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Politics

Biden Describes Life at the White House: “A Gilded Cage”

February 17, 2021

WASHINGTON  — Four weeks into his presidency, Joe Biden is still getting used to the trappings of the office.

Biden offered a frank description of life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. during his CNN town hall Tuesday night, referencing past presidents who have spoken of the White House as "a little like a gilded cage."

"I get up in the morning and look at Jill and say, 'Where the hell are we?'" Biden joked, adding that he wasn't used to household staff waiting on him.

"I find myself extremely self-conscious," Biden added, saying he was unaccustomed to someone "handing me my suitcoat."

Biden's working-class upbringing in Scranton, Pennsylvania, has long been a central part of his political brand. He most recently lived in a large house in the Wilmington, Delaware, suburbs.

The White House features a spacious lawn that has an unimpeded view of the Washington and Lincoln monuments, but is otherwise surrounded by high fencing and a small army of guards. Biden said it's "totally different" from the vice president's residence, set on 80 acres (32 hectares) and offering ample room to swim, explore and exercise in greater privacy.

The former vice president said he had been in the Oval Office 100 times or more over the years but, except for the Yellow Oval Room, had not been to other residential areas of the White House.

Even if the residence still feels new, Biden suggested he's already settled deeply into the work of the presidency.

"Sometimes, because things are moving so fast, not because of the burden, it feels like four years," Biden said. "It's not because of the burden, it's because there's so much happening, that you're focused on, you're constantly focusing on one problem or opportunity."

Biden confirmed he had picked up the phone to talk with one or more of his predecessors but declined to say who.

He added: "By the way, all of them have, with one exception, picked up the phone and called me as well."

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