Donald Trump is a man so bizarre that reports about his behavior inside the White House instantly took on a mythic quality. The Diet Coke Button. The taped-down tie. “Executive time.” Well-done steak with ketchup. Fast-food feasts. These images — at once unsurprising and completely unfathomable — will be etched in my mind forever. Someday I’ll scare my great-grandchildren when they inquire about my dessert preferences and I blurt out, “PRESIDENT GETS 2 SCOOPS OF ICE CREAM, EVERYONE ELSE 1!”
Now we’ve come crashing back to a world of tan suits and exactly seven almonds. When I read news reports about Joe Biden’s White House I feel pleased that America is making healthier choices — but there’s also an unnerving, dull quality, like I’ve just ditched my 12-soda-a-day habit and I’m trying to convince myself that tap water will be fine, thanks.
Of course, moderation is best in all things. And fortunately, if you squint really hard and comb through every article written on life in the White House during the past six months, it emerges that Joe Biden does have a few entertainingly odd habits.
Biden subjects Harris to regular travel-photo slideshows.
The vice-presidency has been famously (and grossly) compared to a bucket of warm spit, but there are a few perks, like enjoying a weekly lunch with the president. Biden carried on this tradition with Vice-President Kamala Harris, initially dining with her every week – but the Los Angeles Times reported in May that the pair have only lunched twice in 2022. Could that have something to do with the nightmarish twist Biden added to the ritual? According to the Washington Post:
Once a week, Biden eats lunch with Harris, following a pattern he established when he was vice-president to Barack Obama. The White House photo office pulls together a slideshow of images from their recent travel and events that the two watch on a monitor as they eat, allowing them to reflect on their week.
Okay, but at least while Harris is feigning interest in her boss’s vacation pics she gets to enjoy an elegant meal, right?
Biden’s preferred lunch is a soup and a salad — usually a chopped salad with grilled chicken — and he is partial to orange Gatorade and Coke Zero.
It’s unclear if the orange Gatorade is served in a plastic bottle or poured into a glass etched with the presidential seal, and I’m actually not sure which is worse.
Biden eats like a child, down to the lunch box.
President Biden is “pretty much a basic eater,” the First Lady revealed in a January 2021 interview with Parade magazine (click through for her family’s Parmesan chicken recipe). Jill Biden said her husband’s must-have food staples are “ketchup, peanut butter and jelly,” which tracks with the New York Times’ reporting on the president’s culinary preferences:
Mr. Biden is usually back in the residence by 7 p.m. for dinner with the First Lady. The president likes pasta with red sauce, while the First Lady prefers grilled chicken or fish.
Christopher Freeman, a caterer who worked for them as much as three times a week when the Bidens lived in the vice-president’s residence, said that Mr. Biden “eschews alcohol,” but that Dr. Biden was “an oenophile of the first degree.”
In the vice-president’s residence, the staff was instructed to keep the kitchen stocked with vanilla chocolate-chip Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Special K cereal, one bunch of red grapes, sliced cheese, six eggs, sliced bread, one tomato from the garden, and at least two apples on hand at all times, according to a preference sheet they kept at the home. Mr. Biden’s drink of choice: orange Gatorade.
Joe Biden’s love of ice cream is well-documented, but I’ll allow him to explain:
Biden has not, to my knowledge, proclaimed his undying love for any other sweets, but someone clearly thought long and hard about which White House snacks were right for the Joe Biden brand. They decided to ditch the Obama-era basket of apples for a Reagan bowl-of-jelly-beans vibe, per the Washington Post:
… Biden has stocked the outer Oval Office with saltwater taffy — from Dolle’s, a staple of the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Del. — and his favorite chocolate-chip cookies. In a nod to COVID, each cookie is individually enclosed in a wrapper with a gold White House seal, making them hot commodities among staff and visitors.
“He has the tastes of a 5-year-old,” an unnamed Biden adviser told the Post. Apparently that extends to accessories:
Biden sometimes takes his lunch on the go to various meetings, in what Coons described as “not quite a lunch pail, but it’s his little bag of stuff, so if he gets peckish in a meeting he can have something healthy” — often a protein bar, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a travel-size orange Gatorade.
Somehow there is no further reporting on what exactly this “little bag of stuff” looks like. Forget “always get the name of the dog” — always get a description of the president of the United States’ lunch box.
Biden could tell you if he has a Peloton, but then he’d have to kill you.
Now that you know taffy, ice cream, and orange Gatorade are the foundation of the Biden food pyramid, you may be wondering how the president stays so trim. Well, you’re going to keep wondering. The Post reported that Biden works out every morning, but the White House really doesn’t want us to know if a Peloton is involved:
Biden begins his mornings with a workout that often includes lifting weights, and he meets regularly in person with a trainer. During the 2020 campaign, he biked regularly on both a traditional bike and a Peloton. His current Peloton preferences are something of a state secret, however; West Wing aides would not even reveal whether he had brought the interactive stationary bike with him to the White House.
Confused about how an interactive stationary bike could be a national-security threat? Allow the Times to explain:
But the Peloton tablets have built-in cameras and microphones that allow users to see and hear one another if they choose, and for Mr. Biden, therein lies the rub. The last thing the C.I.A. wants is the Russians and the Chinese peering or listening into the White House gymnasium. Last week, Popular Mechanics warned about the security risk under the headline “Why Joe Biden Can’t Bring His Peloton to the White House.”
