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Biden’s weekends

June 6th, 2021 by dk

President Joe Biden has spent fewer weekends in the White House than any modern American president. I think that’s a good thing. He has gone to Camp David as many weekends as he has stayed in Washington (five). He has returned to his home in Wilmington almost twice as often, weekending in Delaware nine times.

Maybe the ice cream is better in Delaware. He may be missing his growly dog. Biden logged over 8,000 Amtrak trips during his long Senate tenure, heading home almost every night. Air Force One doesn’t make the 100-mile trip much faster, but he no longer has to worry about his phone calls being overheard.

Critics may claim that Biden is treating the presidency as a 9-to-5 job and his official residency as a high-end version of corporate housing — a Residence Inn for the world’s most powerful executive. (I’m sure the White House staff could produce a do-it-yourself waffle maker if that’s the vibe he wants.)

I disagree. Getting away from Washington allows Biden to hear what regular people are talking. (The nation’s capital has very few regular people.) Ovid told the tale about Zeus and Hermes disguising themselves to test the mettle of the people living across the countryside. Most didn’t fare very well. Every president needs a strategy to get outside his workday bubble.

The plot from Mark Twain’s “The Prince and the Pauper” couldn’t happen today. President Ulysses Grant, Twain’s contemporary, famously walked all around Washington to clear his head. Grant insisted on paving Washington’s roads, many for the first time. Next time you spend a $50 bill, thank the man for your sidewalks.

Modern presidents have had less luck. Barack Obama failed to convince the White House guards to allow him to drive off when he appeared on Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians With Cars Getting Coffee.” Seinfeld offered him this pitch-perfect comedic advice: “Ya gotta sell it!”

Getting out isn’t as easy as it once was. It’s also never been more important. List all the problems facing America and (more importantly) Americans. Are there any that wouldn’t benefit from the President of the United States becoming involved? Biden’s predecessor cared about sporting event protocols, of all things. Changes ensued.

Which issues merit Biden’s involvement? That’s the sort of decision that cannot be well made from inside the Oval Office. By definition, the most important issues are those with the widest scope and far-reaching consequences.

Workaholics don’t make good presidents. Jimmy Carter lost the forest from the trees. Bill Clinton failed to recognize his stress until an intern offered him relief. History judges the quality of presidents’ work, not the quantity of tasks performed.

Which initiatives can be accomplished best by the presidency but not by the president himself? Effective delegating requires a measure of detachment. Gathering courage to do the right thing cannot become confused with hearing arguments about which right things merit attention. Distance helps deliberation.

Go as far as you need as often as you must to clear your head, Mr. President. You deserve it and we all benefit from it.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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