Joe Biden escapes his White House ‘golden cage’ at a faster rate than Trump
Sixty-nine of those 108 days away from Washington were spent at his home in Wilmington, spread over 23 visits; seven days at his beach home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, over two visits; and 32 days at Camp David over 10 visits.
Typically, his helicopter ride from the White House to his home in Wilmington takes less than an hour, and a White House official noted that many partial days included Biden leaving the White House at the end. working day on a Friday or returning to Washington before the start of a working day on a Monday.
This puts Biden ahead of the pace set by former President Donald Trump, who spent less time on his escapades in Florida and New Jersey during his presidency than Biden spent in Delaware.
Compare Biden and his predecessors
While most presidents have prioritized time away from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the most time a president has spent away from the White House on personal travel at this point in history. recent.
In comparison, Trump had spent all or part of 61 days at his properties in Mar-a-Lago or Bedminster in Florida and New Jersey, respectively, during the same period, plus all or part of nine days during four visits to the camp. David. Trump has also visited other Trump-branded properties, including his Virginia Golf Club and the Trump Tower in New York City, nearly 100 times at this point in his tenure.
At the same time in his presidency, then President Barack Obama, who had had school-aged children during his tenure, had made three vacation trips covering all or part of 15 days, according to Mark Knoller, presidential archivist. and CBS News veteran, including a visit to his Chicago home, a trip to Yellowstone National Park in Montana with his family, and a week-long getaway to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Obama had spent all or part of 25 days at Camp David in ten visits to this point, Knoller said.
And then-President George W. Bush, according to Knoller’s records, made seven trips to Crawford, Texas, spending 27 full or partial days at his family’s Prairie Chapel Ranch in the first few months of his presidency. , and 19 visits to Camp David over 57 full or part days, for a total of 84 full or part days in Texas or Camp David.
A “golden cage”
The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the work habits of white-collar workers, with many Americans adopting more flexible hours and avoiding commuting five days a week to work from home instead. The White House also serves as the president’s place of work and home, but Biden can work remotely with secure communications equipment and facilities wherever he travels.
“Presidents of the United States are constantly at work, regardless of their location; whether they are on a state visit abroad or just 100 miles from the White House for a short trip to Wilmington,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates to CNN.
Bates added: “Wherever he is, the President spends every day working to defeat the pandemic, to ensure our economy benefits the middle class – not just those at the top – and to protect our national security. So, as all Americans can agree, it is important that leaders avoid relocating to Washington, DC. “
In the post-presidency, former presidents have often lamented the restrictions on home life in the White House, with Truman calling it “the great white prison” and Michelle Obama calling it a “really nice prison”, which isn’t unusual for a president to seek respite from more familiar digs.
“Even in the residence on the second and third floors, the president and his family are rarely alone. They can often hear the singing of protesters in Lafayette Park across the street. During the Vietnam War, Luci and Lynda Bird Johnson could hear it from their rooms, ”said Kate Andersen Brower, CNN contributor and author of“ Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump ”.
Brower added, “There is a sense of claustrophobia that accompanies the territory. People come in and out for tours (in the pre-Covid era) and reporters work not far from the Oval Office.”
He continued, “And so living in the White House, as you’ve heard from other presidents who have been extremely flattered to live there, a – it’s kind of like a golden cage to be able to go out and make things. “
Pressed by Biden’s predilection to get out of town, White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended her boss.
“Because it’s his home. You like coming home, don’t you? So does the president. He’s human too,” Psaki told reporters at a briefing in August.
And in early March, as Covid-19 cases remained high and the vaccination program ramped up, Psaki was asked if Biden should do more to lead by example in personal travel during the pandemic.
“Well, the president lives in Wilmington. It’s his home. It’s where he lived for many, many years. And as you know, like any president of the United States does, he takes a private plane called Air Force One to get there. This is, of course, a unique situation – unique for most Americans, but I think most Americans would also see this as a unique circumstance, ”he said. she declared.
Getting away from Washington
In Wilmington, Biden spends time with his family, including the first lady and her grandchildren, but he also uses his home as a workplace.
“Even the president is affected by the pandemic white collar new way of life of working from home anywhere,” Brower said.
She added: “The Oval Office doesn’t refer to physical space anymore, it really has become where the president is. And so does a lot of people who have the luxury of working remotely. “
Both in and out of the West Wing, Biden, a White House official told CNN, “constantly strategizing with staff, knowledgeable about the economy and national security, speaks with lawmakers to advance its legislative agenda, and more ”. Modern technology, the official added, makes it easier than ever for a president to do work from anywhere, with many staff working remotely in the early days of administration.
Biden typically attends mass on Saturdays or Sundays in town, and he’s played about a dozen rounds of golf at the nearby Fieldstone Golf Club. He stopped at a local cafe, Brew Ha Ha! earlier this month with her granddaughters.
Earlier this month, he and the first lady visited his sister’s nearby home for a “little family wedding” from his nephew, Cuffe Owens, to Meghan O’Toole King, a former Real Housewives of Orange County. He also spent time in the area on more mundane tasks, such as seeing a doctor for a follow-up visit after a foot injury.
Biden received virtual briefings from his team while away from the White House, according to his public schedule, and still travels with senior officials for home policy and national security, the agency’s military personnel. White House communications staff and other aides, the White House official said. .
Biden, the official added, is “in frequent contact with a wide range of other staff to keep moving forward on any issues he’s working on during the week.”
The cost of escape
No matter how close or far it is, there are always taxpayer resources committed when a president travels.
“There is a significant level of taxpayer spending every time the President leaves the White House, whether it’s just for a local stop in Washington, DC, or a night in Delaware,” Jonathan said. Wackrow, a former U.S. Secret Service agent and CNN. law enforcement analyst.
These expenses include travel and accommodation for the Secret Service while agents, officers and technical professionals descend to the President’s destination. Secure communication infrastructures are installed by military personnel. Local law enforcement and other public security entities, including firefighters and emergency medical services (EMS), are deployed during a president’s visit. There are also transportation considerations, Wackrow said, including Marine One and its supporting structure, fuel, mechanical considerations and aircraft safety.
Whoever is in office and wherever they go, Wackrow says, “There’s a huge bubble moving with the president. crisis – it must be equal to that of all resources in Washington. “
Biden’s trips to Camp David, which is a permanent military installation, are less resource-intensive, however, as the presidential retreat is heavily fortified and supported by the military.
“The infrastructure is integrated – Camp David has the SCIFs built in, it has the Presidential Emergency Command Centers built in, it has all the resources you would typically bring on a temporary basis, they’re built permanently at Camp David,” Wackrow said. .
Kate Bennett of CNN contributed to this report.