Biden finds time for Delaware at White House
President Biden talked to associates about keeping life as normal as possible for his family when he prepared to move into the White House earlier this year. Part of that normalcy included frequent trips to his lake house in Delaware.
Now as he nears the third month of his presidency, Biden has made a habit of leaving Washington on weekends for his home state. He’s gone five times so far in his presidency, including one middle-of-the-week overnight stop.
With the summer months approaching, Biden is expected to travel to his $2.7 million beach house in Rehoboth, Del., on a string of weekend trips, according to two sources familiar with the plans.
Those close to Biden say the trips to Delaware are nothing new for the man dubbed “Amtrak Joe,” who took the train home every night from Washington to Wilmington as a senator for 36 years. Biden, the first president in recent history to have two homes within driving distance of Washington, also frequently went to Wilmington as vice president.
“He’s tied to Delaware,” said one longtime adviser. “It grounds him, to be honest, to go home and be in the house he built with Jill, with all the traditions, with his family nearby. That’s what he loves. That’s where he is rooted.”
“The White House is a very constricting place,” the adviser added.
Former President Trump also made a habit of frequently leaving Washington, but his trips were usually to Mar-a-Lago in Florida and his Bedminster club in New Jersey. On those trips he was known to bill the Secret Service for the rooms his detail used while staying at his properties.
Former President Obama didn’t have a vacation home while he resided in the White House, and once he left his hometown of Chicago during his presidency, he rarely returned. His predecessor, George W. Bush, often escaped Washington for Waco, Texas, where he was famously photographed clearing brush on his property.
Some presidents have sought to leave Washington to get in touch with the rest of the country.
“There is something to literally getting out of the Washington bubble — seeing the world outside the Beltway and having a firm identity in one of the areas that is not literally defined by national politics,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.
“That said, he is the president. Obviously the trips don’t really expose him that much given he still lives in a bubble. So at this point, it becomes more symbolic,” Zelizer added.
Biden and first lady Jill Biden frequented the moves during his vice presidency. They also dined out and made trips to the grocery store. Biden occasionally stopped at Brooks Brothers on his way home from the White House, while Jill Biden popped into Politics and Prose for a book reading and took in the ballet at the Kennedy Center.
Biden has told associates and allies that transitioning to the White House has taken some getting used to.
In a CNN town hall in February, Biden called living in the White House a “gilded cage” and said it’s a different life than the one he’s grown accustomed to over the years.
“I said when I was running, I want to be president, not to live in the White House,” he said at the time.
“I was raised in a way that you didn’t look for anybody to wait on you,” he later added, speaking about the White House butlers and staff. “And it’s where I find myself extremely self-conscious.”
The Bidens have been dealing with various adjustments to living in the White House.
Their younger dog Major has been involved in a couple of biting incidents. After the first one, he and Champ, both German shepherds, were shuttled back to the lake house in Delaware. After working with a trainer there, the dogs later returned to the White House.
Before he took office in January, Biden wanted to take the symbolic hour-and-a-half-long Amtrak trip to Washington, as he had done for years. When the Secret Service ruled it out, Biden still tried to push to take the trip, one source said.
“I think he wanted to convince everyone that nothing had changed,” one ally said. “That he was always going to be Joe from Delaware.”
Before leaving for Washington, Biden got wistful about leaving his home.
“When I die, Delaware will be written on my heart and the hearts of all the Bidens,” he said through tears.
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