In Delaware, Biden indulges in one of his oldest habits: commuting

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. – Everyone here has a Biden story.

Joe Mack, owner of Double Dippers ice cream parlor, says President Biden likes to recite old Irish sayings when he comes for a quart of chocolate chips. (It may take a while to get him out of place.) Susan Kehoe, the owner of Browseabout Books, says Mr Biden and his dog Champ draw crowds of onlookers as they relax on one of the benches outside the store.

Delaware State Auditor Kathleen McGuinness has a photo on her phone of herself standing next to an aviator carrying Mr. Biden near Rehoboth Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare.

“They fit into the fabric,” Ms McGuinness said of the president and his offspring, who spent the summer here for years before Mr Biden bought a $ 2.7million beach house. dollars in 2017 in the North Shores, an upscale neighborhood a mile north of the city.

Prior to the 2020 election, the Bidens were often a downtown fixture, with the former vice president often entangling people in conversations that sometimes had no end in sight.

“He roamed freely,” Mack said.

As president, Mr. Biden made it clear in public comments – he compared life in the White House to living in a “golden cage” – and the frequency of his travels that he is still the most in-demand. comfortable in Delaware, a place where it can be displayed and protected at the same time.

The Bidens own a large house in a suburb of Wilmington, but Rehoboth, a laid-back seaside town that sells bucket fries and Biden-themed merchandise – including Gatorade orange scented candles, made in homage to the President’s favorite drink – is one of his favorite haunts. Amid tense negotiations with Republicans over an infrastructure package, ransomware attacks on U.S. companies, and plans for an upcoming trip to the Group of 7 summit in Europe, Mr Biden took to the beach to celebrate. the 70th birthday of Jill Biden, the first lady.

Mr. Biden’s inclination to return home to Delaware is long-standing: During his 36 years in the Senate, Mr. Biden made a point of returning to Wilmington to spend most evenings with his sons , a habit that began after his first wife, Neilia. Biden and his young daughter, Naomi Biden, were killed in a car crash.

At least for now, the Bidens have another reason: They still don’t fully trust the residence staff and security guards they haven’t directly hired, according to two people close to their thinking. (Many domestic workers are leftovers from the previous administration, which is common for new presidents.) The Bidens still haven’t installed a White House chief bailiff, who manages the residence. The Trumps’ chief bailiff, who was a former room manager at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, was fired on the day of the opening.

For the Bidens, the White House has made some adjustments. Delaware, on the other hand, hardly takes any. Their home in Rehoboth was bought after the president promised his wife he would buy her a beach house with the proceeds of a multi-million dollar book deal signed after he left the vice presidency. (A plaque above the front door reads “A Promise Kept.”)

“I wanted this to be the kind of place where you can step into your wet, barefoot swimsuit and I can just take the broom and brush the sand,” Dr. Biden told Vogue in 2020. “And c. is what it is. Everything is easy.

A bike ride the couple took in the state park near their home on Thursday stretched much longer than expected because the president stopped to talk to people, according to a person familiar with their activities. The first couple kept a low profile, although townspeople were comparing their notes on where the first couple might turn up.

At DiFebo’s, an Italian restaurant that’s a Mr. Biden’s favorite, patrons were hoping the president would pass for his favorite dish, Chicken Parmesan with Red Sauce. (The First Lady usually orders the salmon.) At the Ice Cream Store, a lounge by the boardwalk, jars of Biden’s Summer White House Cherry were waiting to be consumed.

Not this visit. On a wooded lane in the neighborhood where Mr. Biden lives, law enforcement officers in black SUVs have restricted traffic. A Coast Guard ship in the ocean and the sight of beefy Secret Service operatives in summer clothes were the only gifts the President even had in town.

When Mr Biden and Dr Biden returned to the capital, it was for them a rare reversal of a typical week. Aside from this week’s trip to Rehoboth – his first as president – Mr. Biden spent nine weekends at his home in Wilmington and five at Camp David, Maryland’s presidential retreat, according to a review of his schedule. Mr Biden swapped the train for Air Force One, sometimes leaving Washington on short notice for even shorter trips: last week he returned to Wilmington for the afternoon to attend the funeral of a longtime aide. dated.

Understandably, the fact that Mr Biden enjoys returning to Delaware – even in the middle of a presidential work week – didn’t seem to surprise locals here.

“I think he knows his way around Washington and knows pretty well what to do and where he needs to be,” said Ms McGuinness, who has known the Bidens for years – her sister was babysitting for the family. – said in an interview. “Getting to Wilmington’s house or Rehoboth’s house quickly makes sense for someone who puts family first.

The first lady often spends less time in Washington during the week than Mr. Biden. Before his travel weekends, Dr. Biden sometimes visits one of the Delaware family homes separately or meets his extended family at Camp David. She also traveled alone to Rehoboth. Ms Kehoe, owner of Browseabout Books, said the Bidens are generally treated as part of the landscape.

“We try to treat them like they’re any other customer,” Ms. Kehoe said. “Which is a good thing for us.”

The convention suggests that presidents should stay close to Washington and be wise with taxpayer-funded travel, but this concept has been tested to its limits with President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump spent more than 417 days at one of his properties, a travel habit that blurred the line between his family business and his presidential office.

Mr. Trump enjoyed the perks of being president, including the staff, ceremonies, planes, and the presidential limousine. Many of these perks have long been familiar to Mr Biden – he had a similar device around him for eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president – but he said the pitfalls that come with the presidency put him badly. comfortable.

“I don’t know about all of you, but I was brought up so that you weren’t looking for someone to serve you,” Mr Biden said of White House life in a town hall-style interview. with CNN in February. “I find myself extremely embarrassed by myself. “

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