Since moving into the White House in January, President Biden has been more of a work-week commuter than full-time Washingtonian, heading out of town most Friday afternoons. According to pool reports, six of his ten weekends as President have been spent beyond the Beltway. This past weekend, he was in Delaware with his son, Hunter, daughter-in-law, Melissa Cohen, and one-year-old grandson Beau.
The majority of Biden’s getaways have been to Wilmington, where he still owns a house and where the children of his late son, Beau, reside. Both were the occasion of Biden’s first visit back on February 5: The commander-in-chief noted he still had some items to move between houses, according to a pool report, and that he planned to “see [his] grandchildren and hang out with Jill.” He returned to Wilmington three weekends since.
Biden has also decamped to Camp David, the presidential retreat embedded in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains. On President’s Day Weekend, he played Mario Kart with his grandkids, gifting the brood Camp David hats. (His own read “Pop” on the back, in what granddaughter Naomi Biden called an effort to “make sure the the job title doesn’t get to his head… .”) He was back at the retreat in March, and has plans to return again this Friday to spend Easter weekend with family.
To longtime followers of the president, the getaways may not be all that surprising. As vice president, he tried to get home twice a month, friends told Politico. And as a senator, “Amtrak Joe“—who could forget—rode the train home to Delaware every night for 36 years. St. Joseph on the Brandywine, his longtime church in Wilmington, and the burial site of his first wife, Neilia, his daughter Naomi, and son Beau, is a frequent stop. Biden visited the parish often as VP, just as he did this past Saturday, and for a St Patrick’s Day mass on the 17th.
He may be our most Washington president ever, but it’s not like Biden has ever been much for the DC social circuit. “The Bidens, they’ve never been very much part of the Washington scene, because he lived in Wilmington all those years. I don’t think that’s going to change,” Sally Quinn told Washingtonian on the eve of his Inauguration in January. Certainly it’s not going to change in the immediate future, with Covid restrictions hindering how much the President can socialize either inside, or outside, the White House.
Still, though, even when life opens up a bit more, Quinn’s prediction may prove true. So far, Biden’s weekending doesn’t suggest that the White House has made Washington feel any more like home. Only 67 days into the job, and the President has expressed nostalgia for his old digs at the Naval Observatory, where he says he could work out and bicycle without leaving the property. (He and Jill Biden would also throw pool parties for staff, and have their grandchildren over.) The White House, by contrast, is more like a “gilded cage,” he said during a CNN Town Hall last month.
It’s a sentiment expressed by plenty of predecessors, sure. But Biden has the benefit of being able to break free with less hassle than others could. He’s the first President in the last 30+ years to own not one but two homes within a short ride of Washington—in Wilmington and in Rehoboth. And do you really think he’s going to pass up the ice cream shops at the Delaware beaches for August in the city?