President Joe Biden served in the U.S. Senate for more than 30 years, and then served eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president. But until he moved in last month, he said Tuesday night, he’d never been inside the presidential “residence” area of the White House.
Biden made the disclosure during a town hall event in Milwaukee, hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“I had been in the Oval Office a hundred times as vice president — more than that — every morning for the initial meetings but I had never been up in the residence,” Biden said.
“I had been in the Oval Office a hundred times as vice president — more than that — every morning for the initial meetings but I had never been up in the residence.”
Until becoming president, Biden said, he also hadn’t had the experience of having the White House staff fully available to address his every need.
“I was raised in a way that you didn’t look for anybody to wait on you,” Biden told the audience, adding that relying on the staff has made him feel “self-conscious” since moving into the White House.
“You’d never been in the residence of the White House?” Cooper asked, sounding surprised.
“I’d only been upstairs in the Yellow Room, the Oval upstairs,” Biden responded.
“I don’t know, I’ve never been there either,” Cooper joked.
Biden’s disclosure suggested that no president – whether Barack Obama or any other – had ever invited him into the area where the nation’s chief executive shares private time with his family.
It also appeared to add support to claims that Biden’s relationship with Obama, his former boss, wasn’t as close as both men have always publicly portrayed it to be.
“Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f— things up,” Obama reportedly once said privately about Biden, Politico reported last August.
Obama also withheld his endorsement of Biden for president until last April, after his former vice president had already been campaigning for months.
Later Tuesday, Cooper asked Biden if living in the White House for the past four weeks has been different than he expected it to be.
“You know, I don’t know what I ever expected it to be. It is different in that, um – [I don’t want to] get in trouble here – I said when I was running, I wanted to be president not to live in the White House but to be able to make the decisions about the future of the country.
“So living in the White House – as you’ve heard [from] other presidents who’ve been extremely flattered to live there — it’s a little like a gilded cage in terms of being able to walk outside and do things.”
He said the vice president’s residence was “totally different,” being on a larger property, with room for bicycling plus a swimming pool.
At the beginning of the discussion, Biden joked about living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“I get up in the morning, I look at Jill, and say, ‘Where the hell are we?’”