President Joe Biden spent the weekend at his home in Delaware, where he was reunited with his wife, other family members and, as usual, his cat Willow and dog Commander.
It’s a popular weekly ritual. Since this point in his presidency, Biden has spent more than a quarter of his time working from the state of Delaware, either at his home in Wilmington or at his property in Rehoboth Beach.
About 21 months into his term, Biden has made 55 visits to Delaware, a total of 174 for some or all days, as of Sunday, according to a CNN analysis of presidential schedules and a count by unofficial White House statistician Mark Knoller. press team In addition, Biden has made 19 visits, or 64 full or partial days, to the presidential retreat at Camp David in rural Maryland.
It has also now passed the era of former President Donald Trump, often criticized by Democrats for regularly leaving the White House to stay at one of his personal homes. At this point in his tenure, Trump spent about 135 days at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, or at the golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump also spent 23 days at Camp David.
“President Biden is very proud of his roots and his family and it’s been a staple of his time in public life to stay in touch with both,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told CNN. “Presidents of the United States are constantly on the job, regardless of their location – abroad on a state visit or a short trip 100 miles from the White House to Wilmington, DE. And as all Americans can agree, it’s important for leaders to avoid being in Washington.
The comfort of home can be a lifesaver for the commander-in-chief while doing one of the most demanding jobs in the world. The American president is never really “off” and indeed Biden, like all presidents, has the entire remote White House apparatus that travels with him to facilitate that 24-hour enterprise, with the greatest of circumstances. -art skills, resources and technology wherever he travels with him.
Some say Biden can now rely on the normalcy of working from home, which millions of Americans had to rely on when Covid-19 forced isolation from offices and public spaces. “WFH” is not just shorthand for being productive in the home office, it has become a professional lifestyle for many.
“It’s 2022, not 1922. The rest of the country can work from home, and so can the president of the United States,” said Michael LaRosa, director of a D.C.-based public affairs firm and former press secretary to the first lady. Dr. Jill Biden.
“He spent almost every weekend in Delaware during his 36 years in the Senate, and eight years as vice president,” LaRosa said. “This is nothing new. The Bidens have never lived in Washington.”
The physical presence of a president, however, is significant for some, at least ritually.
The statistics — 236 days away from the White House in Delaware and Maryland in less than two years on the job — are significant for the modern presidency. The work has been established in the nation’s capital near Congress and the Supreme Court, in part because of its symbolic power, for more than 220 years. Being in that power center brings a greater level of transparency thanks to the proximity of the national media, along with White House rules on press access and public records of who comes and about whom.
Whenever the president is in the Oval Office, for example, that presence is honored by the solemn clock of a stone-faced US Marine stationed outside the West Wing.
“A particular challenge that Biden faces, because of his age, is that people will always assume the worst if he’s not seen. That’s something that comes with being the oldest president in office,” said Tim Naftali, a presidential historian for CNN, and the presidents “mobile Oval Office.” He says they have had it for decades. “Perception Matters in American Politics.”
The president of the United States, who does not consider the White House his first home, does not go unnoticed by the media, nor by critics. But senior residents of the executive palace have generally found it stifling.
“I always say I don’t know if it’s the best public housing in America or if it’s the crown jewel of the prison system,” former President Bill Clinton said in a 1993 interview.
Knoller, who covered the personal habits of six presidents during his 32-year career at CBS News, agrees.
“It sounds like luxury, but it can be suffocating to live and work there every day,” Knoller said.
Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster were fodder for op-eds and lent themselves to critics painting a portrait of a president unwilling to give up the trappings of a luxurious lifestyle outside of work. And even though many days were spent on the golf course – 125 or more at this point in Trump’s presidency, compared to Biden’s 19 on the links – Trump was still the leader of the free world. Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama, traveled home far less while in office, but suffered frequently, due in part to the amount of golf Trump played.
