Living at the White House like ‘a gilded cage’, says President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden stands on stage during a break in a televised town hall event
President Joe Biden stands on stage during a break in a televised town hall event (AP)
5:20am, Wed 17 Feb 2021
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US President Joe Biden said he is still getting used to the extras that come with the job.

He gave a frank description of what it is like to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue during his CNN town hall on Tuesday night, referencing past presidents who have spoken of the building as “a little like a gilded cage”.

He said: “I get up in the morning and look at Jill and say, ‘Where the hell are we?’

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

The president described life in the White House (AP)

Mr 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 suburbs of Wilmington, Delaware.

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.

Mr Biden said it is “totally different” from the vice president’s residence, set on 80 acres 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 had never been to the residential areas of the White House.

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

He said: “I’ve only been president four weeks and sometimes, because things are moving so fast – not because of the burden – it feels like four years.

“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.”

Mr 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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