President Joe Biden spent the weekend at his home in Delaware, where he was reunited with his wife, other family members and, if business as usual, Willow the cat and Commander the dog.
It is a weekly family ritual. At this point in his presidency, Biden has spent more than a quarter of his time working from his home state of Delaware, either at his Wilmington home or his Rehoboth Beach estate.
Some 21 months into his term, Biden has made 55 visits to Delaware, totaling some or all of the 174 days through Sunday, according to a CNN analysis of presidential schedules and a tally by Mark Knoller, the unofficial statistician of the White House for a long time.
Additionally, Biden has made 19 visits, or all or part of 64 days, to the Camp David presidential retreat in rural Maryland.
Now it has even exceeded the escape time of former President Donald Trump, so often criticized by Democrats for his habitual departures from the White House to stay in one of his personal homes.
At this point in his term, Trump had spent about 135 days at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, or at his home at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump had also spent 23 days at Camp David.
“President Biden is deeply proud of his roots and his family and it has been a staple of his time in public life to never lose touch with either of them,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew told CNN.
“The 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, DE. And as all Americans can agree, it’s important that leaders avoid settling in Washington, DC.”
The comforts of home can be a balm for the commander-in-chief while doing one of the most demanding jobs in the world. The American president is never really “off” and, in fact, Biden, like all presidents, has an entire White House remote apparatus that travels with him to facilitate that enterprise 24 hours a day, with the most advanced technology, Art capabilities, resources and technology traveling with him wherever he goes.
Some argue that Biden can now lean on the normalcy of working from home, which millions of Americans had to rely on when Covid-19 forced the isolation of offices and public spaces. WFH is not just a shorthand for being productive in the home office, it has become a professional way of life for many.
“It’s 2022, not 1922. If the rest of the country can work from home, so can the president of the United States,” said Michael LaRosa, director of a DC-based public affairs firm and former press secretary to the first lady Dr. Jill Biden.
However, the physical presence of a president is significant to some, at least in ritual.
The statistics — 236 days away from the White House in Delaware and Maryland in less than two years in office – 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 center of power provides a higher level of transparency thanks to proximity to the national media, along with White House rules on press access and public records on who comes and goes.
Whenever the president is in the Oval Office, for example, that presence is honored by the solemn guard of a stone-faced US Marine posted outside the West Wing.
“One special challenge that Biden faces, because of his age, is that people will assume the worst if he’s not always visible. That’s something that comes with being the longest-serving president,” said Tim Naftali, a CNN presidential historian, who notes that presidents have had a “mobile Oval Office” for decades. “Perception is important in American politics.”
A president of the United States who does not consider the White House his primary home does not go unnoticed by the media or critics. But the chief residents of the executive mansion have generally found it suffocating.
“I always say I don’t know if it’s the best public housing in America or the crown jewel of the prison system,” former President Bill Clinton reflected during an interview in 1993.
Knoller, who during his 32-year career with CBS News covered the personal habits of six presidents, agrees.
“It may look luxurious, but it can be suffocating living and working there day in and day out,” Knoller said.
Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster were the source of op-eds and lent themselves to critics painting a portrait of a president unwilling to give up the trappings of an off-duty luxury lifestyle.
And while many days were spent on the golf course (some 125 at this point in Trump’s presidency, compared to Biden’s 19 on golf courses), Trump was still the leader of the free world. Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama, traveled home much less frequently while he was in office, but Trump, among others, frequently criticized him for the amount of golf he played.
“(Ronald) Reagan and (George W.) Bush spent a lot of time at their private ranches,” Knoller said of two other former presidents who regularly escaped the White House.
Knoller tabulated the presidents’ length of absence, he says, because the numbers “added color to my reports and gave insight into the president’s needs and activities.”
By Knoller’s count, George W. Bush spent all or part of 490 days, more than a year, at his Texas ranch during his eight years in office. Reagan spent nearly a year, all or part of the 349 days, at his California ranch during his two terms.
If Biden were re-elected and maintained his current pace of Delaware trips through the end of a second term, he would far outstrip both Reagan and Bush in time away from the White House.
However, post-pandemic culture has blurred the boundaries of what defines a workplace.
“Our concept of being ‘on the job’ has changed, and that may change the way we think about where our president should be,” Naftali said.
Some of Biden’s biggest political victories came this summer, after all, when he isolated himself in the White House residence after testing positive for Covid-19. Photos showed him without a tie, often working in the second-floor Tract Room or reading newspapers with his feet up on Truman’s balcony, Commander at his side.
It was a view of what Biden’s work from home life can be like when he’s in Wilmington or Rehoboth.
“It’s a little old-fashioned to think that because he’s not physically in the White House on weekends, he’s not working,” LaRosa said. “He never stops being president and he never stops working. Ask the first lady.”
Biden has the advantage of a more normalized routine on his trips outside of Washington.
The staff at the White House residence have already perfected the choreography of managing, packing and planning the departure of the president and first lady on most Fridays, the day, statistically, the Bidens typically part town.
Ushers know what bags to take downstairs: It’s a light pack, most of the couples’ necessary belongings are already in their Delaware homes, a person familiar with the matter told CNN.
While Biden occasionally golfs at a local course when she’s in Wilmington, her other activities — seeing her grandkids, making informal social visits, going to church — don’t require multiple changes of clothes.
In Rehoboth, he rides his bike, and he and the first lady like to set up a big blue umbrella on the sandy beach in front of their house and sunbathe or read in reclining chairs. Outside of swimsuits, joggers, and polo shirts, it’s not a multi-pack situation.
“The biggest problem is usually pets,” said the person familiar with the weekend planning for a presidential getaway to Delaware.
Commander, now a year old and no longer a puppy, and Willow, Jill Biden’s adopted barn cat, are “almost always” on visits to Delaware. While many American families leave their pets at home with sitters over the weekend, or reserve them at pet-sitting facilities, the Bidens take theirs with them.
They like to be around their pets at all times: When Joe Biden isolated himself in the White House with Covid-19 this summer, Commander was with him; Likewise, when Jill Biden had her fight with Covid, she spent the isolation period of her rebound case in Rehoboth, with Willow.
The animals frequently travel to Delaware in a van, with support staff, but are occasionally in vehicles dedicated solely to their transportation, the person says. Willow, in particular, isn’t a fan of loud, buzzing helicopter blades, said another person familiar with the cat’s habits.
In June, members of the White House press saw Willow in her cage, being taken by a member of the residence staff to Marine One for a weekend in Rehoboth Beach.
Biden’s visits to Delaware, of course, no matter how quick, have a significant footprint beyond his pet paws.
The Secret Service coordinates with law enforcement on all moves: Several freeway exits must be closed for the presidential motorcade, locals in both Wilmington and Rehoboth must sometimes wait for traffic patterns or be swept by agents with magnetometers hand-held just to walk the beach if one of the Bidens is there, as a neighbor of the Bidens in Rehoboth Beach told CNN.
The large presidential apparatus helps ensure that the president can carry out his duties with the full participation of his advisers, even if they are not with him in person.
“Unless we find out that his absence in Washington causes him to fumble like JFK did on the eve of the Bay of Pigs operation, there should be no problem,” says Naftali, referring to the cancellation of an airstrike by the US from Kennedy on Sunday, without full consultation and full consideration, a move the former president later regretted.
“But if Biden is in touch virtually and by phone, in this era, leadership doesn’t have to mean always being physically present in Washington, DC.”
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.