The article prompted an explosion of chatter in Peloton world, but really, cybersecurity experts say, if Mr. Biden wants his bike, he can surely have it, though it might bear little resemblance to the off-the-assembly-line version after the Secret Service and the National Security Agency are finished with it.
Just imagine the national-security implications if the Russians got dirt on Biden, or the president jury-rigged his Peloton so he could post unhinged rants to Twitter.
Biden is more tech-savvy than you’d think.
Yes, “go to Joe 30330” lowered the bar considerably. But the New York Times reported that Biden’s grandchildren “serve as his lifeline to popular culture and consumer technology.” For example, they’ve exposed him to Mario Kart:
They’ve also shown him TikTok, and how to use Venmo:
In addition to his wife, Jill Biden, their grandchildren — described as the center of the first couple’s world — are often at the White House, spending long weekends or parts of their week there. They have been known to show their grandfather apps like TikTok. One adviser said he had sent the grandchildren money using Venmo.
If you’re thinking of trying to Venmo Biden yourself, don’t bother. BuzzFeed already exposed the president’s secret account, which they deemed “a privacy nightmare for everyone.” It was quickly shut down.
The Bidens record their fights for posterity.
In the June/July 2022 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, First Lady Jill Biden revealed that she and the president have been “fexting” each other, which is a term they made up for “fighting over text” without consulting Urban Dictionary:
Which is not to say that [Jill] holds back when [Joe] frustrates her. The president does not get a pass. During the Obama years, they took to hashing out their occasional spats over text to avoid fighting in front of the Secret Service. (They christened it “fexting.”)
Not so long ago, she tapped out a message to him in a fit of pique. “Joe said, ‘You realize that’s going to go down in history. There will be a record of that.’” She grins. “I won’t tell you what I called him that time.”
The First Lady can curse him out, but Joe is right: her logic doesn’t check out. Rather than exchanging harsh words in front of few people who are sworn to protect their lives, the first couple are entering all their fights into the public record.
Biden is a surprisingly cranky boss.
In keeping with his folksy public demeanor, Biden “sometimes surprises staffers by stopping unannounced at their workstation, especially if he has heard some news about their family and wants to check in,” according to the Post. Sometimes this involves bugging his vice-president during the work day, per CNN:
He has found his old stomping grounds familiar, dropping into his onetime office in the West Wing one day last week to show his new vice-president the place on the window where his wife wrote him a Valentine’s Day greeting in 2009.
But it’s not all social calls and unsolicited Biden trivia. In May 2021, the New York Times reported that Biden has a “short fuse and an obsession with details,” when it comes to policy issues, and can take “days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others.” This process involves snapping at advisers:
Before making up his mind, the president demands hours of detail-laden debate from scores of policy experts, taking everyone around him on what some in the West Wing refer to as his Socratic “journey” before arriving at a conclusion.
Those trips are often difficult for his advisers, who are peppered with sometimes obscure questions. Avoiding Mr. Biden’s ire during one of his decision-making seminars means not only going beyond the vague talking points that he will reject, but also steering clear of responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae, which will prompt an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity.
Let’s talk plain English here, he will often snap.
And even hanging up on people:
… several people familiar with the president’s decision-making style said Mr. Biden was quick to cut off conversations. Three people who work closely with him said he even occasionally hangs up the phone on someone who he thinks is wasting his time.
It sounds a little unnerving, but at least Biden hasn’t taken to firing aides via tweet for maximum humiliation.
“Amtrak Joe” is now “Marine One Joe.”
One of the most trivial but still unfortunate consequences of the Capitol riot is that Biden — who estimates that he’s taken more than 8,200 round trips on Amtrak — had to cancel his plans to take a train to his inauguration. Fortunately, he now has more exciting transportation options, and sometimes he generously invites friends to join him on his commute back to Delaware. But as Senator Chris Coons told the Post, he can be an unreliable travel companion:
Once, Coons recalled, Biden phoned “and was like, ‘Hey, if you can be over in half an hour, I’m taking Marine One over to Wilmington. I can give you a ride home.’ ” (In the end, a snag in Washington scuttled the plans, and Coons had to find his own way back to Delaware.)
Biden keeps talking about how he doesn’t like living in the White House.
Though Trump got way more flak for preferring the comfort of his own gold-plated homes, NPR reported in August 2021 that Biden spends more weekends away from the White House than any recent president:
Of the first 29 weekends of his presidency, Biden spent just six at the White House. He was in Wilmington, Del., for 14 of those weekends, and Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, for eight. (He spent one weekend in Europe at the Group of 7 summit.)
Biden’s downtime puts him just behind George W. Bush, who at this point in his presidency had spent 79 days away, mostly at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, where he cleared brush when he wasn’t holding meetings.
And while Biden always notes that he’s “extremely flattered” to live in the White House and has great respect for the staff, he’s made it pretty clear that he’d rather be in Delaware.
“I get up in the morning and look at Jill and say, ‘Where the hell are we?’” Biden joked at a CNN town hall, one month into his presidency. “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 … it’s a little like a gilded cage.”
It seems Biden’s opinion didn’t change in the following months. When discussing life in the White House during another town hall last summer, he remarked, “It is very hard to get comfortable.”
That problem is understandable — and easily fixable. After all, a house is not a home without a cat.