5 Things We Know Obama and Bernie Sanders Didn’t Talk About at Their White House Meeting

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders walks with President Barack Obama through the Colonnade for a meeting in the Oval Office on June 9, 2016, at the White House in Washington, D.C. 
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders walks with President Barack Obama through the Colonnade for a meeting in the Oval Office on June 9, 2016, at the White House in Washington, D.C.

Bernie Sanders and President Barack Obama held a meeting in the White House Thursday morning that virtually signaled the end of Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Sanders’ crushing defeat in Tuesday’s primaries, especially California’s, the White House meeting was the first in a likely series of talks to ease tensions and egos between rivals Hillary Clinton and Sanders before laying the groundwork for the fall.


While both Sanders and Obama gave statements soon after the meeting (more on that later), the exact details of the conversation were not revealed. Nevertheless, it’s not all that difficult to figure out what they didn’t talk about, and how that may play out for the rest of the campaign season:

1. Getting Out of the Race

It was pretty obvious that Sanders and Obama didn’t talk about the candidate dropping out of the race. First, because Sanders immediately said in a statement that he would be competing until the Washington, D.C., primary next week, and second, because Obama pretty much shaded him right after the meeting. At 2:26 p.m. the Clinton campaign released a short video showing Obama enthusiastically endorsing Clinton for president of the United States.

By not even waiting until the race was over, Obama was clearly pulling out the “wrap it up” box for Sanders. He knew that the Vermont senator wasn’t going to leave the race until the very end, so why would they bother to discuss it? It also explains why, in the endorsement video, Obama says that Clinton is the “presumptive” nominee and not the actual nominee.

2. Strategies to Win Over Superdelegates

One of the Sanders campaign’s big pushes over the last month has been to fight to the Democratic convention and convince Democratic superdelegates to switch allegiances from Clinton to Sanders. Why? Because polls show that Sanders matches up much better against Donald Trump than Clinton.

Of course, that was a crazy plan that didn’t have much of a chance, and I am sure Obama didn’t feel the need to bring that up in their discussions; especially since in 2008, despite beating Clinton in almost 10 straight contests and blowing her out in pledged delegates, Obama had only about 50 delegates change from Clinton to him. Sanders’ superdelegate plans are a pipe dream, and given all of the other important issues to address, they probably didn’t come up at the meeting.

3. The Vice Presidential Pick

Sanders is not going to be vice president of the United States. Not under a Clinton administration or, likely, any other Democratic administration down the road. And Obama, while on “Team Clinton,” wouldn’t be in a position to help Sanders move up in the veepstakes even if the senator actually wanted the position. Of the various issues that probably came up in the meeting, the vice presidency almost definitely was not one of them.


4. Returning to the Senate

The Clintons are petty, vindictive politicians with very long memories (just ask Bill Richardson), but they are practical. In order to get Sanders on board for the 2016 election cycle, they’re going to have to pay him off, politically, so to speak, and there’s no one who knows more about paying off a political rival than President Barack Obama. I’m fairly sure the senator and the president did not discuss Sanders quietly going back to the Senate. More likely, they discussed just what Sanders could be angling for in order to get him to play the good soldier for the next six months.


In 2008, in order to get Hillary and, especially, Bill Clinton on board, Obama likely offered her the secretary of state Cabinet position, and he paid off her campaign debt. Of course, Obama didn’t trust her entirely; his team literally paid off the last of her campaign debts one day before Clinton left office as secretary of state … keep your enemies close. So if Obama (who was a much stronger candidate in 2008 than Clinton in 2016) was willing to offer up secretary of state and pay off debts to buy Clinton’s loyalty, I’m pretty sure he told Sanders to skip going back to the Senate and go all in for a campaign wish list.

5. What Hot Sauce Fits Best in a Purse?

One of the most famous moments of racial pandering in the 2016 campaign was Hillary Clinton busting out with the fact that she carried hot sauce in her bag during an interview with the radio show The Breakfast Club for the New York primary. Whether it was pandering or not (and reports indicate that she really had been carrying hot sauce in her purse for years), it was a sign that Clinton will go to any lengths to attract minority votes, something that Sanders was never able to do consistently.


With Clinton and Obama’s popularity among African-American and Latino voters, I’m sure that the words “Let me help you with the black vote” were never exchanged between Sanders and Obama. Sanders’ strength on the campaign will be galvanizing young voters and reminding everyone that even if Hillary Clinton is a monstrous corporate shill, Donald Trump is a shrill corporate monster and, thus, worse for the country.

Jason Johnson, political editor at The Root, is a professor of political science at Morgan State’s School of Global Journalism and Communication and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera International, Fox Business News and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Follow him on Twitter.