Blue-collar Biden criticized for 'tone-deaf' Nantucket Thanksgiving visit
Last week, President Joe Biden followed the White House Thanksgiving tradition of pardoning a turkey. This week, he's keeping his own family holiday tradition: going to Nantucket.
The president and first lady Jill Biden have long celebrated Thanksgiving on the well-heeled Massachusetts island off of Cape Cod. But with most members of the public unfamiliar with the first family's holiday history, Democrats are dismissing concerns that self-proclaimed "Scranton Joe" will seem out of touch with the working-class voters he is trying to persuade to cast ballots for Democrats next year.
Biden's Thanksgiving plans personify a "Marie Antoinette attitude," according to presidential historian and Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, as people struggle amid a pandemic-strained economy with record-high inflation.
"Reagan was always disparaged for spending Thanksgiving at the ranch in California, but Biden’s tone-deafness is alarming," Shirley said. "Yes, presidents have often been criticized for where they spent Thanksgiving, but Biden’s choice is especially egregious."
The Republican strategist added, "Going to Nantucket is ill-advised for presidents at 36% approval and falling."
A Fox News poll found last week that less than a quarter of registered voters feel positive about the economy compared to a third in December 2020 at the end of former President Donald Trump's administration. More than a quarter named the economy as their most pressing issue before coronavirus and inflation-supply chain problems, the poll found. And higher grocery prices are creating "serious" hardship for a third of respondents, an increase from 28% in August.
But barring "some particularly offensive optic or comment" in Nantucket, fellow historian David Pietrusza predicted there would not be too much political pushback.
"Let's face it: Presidents don't stay at Motel 6," Pietrusza told the Washington Examiner . "Even when Franklin Roosevelt followed up his 1932 election in the heart of the Great Depression and went off sailing on his multi-millionaire buddy Vincent Astor's immense yacht, the 264-foot Nourmahal , there was little significant downside."
"True, the opposition may carp, but then the conversation returns to larger ongoing issues," he said.
Trump spent most of his presidential Thanksgivings at Mar-a-Lago, his luxury private resort in Palm Beach, Florida, except for 2019 when he surprised U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. Former President Barack Obama tended to celebrate at the White House, dropping into a Washington, D.C., soup kitchen during the day. He would then travel to Hawaii, one of his childhood homes, for Christmas after vacationing in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, in the summer.
Massachusetts's splashy Cape Cod and nearby islands have been a presidential playground since John F. Kennedy put Hyannisport on the map. His father first rented a holiday cottage in 1926, purchasing what would become the Kennedy Compound two years later. Former President Bill Clinton vacationed on Martha's Vineyard as an incumbent, but Obama became the first ex-commander in chief to buy a place on the island. The Obamas doled out $11.75 million for Boston Celtics owner Wycliffe Grousbeck's 6,892-square-foot Edgartown Great Pond property in 2019.
Biden has spent every Thanksgiving on Nantucket since 1975, minus 2015, the year his son Beau died from brain cancer, and 2020 because of the pandemic. The first couple took their inaugural trip to the island shortly after they started dating following the 1972 death of the president's first wife and infant daughter. The then-Delaware senator's chief of staff recommended the destination as a compromise instead of rejecting multiple invitations, despite his boss's pride in being "one of the poorest men in Congress" raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Last month, Nantucket's median listed house price was $3 million.
Biden's Nantucket accommodation is still unconfirmed, but in the past, he and his family have stayed at Carlyle Group founder David Rubenstein’s Abrams Point estate and Obama-era United Kingdom ambassador Louis Susman’s Washing Pond Road mansion . The Bidens typically order Thanksgiving dinner from Faregrounds Restaurant , a sports bar.
The Nantucket escape was preceded by a Friendsgiving dinner Monday with service members and military families at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Joe and Jill Biden will also join Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentlemen Doug Emhoff for a community service project Tuesday before they fly out.
The White House has remained mum about the rest of the president's Thanksgiving itinerary, but local flight restrictions and extra airport security and screening precautions will be in effect until Sunday. He has attended the Main Street Christmas tree lighting and mass at St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle Catholic Church on previous visits.
Biden has been pitching his $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal and roughly $2 trillion partisan social welfare and climate spending bill as "a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America."
"When I ran for office, I said there were three reasons I'm running: one, to restore the soul of this country and decency; two, to restore the backbone of this country — working-class and middle-class folks, they were the ones that built America; and three, to unite the country," he said last week in Detroit.
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