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Why did Biden come to Europe twice in one week?

Air Force One is very comfortable if you’re the most privileged frequent flier, with comfortable bedrooms and a spacious office.

However, most American presidents will try to avoid making two round trips to Europe, about 60 hours apart at home. Yet that is exactly what President Biden is doing this week.

“The president’s schedule is packed. Yes,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary. “There is a lot of work to be done on behalf of the American people.”

Mr. Biden left the US to attend the D-Day commemoration ceremony in France last Wednesday, June 5; staying the weekend for a state dinner in Paris; and returned home to Delaware late Sunday. He left Washington again early on Wednesday morning, June 12, to fly to the southeastern coast of Italy to attend the annual meeting of the Group of 7, the traditional summit of British, Canadian leaders. , France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

When Mr. Biden looks back on those two round trips — about a day and a half of flying in total — he may only remember what happened in between: the sentencing of his only surviving son, Hunter Biden, on charges of lying to obtain a gun license.

But the two round trips raise the question: Why doesn’t he stay in Europe for a few days, play a round of golf, visit some American troops, maybe huddle with a foreign leader or two? After all, he is 81 years old and several assistants half his age complain about insomnia.

The White House’s explanation for 4 transatlantic trips in 9 days is simply that Mr. Biden had a commitment in Washington. But by presidential standards, his public schedule seems light: lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris, a Juneteenth concert and a speech to a gun safety group.

The Hunter Biden trial also affects plans, although it is impossible to know when these trips are planned that the case will go to a jury and a verdict will be given in the three days between trips going to D-Day and the G7 meeting. As it turned out, Mr. Biden returned to Delaware on Tuesday afternoon to be with his son before hitting the road again in the morning.

But privately, some aides said the election-year issues needed to be considered. There is no urgent reason to stay in Europe, and a few days of rest “doesn’t look right,” one of Mr. Biden’s advisers admitted, although the aide quickly added that Mr. Biden never really had a day off. In any case, no one wants an image of the president that his political opponents might consider a holiday in Europe, at least while he is running for re-election. A long weekend in Rehoboth, the Delaware town where he and his wife, Jill, have a beach house, can be one thing; a few days in France or Italy has a completely different look.

Of course, the presidency is a job that can be done anywhere. There are means of instant communication (a White House truck, bristling with antennas, moves in every convoy) and a staff of hundreds ready to serve any contingency , whether that involves sending a thank you note or launching a retaliatory nuclear strike.

Intolerance when it comes to receiving presidents abroad, except for business travel, has a long history. Franklin D. Roosevelt liked to camp on Campobello Island, Canada, although as president he only made brief visits. When Harry S. Truman went to Potsdam, Germany, to negotiate with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill about what Europe would look like after World War II, he stayed for more than two weeks. There were days when negotiations stopped, but not for long, and the nearest major city, Berlin, became a bombed-out wreck. And there was a reminder of the risks of leaving town: Churchill’s party lost the conference to the Labor Party, and he was kicked out of office while it was all going on.


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