Thursday, October 21, 2021

The lack of any formal public travel restrictions for Vice President Biden are now a matter of standing by President Trump

Mr. Biden’s travel restrictions are in place for a few days, and no one will be denied access to the White House. The changes stem from a stream of reaction to the summit last week between the U.S. and North Korea in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Vice President’s staff has mapped out a list of specific, and potentially troublesome activities that White House staffers could not engage in. The list includes:

• Discussing diplomatic options for negotiating the release of detained American citizens

• Visiting other countries

• See the President

• Meet any of the traveling press

• Attend any advisory body meetings (governing agencies including Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, State Department, National Security Council)

• Meet with Congressional delegations

• Meet with the President or his staff

• Meet with other members of the President’s staff

• Obey the Secret Service rules

• Affiliate with other Americans

If the Vice President chooses to make any of these activities on his own time, however, the restrictions will continue.

The restrictions spell bad news for anyone who has used the National Security Advisor’s bike rack for meetings in the past or plans to do so in the future. They mean that, like the president’s travel restrictions, no one should be expected to follow them. But while the vice president may make his own connections, the lines between delegations, foreign leaders and the president of the United States are quickly forming with little regard for either the policy goals the country has for a summit meeting or the peaceful process that one may go through.

The Vice President’s Office has devised a list of activities that will still be allowed during the above ban. Just as with the restrictions imposed by the president, these are likely to be either tightly managed or monitored by security. Among them:

• Traveling by motorcade.

• Giving speeches.

• Meeting in the back room.

• Give a speech in the House of Representatives.

• Even a conference call involving the traveling press.

• Driving the Vice President’s vehicle.

There are additional suggested no-nos, such as keeping official connections to the traveling secretary of state, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, director of national intelligence, White House senior adviser, or others who might require special access during the week. The list is meant to put an umbrella over the specialness of each of these people, but the restrictions are likely to be no less painful for anyone who will attempt to get any access to the White House during these days of review.

The plan looks like a quandary with no answer. If the Vice President cannot work on them alone without special restrictions, will he be allowed to at all? What if he does not follow the rules of privilege afforded by the chief executive? What happens when he needs to make sure to secure the meeting that he and the president are hoping to reach in Singapore?

His travel ban, while the product of last week’s encounter in Hanoi between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is set to last as long as he is around. In the meantime, President Trump has struggled to revive a trip he had hoped to make to California to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He has also struggled to meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to negotiate with Mr. Trudeau over tariffs that Canada has levied on U.S. imports and Mr. Trump’s tariff war with Europe.

Mr. Biden appears to have reached a point where the work of being vice president to the current president is taking up his entire time, and that has led him to go off on his own to try to solidify his legacy, particularly for his policy work on criminal justice reform. But with his work on restoring his own legacy set to be severely hampered by the restrictions imposed by the White House, he might find himself set on the road often next year, which means he will be cut off from having his voice be heard.

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