President Biden left the
Instead Biden was making his 18th trip home since taking office, despite only returning to Washington on Tuesday.
The White House has defended his frequent absences by saying the president is always on duty.
But on Thursday he departed after refusing to take questions about how he would meet an Aug. 31 deadline for bringing troops troops home from Afghanistan and after reports that officials pleaded with the Taliban to spare the U.S. embassy if they overran the capital.
He delivered scheduled remarks on reducing the cost of prescription drugs but walked away from the lectern as reporters shouted questions about the crisis.
His motorcade eventually left the White House after 3pm – almost three hours behind schedule – leaving behind an administration in crisis as the State Department and the Pentagon briefed journalists on emergency plans to dispatch troops and protect departing staff.
The result was an absent commander-in-chief just when he was needed, said Brett Bruen, who was director of global engagement in the Obama administration.
‘It’s disappointing that Biden would delegate down the disaster that Afghanistan has become,’ he said.
‘This is a crisis could have been avoided and one that demands immediate attention, as well as American action.’
President Biden boards Marine One at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., before flying to Wilmington, Delaware
Biden arrives at Delaware Air National Guard Base on his way home after spending barely 48 hours at the White House and refusing to take questions on Afghanistan
Afghan security forces stand guard along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan, as the Taliban target the city, taking over the local police headquarters
Administration officials tried to give a sense of business as usual. A troop deployment was always one of the tools available and would not get in the way of the deadline.
State Department spokesman Ned Price insisted the moves should not be seen as encouraging an emboldened Taliban.
‘We are committed to supporting Afghanistan and its people,’ he said. ‘That commitment remains.’
Biden has repeatedly said that he stands by his decision to withdraw troops.
Even so, the speed of the Taliban advance – capturing their tenth provincial capital – has surprised U.S. officials and allies.
On Thursday, it emerged that the State Department was reduced to pleading with the Taliban to spare the American embassy if they overran the capital.
The decision to send 3000 troops to Kabul airport will raise fresh questions about whether Washington can be out of the country by Biden’s deadline, and whether the president is guilty of abandoning an ally in the global struggle against violent jihadist groups.
White House officials have frequently defended the president’s absences from Washington, pointing out that he travels with an entourage of aides and receives daily briefings on national security and unfolding crises.
‘Every president is always working no matter where they are, right?’ said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki recently. ‘That’s always how it works.
Biden arrived back at the White House on Tuesday after spending a long weekend at his Delaware home in the upscale neighborhood of Greenville, just outside Wilmington.
The president had hoped to be well into his two-week summer vacation by now.
That plan was upended when he wanted to be in Washington to tout the passage of his bipartisan infrastructure bill and outline the next phase of his Build Back Better agenda.
White House officials say the president is always at work, even when he is at his lakeside home in the upscale Delaware neighborhood of Greenville, near Wilmington
Earlier this summer Biden went cycling with the first lady while they stayed at their vacation home at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
It meant a back-and-forth, stop start series of overnights instead.
So after delivering his delayed speech on Thursday lunchtime on prescription drugs he left by motorcade for nearby Fort Lesley J. McNair where he boarded Marine One for the short hop home.
The trip has become a familiar feature of Biden’s presidency, just as it was when he was a senator. Then he earned the nickname Amtrak Joe for his daily commute back and forth to Washington.
Now, he faces questions about whether he can stay on top of his brief – amid a pandemic and a foreign policy crisis as officials evacuate the embassy in Afghanistan – with so much time away from the White House
His officials have shrugged off questions about why he travels to to Delaware so frequently.
‘Because it’s his home,’ said Psaki sharply during another briefing.
‘You like going home, right? So does the president.
‘He’s human, too.’
Taliban militants are seen inside the Ghazni city, eastern Afghanistan, Aug. 12, 2021. Taliban militants Thursday overran Afghanistan’s eastern Ghazni province’s capital city Ghazni, 150 km from the national capital Kabul
On Thursday it emerged that the State Department’s envoy had asked the Taliban to spare the U.S. embassy if their forces overran the Afghan capital Kabul
Biden himself has suggested he misses his simple life, where he can stroll into the kitchen to grab breakfast wearing a bathrobe.
But being president comes with responsibilities. And this White House promised to ‘restore transparency and trust in government’ after the Trump years, in part by the resumption of publishing visitor logs.
So critics were disappointed when officials said they would not release visitor details for time in Delaware.
‘I can confirm we are not going to be providing information about the comings and goings of the president’s grandchildren or people visiting him in Delaware,’ said Psaki on Wednesday, the only full day Biden spent at the White House this week.
Transparency watchdogs said the decision not to apply the same openness to Delaware weekends made a mockery of the promise.
Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, told the New York Post: ‘If they’re going to take the position that this information should be public, what are they hiding when it comes to visiting his home? The presidency doesn’t stop when he’s visiting Delaware.
‘He is presumably doing work. So the public has an interest in knowing who is visiting him there.’