President Joe Biden on Tuesday described the “sense of history” he feels residing at the White House and all the ways living in the historic building is an adjustment, including being waited on by White House staff.
“I get up in the morning and look at Jill and say: ‘Where the hell are we?’ ” Biden said with a smile at a CNN town hall in Milwaukee.
The President, who has been in office for four weeks now, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he finds himself “extremely self-conscious” when the White House staff waits on him, including handing him his suit coat.
“I don’t know about you all, but I was raised in a way that you didn’t look for anybody to wait on you,” Biden said.
Though he had been in the Oval Office countless times as vice president, Biden said he had never been in the residence except for the Yellow Oval Room, which is often used for formal private receptions for important guests.
“I don’t know what I ever expected it to be,” he said.
He said the White House is “very different” from the vice president’s residence, the sprawling US Naval Observatory, where he lived for eight years.
“You can walk off a porch in the summer and jump in a pool and, you know, go into the work,” Biden said of the vice president’s residence. “You can ride a bicycle around and never leave the property and work out.”
He compared the heavily fortified White House, on the other hand, to a “gilded cage, in terms of being able to walk outside and do things.”
Biden said his brother and several presidential historians, including Jon Meacham, had helped him set up the Oval Office.
“It all happens within two hours, you know, literally,” he said of the quick transition after former President Donald Trump left office. “They move everything out and move something in.”
“I feel a sense of — I must tell you, a sense of history about it,” the President said.
“It was interesting to hear these historians talk about what other presidents have gone through and the moments and who the people who stepped up to the ball and who are the people that didn’t,” Biden said.
He continued: “And what you realize is, the most consequential thing for me is although I’ve known this watching seven presidents, who I got to know fairly well, is I always in the past looked at the presidency in the terms of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt and George Washington and how can … they’re superhuman.”
Biden said he had to remind himself that though they are “really fine men,” he knew them well enough to know “that I play on the same team” with them.
“So it took away the sense of this is, my God, you know, I’m not Abraham Lincoln. I’m not Franklin Roosevelt. How do I deal with these problems?” the President continued.
Though he has been president for only four weeks, he said that “it feels like four years.”
“It’s not because of the burden,” he said. “It’s because there’s so much happening that you’re focused on, you’re constantly focusing on one problem or opportunity.”
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