White House defends Biden’s Delaware travel despite pandemic

White House press secretary Jen Psaki takes a question from a reporter during a press briefing at the White House, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WILMINGTON, Del. — Of the eight weekends since President Joe Biden took office, he has spent three at his longtime home outside Wilmington, Delaware. Tentative plans for another weekend visit were scrubbed due to Senate action on Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

Biden also spent a weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Many presidents have complained at one point or another about feeling confined in the White House. Biden already has echoed earlier presidents in comparing the experience to living in a “gilded cage.”

So trading the 132-room executive mansion for a less confining, more relaxing weekend hangout can help presidents unwind, said University of Chicago political scientist William Howell.

“What he wanted to be was president,” Howell said. “It is not the White House per se that is the draw.”

The White House defends Biden’s leisure travel at a time when both he and federal health officials have been pleading with the public to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously, including by avoiding unnecessary travel.

“The president lives in Wilmington,” press secretary Jen Psaki said recently. “And as you know, as any president of the United States does, he takes a private airplane called Air Force One to travel there.”

“I think most Americans would also see that as a unique circumstance,” she said of the government aircraft available to Biden.

No president travels alone, though, no matter how private the plane. It requires that lots of other people travel as well. And the costs mount quickly.

Besides the Air Force flight crew, a president’s travel party includes Secret Service agents, White House staff, journalists and family. Depending on the destination and purpose of the trip, lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries or other guests may fly with the president.

Biden owns a second home in the seaside community of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. He has yet to visit it since becoming president but it could see more action as the weather warms up.

As he left the state in January, Biden, who is of Irish descent, alluded to an Irish poet who is believed to have said Dublin will be written on his heart when he dies.

Overcome with emotion, Biden said, “when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart.”