama era is an uncontroversial one among Democrats. 

But Biden and his allies need to be careful about anything that tips into outright criticism especially given the reverence in which Obama is held.

The only person more popular than [Obama] in the country is his wife and if shes Number One, hes Number Two, said Maslin. Dont waste time on undeserved, unfair criticisms. Just do your job.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage.