Trapped: Joe Biden Struggles to Break Free from 'Gilded Cage' of the White House
President Joe Biden expressed his frustration at being trapped in the White House on Wednesday, unable to travel and speak directly to the American people.
The president spoke with reporters for 112 minutes during a rare solo press conference at the White House.
Biden was confronted by NBC News reporter Kristen Welker who said during a visit to South Carolina, black voters she spoke to had written off his efforts on voting rights as a “last-minute PR push”
The president was disappointed to hear the news, lamenting he had been trapped in the White House during the first year of his presidency.
“Part of the problem is, as well: I have not been out in the community nearly enough,” he said. “I’ve been here an awful lot.”
He lamented that the coronavirus pandemic and Washington politics prevented him from interacting with the people.
I find myself in a situation where I don’t get a chance to look people in the eye, because of both COVID and things that are happening in Washington, to be able to go out and do the things that I’ve always been able to do pretty well: connect with people, let them take a measure of my sincerity, let them take a measure of who I am.
Biden has previously spoken about his frustrations of being trapped in the White House, despite his frequent weekend trips home to Delaware.
“It’s a little like a gilded cage, in terms of being able to — but walk outside and do things,” Biden lamented in March during a CNN town hall.
The president said he had good working relationships with members of the black congressional caucus, but admitted he could still do more to communicate directly to the people.
“I think that’s a problem that is my own making by not communicating as much as I should have,” he said.
Biden expressed a vision of him escaping the White House in 2022 to connect directly with the people.
“I’m going to get out of this place more often,” he said. “I’m going to go out and talk to the public. I’m going to do public fora. I’m going to interface with them.”
Biden suggested the long days as president were taking a toll and would do more to bring in outside experts to advise his presidency and offer “constructive criticism.”
“I’m not complaining. It’s, you know, 12, 14 hours a day,” he said. “No complaints. I really mean that sincerely.”
Biden spoke positively about traveling to funerals with members of Congress and having discussions about the problems facing the nation.
“I learned a heck of a lot,” he said, fondly recalling the hours spent with members of congress. “But as President, you don’t quite have that ability to do that as often as I’d like to be able to do it.”
Biden said he was used to negotiating with members of Congress to move forward on legislation, citing his success as a senator.
But he acknowledged he was in a different role, cited polling showing the public did not want him to spend more time with members of Congress.
“The public doesn’t want me to be the ‘President Senator,'” he said. “They want me to be the President and let senators be senators.”