How Obama and Biden had each other's back

President Barack Obama, left, shares a laugh with Vice President Joe Biden, right, during the Duke Georgetown NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, in Washington.

AP Photo/Nick Wass

The close bond between President Obama and Vice President Biden has been on display in the closing days of their time in office.

The president called Biden “my brother” during an emotional White House ceremony Thursday, where he surprised Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction, reports CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan. 

When the vice president came to the White House Thursday, he had no clue that he was about to be awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor. Just President Obama and a small group of staff had planned the surprise. 

The visibly shocked vice president said it was beyond what he deserved and that he was indebted to his boss. 

“I was part of a journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country,” Biden said.

Their relationship grew during two terms in office, with both men poking fun at their so-called “bromance” in a video skit last spring.

When Mr. Obama’s health care law was passed by Congress in 2010, his number-two congratulated him as only a close friend would.

“This is a big f**king deal,” an open microphone captured Biden saying. 

By the vice president’s account, the two spend five to seven hours together each day, with Biden a key adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and on attempts to craft gun control legislation.

Their collaboration took a very personal turn in 2015. After the death of Biden’s 46-year-old son, Beau, It was the president who delivered the eulogy, addressing Biden directly.  

“I’m grateful every day that you’ve got such a big heart and a big soul and those broad shoulders. I couldn’t admire you more,” Mr. Obama said. 
 
“Few figures in public life have gone through such public suffering as the Bidens. And the Obamas were there for them every step of the way,” said Bruce Reed, former chief of staff to the vice president. 

After Biden said he wanted to find a cure to honor his son, Mr. Obama launched a White House effort to fight cancer.
 
“Let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. What do you say, Joe?” Mr. Obama said in his 2016 State of the Union address. 

Biden later revealed that the Obamas had also offered to personally help foot the bill for Beau’s cancer treatments.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you the money,’” Biden recalled in an interview with CNN.
 
They first joined forces after then-young Sen. Obama defeated him in the 2008 Democratic primary, then asked Biden to lend his decades of Capitol Hill experience to the ticket.

While their contrasting styles are obvious -- Mr. Obama is reserved, while Biden is notoriously outspoken -- Reed said they complement each other.
 
“What is it that you think has made this relationship work over the past eight years?” Brennan asked.

“Barack Obama and Joe Biden trust each other, like each other.  They don’t always agree, but they always tell each other the truth and they always got each other’s back,” Reed said. 

“According to the presidential, vice presidential scholars, that kind of relationship has existed. I mean, for real. It’s all you, Mr. President. It’s all you,” Biden told Mr. Obama.

Of course the two men also stood side by side the day that Biden made the difficult decision not to run again for president -- a tough call that Mr. Obama counseled him on. Aides said it was Biden’s own call not to make a bid to succeed Mr. Obama in office.