It is hard to tell whether the president was being self-pitying or whether he was consciously making trouble for Hillary Clinton and for Vice President Joe Biden. “I think that, for both Joe and for Hillary, they’ve already accomplished an awful lot in their lives. The question is, do they, at this phase in their lives, want to go through the pretty undignifying process of running all over again,” he reportedly told an interviewer. Then in language identical to that he used for Clinton, he announced that Vice President Joe Biden would be a “superb” president.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., applauds at a campaign event in Unity, N.H. Friday, June 27, 2008, during their first joint public appearance since the divisive Democratic primary race ended. To her backers Clinton said: "I know that he'll work for you. He'll fight for you, and he'll stand up for you every single day in the White House," calling Obama "a leader who invests in our future." (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaks as Hillary Rodham Clinton applauds at a campaign event in Unity, N.H., on June 27, 2008. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

An “undignifying process”? Hmm. He seemed to soak up the Obama-worship and make especially the 2012 race quite undignifying (by calling Mitt Romney everything from a murderer to a robber baron). Did he find the whole process of putting himself out for inspection among those who cling to their Bible and guns undignifying? This was the candidate, you recall, who groused to the press that he just wanted to be left alone to eat his waffle one morning. Now while this could have been Obama complaining (Look what we have to put ourselves through!), it can also be seen as an effort to hand Biden and Clinton gold watches and suggest that they spend more time with their families. He is essentially telling them that they’ve had good careers and might not want to experience a damaging campaign. This version will no doubt play into the left-wing notion that Obama doesn’t want either one of them to run, but instead prefers a true man or woman of the left to finish transforming the United States.

Well, if he’d like them to both shove off, the feeling is becoming mutual. Biden is reduced to making himself retroactively into an antagonist of Russian President Vladimir Putin — not like those reset-lovers. He insisted that he told Putin in private that the ex-KGB agent “had no soul.” This sounds peculiarly like something Biden would say he had said. In fact, at the time he and Putin were great pals. His version doesn’t quite mesh with the White House account of their meeting or the chummy press conference Biden gave after the get-together. Watch for Biden to become less the loyal VP and more the self-proclaimed Cassandra who tried to steer Obama around foreign policy perils.

Clinton also has been trying to tiptoe away from Obama, although the left-wing base keeps her from straying too far. She has announced that she would go ahead with Russian sanctions (something Obama has yet to do) and she previously suggested she got along just fine with the Israelis (unlike Obama, is the inference). Her argument is a bit vague because she refuses to say what exactly the president did wrong, but her argument seems to be that she will be tougher, bolder and more inclined to use U.S. power. (How and in what circumstances remain unclear.)

In sum, it seems Obama wouldn’t mind if both Biden and Clinton exited the national stage (does he suspect that their campaigns would inevitably be about knocking him down and saving their own reputations?), and if either one of them wants to run, it will be essential to step away from Obama’s foreign and domestic policy train wreck. That will make for some imaginative historical rewrites.

Sure, everyone is smiles now; but when the chips are down, Obama wants a leftist to succeed him. And both Biden and Clinton will — with the base’s indulgence — be all too happy to throw the president, who never much listened to them anyway, under the bus.