Like Obama, who is skipping a planned trip to Asia this week, Biden also has had to trim back his schedule. His office said Tuesday that he was calling off a trip to New Jersey Friday for Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s Senate campaign. Last week, he canceled a speech to the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign and an appearance at a fundraiser for House Democratic candidates.
Want to share your ideas with Obama about resolving the shutdown? Don’t bother calling. The White House switchboard has been set to roll over to a prerecorded message.
“We apologize, but due to the lapse in federal funding, we are unable to take your call,” the message says.
The few senior White House aides still working are performing duties generally reserved for low-level assistants, like planning Obama’s off-campus events, scheduling meetings, sending announcements to the media and getting visitors cleared by the Secret Service.
Even Obama pitched in last week as he left the White House for a visit to a nearby sandwich shop without the usual entourage of staffers who shepherd the media accompanying him. With more senior staff filling in as “wranglers,” journalists ended up trailing behind the president, only able to see his back.
“Let’s go, wranglers!” the president teased his staff, pausing to tell reporters to get in front.
The White House “advance” office, which coordinates the president’s travel, is just about shuttered. In a departure from normal procedure, Obama’s schedule this week is being announced day by day.
That’s also meant fewer outings for Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — a cutback that also reflects the touchy optics of pursuing leisurely activities while federal workers are furloughed. Since the shutdown started, Obama hasn’t played a round of golf, as he does almost every weekend. And there was no fancy night at a restaurant for the president and Mrs. Obama, who marked their 21st wedding anniversary Thursday.