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President JOE BIDEN will be spending his 45th Thanksgiving on Nantucket this year — a tradition broken only by the pandemic and the death of his son BEAU BIDEN.
The family has been spending Thanksgiving there since 1975, when Biden was a first-term senator and a single dad to two boys. It was there, Biden wrote in the first chapter of his 2017 memoir “Promise Me, Dad,” that he and JILL JACOBS, soon to be JILL BIDEN, “started to talk seriously about a future together.”
It’s very clear that Biden loves the tradition, which he described as “splendid and enforced isolation” (probably a lot less true now that a Secret Service detail, comms staffers, and nosy reporters have joined them on the island). It’s also where Biden said Beau in November 2014 urged him to run for president.
With its quaint New England charm, pristine beaches, and Hallmark-like settings, the small island off of Cape Cod has a reputation as a ritzy getaway.
As they have in the past, the Bidens are renting the vacation home of billionaire DAVID RUBENSTEIN, the co-founder of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, and one of the richest, most well-connected men in Washington. Walk around town and you’ll see Rubenstein’s name adorned everywhere, including the David M. Rubenstein History Galleries at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and The David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat at the National Zoo.
He’s also quietly fought to protect his immense wealth by pushing to keep “the so-called carried interest tax loophole,” as ProPublica reported in 2016.
Biden has tried to take precautions to prevent the perception of a conflict of interest. He’s renting the house and as New York Times reporter ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS tweeted, Rubenstein will not be spending Thanksgiving with the Bidens.
Still, the stay has provided fodder for critics, and not just because it’s coming at a time when Biden and congressional lawmakers are putting a final touch on a major bill that could impact the tax rates Rubenstein wanted to protect.
Republicans were quick to criticize Biden’s posh retreat, casting it as out of touch with the “Scranton Joe” persona he has cultivated and off key at a time when families are struggling with higher prices for basic goods. Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee tweeted, “Joe Biden is enjoying his Thanksgiving at a billionaire’s home in Nantucket. Regular America? Enjoy the expensive gas and groceries!”
And Fox News reporter PETER DOOCY grilled press secretary JEN PSAKI yesterday about the message Biden is sending by going to a billionaire’s home amid the “most expensive Thanksgiving ever.”
“I don’t know if you’ve ever cooked a turkey before, but a twenty-pound turkey is a pretty big turkey, I think we can all agree. They’re about $1 more,” Psaki said. “So not to minimize that, any increase in prices is something the president is concerned about as is evidenced by his announcement today and his efforts to push forward on additional relief for the American people.”
As for the specifics of Biden’s stay, the Nantucket Current has had the best coverage so far.
”Their Thanksgiving dinner will almost certainly be cooked by BILL PUDER at Faregrounds restaurant, who has prepared the holiday meal for the Bidens dozens of times over the years,” JASON GRAZIADEI writes. “Sources told the Current that Biden is also expected to once again attend the annual Christmas tree lighting event on Main Street this Friday, and potentially Catholic mass at the St. Mary church on Federal Street on Saturday.”
This is all in line with Biden’s very detailed accounting of the tradition, which started as a way to deal with stressful competing holiday invitations. Back in 1975, Biden’s parents wanted him and Jill to join them in Wilmington, Del., Jill’s parents wanted them in Willow Grove, Penn. and the parents of his late first wife, Nelia, wanted Biden to bring their grandsons to upstate New York.
It was Biden’s Senate chief of staff who suggested the then-senator have a “nuclear Thanksgiving,” or in his Boston-accent, a “nucle-aah Thanksgiving,” — meaning time for just the four of them on the island of Nantucket, Biden wrote.
The family and their dog drove up in Biden’s jeep (he noted gas was 57 cents a gallon at the time, which we’re sure he wishes was the case now) to Hyannis, Mass., then loaded onto a ferry. HUNTER BIDEN and Beau passed the time by leafing through toy and clothing catalogs Jill had brought them to help compile their Christmas lists.
The Bidens’ first Nantucket Thanksgiving dinner was at the Jared Coffin House, an inn built in 1846. And so a tradition was born.
“The little trip in the Wagoneer grew into a caravan of two or three cars, with grandchildren shifting loyalties among the fleet in rest stops,” Biden wrote. “Then there was the final dash to catch the ferry, and hot chocolate or clam chowder for the ride across the water.”
Upon arriving on the island, the family’s typical itinerary includes an annual 10-mile turkey trot (although Biden wrote that it was for “anyone who felt up to it” and he rode a bike); a visit to a saltbox house at Sconset Beach where the family took an annual photo on the porch by a carved wooden sign that read “FOREVER WILD”; the annual lighting of the Christmas tree; church at St. Mary’s and Christmas shopping at the town’s five blocks of shops.
The annual photo of the saltbox home stopped in 2014, when the Bidens visited and found it “gone, a victim of rising ocean tides.”
