During President Biden’s campaign, “lid” announcements, meaning he would not be seen the rest of those days, were the source of mirth.
And for a commander in chief who has declared war on the coronavirus pandemic, the president’s weekend schedules so far have failed to adopt that war-like footing.
Biden took his first Air Force One flight as president on Friday, jetting home to Wilmington, Delaware, where he and first lady Jill Biden are expected to stay through Sunday. The trip comes after the White House had a quiet two days last weekend, at least in the public eye.
The Biden campaign’s habit of calling an early “lid,” or informing reporters and news outlets they had no further public events planned, became an easy target of former President Donald Trump, his campaign, and Republican operatives online. It played into their messaging that Biden, the oldest commander in chief to ever be sworn into office, didn’t have the physical stamina or mental capacity for the country’s top job as their guy zigzagged across the country.
Biden may have won, but his weekends out of public view could leave the door open to the same kinds of attacks, especially by traveling back to Delaware only two weeks after moving to Washington, D.C. The trip also conflicts with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance against unnecessary movement following reports that more contagious COVID-19 variants from Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom are spreading stateside.
His top spokeswoman on Friday had a sharp response when pressed about the weekend jaunt on the executive jet.
“He is from Delaware and has a home there and is going to spend the weekend with his wife and family there,” Psaki told reporters. When grilled on the CDC guidelines, Psaki downplayed any threat because Air Force One, in her words, is a private aircraft.
Psaki said Friday Biden would launch his version of former President Franklin Roosevelt’s “fireside chats” and President Ronald Reagan’s weekly radio address on Saturday. She added Biden’s iteration would be in “a variety of forms.” And the first edition will feature a woman who lost her position at a clothing startup company due to the pandemic.
Biden will also appear in a Sunday interview with CBS, slated to air just before Super Bowl LV.
As for last weekend, Biden’s social media team did share a photo of him strolling by a snow-covered Rose Garden. “Grateful for the short commute on days like these,” the caption states.
An administration aide explained that Biden had met with advisers “on a range of issues, including the approaching winter storm, as well as the ‘American Rescue Plan,'” his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.
Biden ventured outside the White House last Saturday for an evening service at Georgetown’s Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Before that, he spoke with staffers regarding “the latest efforts to move the ‘American Rescue Plan’ through Congress.” They also discussed the coronavirus and the winter storm to ensure his administration was coordinating with states.
But this weekend’s public pace was reflected on Wednesday, when Biden’s presidential daily intelligence briefing was the only event listed on his public schedule. However, it was updated Wednesday morning to showcase his meetings with Democratic lawmakers over his “American Rescue Plan.”
The New York Times, for instance, tracked the number of days Trump visited his properties during his term until last November (417 days in roughly four years). And before the Trump era, former President Barack Obama’s rounds of golf and vacations attracted scrutiny (333 rounds and 328 days in eight years).
One former White House official pushed back when asked by the Washington Examiner on Friday about Biden’s weekends.
“I’m old enough to remember similar stories about Ronald Reagan. They didn’t matter; the people cared only about the results. They still do,” the former staffer said.
His light weekend schedules differ from his weekdays, which have been chock-full of meetings and public remarks.
Biden has rolled out and signed executive actions at the same clip as Roosevelt in 1933 and begun haggling with far-left Democrats, centrist Democrats, and deal-minded Republicans over the “American Rescue Plan.”
And while Biden has kept his speeches at his executive action signing ceremonies pithy, Thursday’s foreign policy address foreshadowed next week’s appearances at the Pentagon and the National Institutes of Health.
Still, Biden’s weekends could prove problematic if Republicans link it to his war-like rhetoric for fighting the pandemic.
“While Joe Biden campaigned from his basement, President Trump worked tirelessly to deliver two vaccines in record time,” a former Trump campaign official told the Washington Examiner.
The source continued, “Now, as president, Biden set a vaccine distribution goal Trump already reached, imposed mandatory mask policies where they were already observed, and even admitted there’s nothing he can do to change the course of the pandemic. His inaction is disappointing but not surprising.”