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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Now that Joe Biden has called out President Trump for playing golf for the first time since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Biden’s own golfing dalliances become relevant.

“Nearly 100,000 lives have been lost, and tens of millions are out of work,” Mr. Biden tweeted over the Memorial Day weekend. “Meanwhile, the president spent his day golfing.”


Unlike Mr. Trump, who rode in a motorcade to play golf at his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, Mr. Biden when he was vice president thought nothing of regularly taking Air Force Two at taxpayer expense to go back and forth between his home outside Wilmington, Delaware, and Washington just to play golf with President Obama on weekends.

For my book “The First Family Detail,” I obtained the records from the Air Force of Mr. Biden’s use of Air Force Two to go golfing with Mr. Obama and to commute between Delaware and Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, where the government provided him a home at the U.S. Naval Observatory.

There, at least five Navy stewards attended to every personal need of Mr. Biden and his wife, Jill, including cooking, shopping for food, cleaning and doing the laundry. Yet Mr. Biden seemed to think that he was entitled to fly on Air Force Two to his home outside Wilmington as often as several times a week and often to go back to Washington to play golf with Mr. Obama as if taking a taxi. 

The Air Force records show that from the time Mr. Biden took office in January 2009 until March 2013 alone, the vice president’s trips back and forth between Joint Base Andrews and Wilmington cost taxpayers $979,680 for fuel and maintenance. That figure does not include the additional costs of flying Mr. Biden on the Marine Two helicopter between the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory and Andrews.

The records show that Mr. Biden often flew back and forth to Wilmington more than once on the same day. For example, on Friday, Feb. 8, 2013, Mr. Biden flew from Andrews to Wilmington and back to Andrews on a C-37A, then returned that same day to Wilmington on a C-20B.

Since empty flights known as deadhead flights were required to pick him up or drop him off, that taxi service entailed four flights in one day at taxpayer expense.

In some cases, Mr. Biden would fly back to Delaware just to pick up Jill to bring her to Washington. Otherwise, the Air Force would not pay for her trip, according to an Air Force source who arranged the vice president’s flights.

In addition, according to an Air Force source, Mr. Biden regularly scheduled a single public event in Arizona so he could fly there with his family on Air Force Two — the call sign given to any plane that is flying the vice president — at government expense and stay to play golf.

Mr. Biden’s use of Air Force assets to play golf with Mr. Obama was even more egregious. For example, on Saturday, April 21, 2012, Mr. Biden flew from Wilmington to Andrews to play golf with Mr. Obama, White House trip director Marvin Nicholson and White House staffer Mike Brush. Then Mr. Biden flew back to Wilmington, requiring two deadhead flights.

Including the deadhead trips, the cost to taxpayers for that one Biden golf outing back and forth on a C-20B was $12,406. Since Air Force Two parked at Andrews for these games, Mr. Obama was obviously aware that Mr. Biden was running up a colossal government tab for each game of golf he played with his vice president on the base.

Mr. Biden’s trips were kept secret. In fact, as detailed in the book, his staff sought unsuccessfully to block the Air Force from complying with my Freedom of Information Act request for Mr. Biden’s flight records.

Among themselves, Secret Service agents assigned to Mr. Biden’s detail and officers of the 89th Airlift Wing, which flies the planes, expressed outrage at what they considered an abuse. For my book, Mr. Biden’s vice presidential press office had no comment on his trips.

In view of his trips, Secret Service agents on Mr. Biden’s detail chuckled when Mr. Obama announced in 2011 that he was placing Mr. Biden in charge of a Campaign to Cut Waste that was supposed to root out unnecessary government spending.

In making the announcement, Mr. Obama said Mr. Biden would “hunt down and eliminate misspent tax dollars in every agency and department across the federal government.” In an email to supporters, Mr. Biden proclaimed himself the “new sheriff in town.”

To be sure, President Trump uses government resources to fly to Florida, where he plays golf and conducts business at Mar-a-Lago, which he calls the Winter White House. But before castigating Mr. Trump for golf outings, Mr. Biden should look at his own record.

• Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal investigative reporter, is The New York Times bestselling author of “The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents.”


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