After dinner, “at whatever inn or house we were in,” the adults and children had to present their Christmas lists, with a maximum of ten items, although Biden himself would get in trouble for only writing two items sometimes, he wrote.
“We had some great years in that span, and we had some lousy years, but whatever was happening, whatever bumps and bruises we were suffering, we put it all aside and celebrated Thanksgiving in Nantucket.”
A NOTE OF THANKS — We are in a sentimental mood so we wanted to thank you, our readers. We started this as “Transition Playbook” just over a year ago, and it would have died after the transition if not for you continuing to read, giving us feedback, and sending us tips. Thank you. And thanks most of all to the people who leak to us. You know who you are.
PROGRAMMING NOTE — We’ll be off for Thanksgiving tomorrow and Friday but back to our normal schedule on Monday, Nov. 29.
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It’s reader submitted trivia Wednesday! Thanks to ARYEH SHUDOFSKY for this one — which president had a pet goat in the White House? Yes, this really happened.
(Answer at the bottom.)
HOLIDAY FEIST — Biden chief of staff RON KLAIN today urged Republican critics of the Biden administration’s response to Covid-19 to “bring it on” in a fiery pre-holiday tweet. It was part of his comment as he retweeted a New York Times story by JONATHAN WEISMAN, who writes that as coronavirus cases surge once again, Republicans have hit a new line of attack: “The president has failed on a central campaign promise, to tame the pandemic that his predecessor systematically downplayed.”
“Let’s be clear,” Klain replied, “the day we got here, 4000 people a day were dying and 1% of Americans were vaccinated. Today, deaths are down 75%, and almost 200m Americans are fully vax’ed. We still have a LOT of work to do. But if anyone wants to have a debate about COVID, bring it on.”
MEA CULPA: Yesterday’s newsletter reported that Biden read “end of quote” off of the teleprompter during remarks. That appears to be wrong. Longtime Biden aides reached out after this newsletter published to say that Biden isn’t reading “end of quote” off the prompter — that’s just how he talks. Old transcripts back that up too.
“Biden says ‘end of quote’ all the time,” said one former speechwriter. “It’s not written in the teleprompter and it’s not something he would consider a mistake. He likes to quote terrible things that his opponents have said, so he finds utility in making clear when it’s his words or someone else’s.” We appreciate readers pointing this out.
FINALLY — Biden formally announced that he will nominate Capitol Hill favorite SHALANDA YOUNG to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, along with NANI COLORETTI as deputy director, LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ and CAITLIN EMMA report.
The decision follows months of pressure from congressional leaders, who have been rooting for Young to be elevated from her current role as acting director following Biden’s withdrawal of NEERA TANDEN’s nomination to the top post in March, Barrón-López and Emma write.
CLIMATE BOOST: The White House has appointed SALLY BENSON, a well-known energy expert at Stanford University, as deputy director for energy and chief strategist for the energy transition at a new energy division of its Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Washington Post’s MAXINE JOSELOW reports.
Joselow writes that the hire “illustrates that the White House is racing to fulfill President Biden’s ambitious commitments to combat climate change, particularly as Republicans ramp up their attacks on the administration over high gas prices ahead of the holiday season.”
REPORT CARD — The Office of Management and Budget today released agency-specific data on compliance with Biden’s vaccine mandate for the federal government’s 3.5 million employees, showing the Transportation Department on top and the Agriculture Department lagging, REBECCA RAINEY reports.
The White House has touted that 92 percent of federal employees received at least one dose by the Nov. 22 deadline, but the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force created by Biden said that federal workers were supposed to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22.
The Supreme Court will hear cases that could undermine Biden’s climate agenda (WaPo’s Maxine Joselow)
The inflation miscalculation complicating Biden’s agenda (NYTimes’ Jim Tankersley)
The Kamala ‘24 Question (Puck’s Peter Hamby)
In Nantucket, Mass. where a lid was called at 10:18 a.m.
In D.C. No public events scheduled.
What job would the vice president’s spokesperson SYMONE SANDERS never want to do again? Working at a law firm, she confessed to Elle in Sept. 2020.
“I interned at a law firm while I was in college. Part of my job was Bates stamping, and it was the most boring thing I have ever done in my life,” she said. “That’s when I realized the firm life was really not for me, and perhaps I didn’t want to go to law school and be an attorney and become a judge.”
That’s what internships are all about, Symone!
WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON kept a pet goat around named Old Whiskers for his grandkids to play with, according to the Atlantic. But it gets even better — the goat was so well trained, it ferried the children around on a cart. One day, though, it took off with one of Harrison’s grandsons in tow, forcing Harrison to chase it down.
Got a better question? Send us your hardest trivia question on the presidents and we may feature it on Wednesdays. We also want your feedback. What should we be covering in this newsletter that we’re not? What are we getting wrong? Please let us know.
Edited by Emily Cadei
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