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What Would a Biden Presidency Look Like? Obama’s White House Photographer Picks Six Photos That Offer Clues



Souza hopes that viewers of the film can draw connections between both Reagan and Obama through their appearance in photographs. “Whether you agree with their politics or policies, they’re decent human beings and they’re empathetic,” Souza says.

Disagreeing when the situation demands it

President Barack Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, holds a secure teleconference call on Libya in the Situation Room of the White House, April 5, 2011. Attending the meeting are: National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; Tony Blinken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications; CIA Director Leon Panetta; Gen. James Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Michele Flournoy, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and Chief of Staff Bill Daley. (Office White House Photo by Pete Souza)

This photograph was taken after a Situation Room meeting on Libya in 2011. “I like this picture because Biden’s the last one to leave the room. Thus, he gets to have the final word with the President,” Souza says. The interaction demonstrates to Souza that Biden wasn’t afraid to argue if he disagreed with Obama’s point of view. “Biden was always willing to stand up and say what he thought was the right thing to do.”

Seeking out the opinions of a diverse staff

Vice President Joe Biden and Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, talk on the steps from the Colonnade to the Rose Garden at the White House following the Presidential Daily Briefing, May 1, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“To me, this illustrated that he listened to staff,” Souza says of this photograph, which he took through the window, of Biden sitting with then-Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor Lisa Monaco. Though Monaco worked for Obama and not Biden, Souza believes this snapshot shows that he valued her opinion and was indicative of how he sought out other points of view. “Also to him, the gender of the staff, of the person, doesn’t matter,” Souza adds. “I think that in a Biden administration you’ll see a lot of women and people of color.”

Prioritizing compassion

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden arrive at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

After the Pulse night club mass shooting in Florida, both Obama and Biden met with the families of victims in Orlando. This particular moment was unusual for Souza because he didn’t cover Biden’s solo events—David Lienemann, who was on Souza’s staff, would do so—so it’s one of the few images he has taken of Biden consoling families. “This is what we’re talking about when want somebody who’s compassionate,” Souza says. “Someone who will console families after a tragedy.” Biden has suffered several personal tragedies, including the deaths of his first wife Neilia and their daughter Naomi in 1972, as well as the death of his son Beau in 2015.

Bringing a sense of humor to a serious job

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk backstage during a grassroots campaign event at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Sept. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“I can’t remember who said something funny, if it was President Obama or if it was Biden,” Souza says about this image from a campaign event in New Hampshire. It was rare for the pair to do these types of events together, Souza recalls, but this time Biden was going to introduce Obama. He chose the photograph because it captures their relationship as friends. While reflecting on the moment, Souza adds that Biden “just has a good sense of humor.”

Animated with passion and intensity

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner meet with Senate Democratic leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Dec. 6, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Like the first photograph Souza chose, this one was taken after a meeting Obama and Biden had with a group of senators. Souza explains that he couldn’t decide between the two and ultimately decided to include both because they show two different aspects of the now-candidate. This one, he says, shows how animated Biden could get. “His level of intensity could ratchet up in some of these meetings with congressmen and senators,” Souza says.

As November’s presidential election draws closer, Souza says it’s important for voters to look for photographs of both candidates interacting with other people. And more than that, to ask questions about these leaders. “Is this person competent?” he asks. “Do I trust this person to do the right thing?”