“(Ronald) Reagan and (George W.) Bush spent a lot of time on their private ranches,” Knoller said of the other two former presidents who regularly fled the White House.
Knoller tabulated the time period for the presidents, he says, because the numbers “gave color to my reports and provided insight into the needs and activities of the president.”
By Knoller’s count, George W. Bush spent all or part of 490 days – more than a year – at his ranch in Texas during his eight years in office. Reagan spent nearly a year, 349 full or part days, at his ranch in California during his two terms. Should Biden be re-elected and maintain his current pace of trips to Delaware through the end of a second term, he would far surpass Reagan and Bush in time out of the White House.
However, the post-pandemic culture has blurred the boundaries of what defines the workplace.
“The concept of being ‘on the job’ has changed, and that can really change the way we think about where our president should be,” Naftali said.
Some of Biden’s biggest political victories came in the summer, when he was ultimately isolated in the White House after testing positive for Covid-19. Photographs showed him without a tie, often working in the second-floor Treaty Room or reading papers with his feet on the Truman balcony, the Commander at his side.
It was a glimpse of what Biden’s home life might look like when he’s in Wilmington or Rehoboth.
“It’s a little outdated to think that because he’s not physically at the White House on the weekends, he’s not working,” LaRosa said. “He never stops being president and never stops working. Just ask the first lady.’
Biden has the advantage of a more normalized routine when traveling outside of Washington.
White House staff have perfected the choreography of managing, packing and planning the departure of the president and first lady on most Fridays, a day when, statistically speaking, Biden usually divides the nation.
Users know which bags to bring downstairs: It’s a light package, with most of the couple’s essentials already in their homes in Delaware, a person familiar with the matter told CNN. While Biden is in Wilmington, where he occasionally plays golf at a local course, his other activities — seeing his grandchildren, making regular social visits, going to church — don’t require multiple outfit changes.
In Rehoboth, he rides his bike and he and the first lady like to set up a big, blue umbrella on the beach in front of their house and sunbathe or read on the deckchairs. Outside of swimsuits, joggers and polos, it’s not a multi-suitcase situation.
“The biggest problem is usually the pets,” said the person familiar with the weekend planning for the presidential getaway to Delaware.
Commander, now a year old and no longer a little puppy, and Willow, Jill Biden’s adopted barn cat, are “almost always” on Delaware visits. While many American families leave their pets at home with sitters for the weekend or book them into pet care facilities, the Bidens take theirs with them.
They like to be around their pets at all times – this summer when Joe Biden was in isolation at the White House with Covid-19, the commander kept him company; likewise, when Jill Biden had her battle with Covid, she spent her rebound case isolation period in Rehoboth, with Willow.
Animals often travel to Delaware via vans with support staff, but occasionally are in vehicles dedicated only for transport, the person said. Willow, in particular, isn’t a fan of the noisy, rattling helicopter blades, said another person familiar with the feline’s habits. In June, members of the White House press at Willow spotted the oddity in her casket, which a staff member had taken to Marine One over the weekend in Rehoboth Beach.
Biden’s visits to Delaware, of course, however quick, have a significant impact beyond their pets’ footprints.
The Secret Service coordinates with law enforcement on every move: Several freeway exits have to be closed for the presidential billboard, while residents of Wilmington and Rehoboth sometimes have to wait for traffic patterns or are escorted by officers with hand-held magnetometers to walk the beach. The Bidens are there, as one of the Bidens’ neighbors in Rehoboth Beach told CNN.
The large presidential apparatus helps ensure that the president can carry out his duties with the full input of advisers, even when he is not with him.
“Unless we discover that being away from Washington is running the ball like JFK did on the eve of the Bay of Pigs operation, there should be no problem,” Naftali says, referring to Kennedy’s cancellation of an airstrike. On Sunday, without full consultation and deliberation, the former president later regretted the move.
“But if Biden is in touch virtually and by phone, at this point in time, leadership doesn’t always have to be physically present in Washington, DC.”