Today I learned: Seattle presidential visits can be sad.
No, I wasn’t born yesterday, and of course I expected Joe Biden to walk immediately into the waiting arms of big-tech donors upon arrival. He did the same the last time he found himself here, in late 2019, just before all hell broke loose.
But the political establishment’s East Coast residency is never more depressingly clear than when a president pays us the honor of a brief and unremarkable visit to our corner of the country. Or, as Biden affectionately referred to it on Friday, “out here” and “Silicon Valley.”
Seattle media thoroughly hyped Biden’s fly-in from Portland—no Amtrak, Joe?—for Earth Day, with The Seattle Times giving it the rolling update treatment. No one was expecting Biden to hit up the Crescent Lounge Dua Lipa–style, but would it have hurt to take a detour or two from the podium, or at least stick around a while, like presidential stopovers of yore?
Instead, from nearly the moment Air Force One touched down at Sea-Tac Thursday evening, Biden’s visit stayed monotonously on-script. As he descended the stairs of Air Force One, a storm cloud hovered overhead. Then it started pouring like movie directors think it pours in Seattle. “Perfect,” a reporter muttered before going live outside the Westin downtown, where people lined barricades before losing interest in glimpsing whether the president would tip the bellhop.
The area, just outside Seattle Met’s offices, was noticeably tidier on Thursday, leading to more discourse about downtown. On adjacent streets, traffic very predictably snarled.
Meanwhile, 46’s motorcade took a cruise through the Arboretum. The president attended a political fundraiser in the vicinity hosted by Microsoft statesman Brad Smith at the home of another Microsoftie, Mary Snapp, on the Lake Washington waterfront. There Biden gave a midterms rah-rah, touting infrastructure projects and denouncing a Republican anti-LGBTQ bill before calling it a night.
The morning was even less interesting. No speech from a balcony. No Top Pot Doughnuts pickup. Not even a salmon toss. A late arrival at Seward Park for an Earth Day–themed address offered a fleeting moment of titillation—and some “where’s Dad?” despair from our local Democratic delegation—before the president launched into familiar talking points (energized youth, Scranton, “Mr. Amtrak”) and some geographical faux pas (“up in Colorado,” the aforementioned Silicon Valley facepalm).
Eventually, he got down to the business of signing an executive order to protect old-growth forests at a desk plunked down on the asphalt of a park access road. He let mayor Bruce Harrell hold his pen afterward.
Next it was on to Green River College in Auburn. Biden praised senator Patty Murray, who’s up for reelection this fall, and governor Jay Inslee, whom he called the “the environmental governor of the nation,” before delving into the distressing nitty-gritty of exorbitant prescription drug costs. His voice rose markedly when talking about parents who can’t afford insurance to cover their family’s needs. “How do you look at your child?” Biden said, slamming a fist.
It was perhaps the one memorable moment from an otherwise forgettable trip. By 5pm on Friday (after a lengthy security delay), the president was back in the air, seen only by a select few during his less than 24 hours in Washington state.
He could’ve at least made plans for a return trip. If he spent more time here, he’d know you can always cancel them later.