NANTUCKET, Mass. — President Joe Biden called upon a deeply divided U.S. to “stop the rancor,” as he continued a longtime family tradition of celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday on this island off of Cape Cod.
Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, phoned in to NBC News’ Al Roker before the Thanksgiving Day parade in Manhattan. In brief, upbeat remarks, they said Americans should unite in addressing problems the nation confronts. Though polling shows the two parties are split on a range of issues, Biden said most Americans would prefer to see the acrimony come to an end.
“On this Thanksgiving, Al, we have to come together,” the president said. “We can have different political views, but we have one view. The one view is that we’re the finest, greatest nation in the world. We should focus on that.”
“We should focus on dealing with our problems and being together and stop the rancor. We have to bring the nation together and treat each other with a little bit of decency, and I think that’s where the vast majority of the American people are.”
The Bidens arrived Tuesday for the Thanksgiving holiday at the waterfront home of billionaire David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. On a quiet Thanksgiving morning outside of public view, the president and first lady made calls to units from each branch of the military, according to the White House.
They later visited the Nantucket Fire Department, bearing gifts. Wearing a baseball cap and a navy coat, the president entered the building with his wife, who was carrying two pie boxes with purple ribbons.
Biden has also been monitoring the Israel-Hamas deal to release hostages held in Gaza. Israel and Hamas have agreed to pause the fighting at midnight ET, with the first 13 hostages from Gaza to be handed over at 9 a.m. ET on Friday, according to Qatar, an intermediary in the hostage negotiations. Under the deal struck between the combatants, Hamas is to release a total of 50 hostages, while Israeli officials will free 150 Palestinians in their custody.
Reporters shouted questions about the hostage deal as Biden left the fire department.
“I’m not prepared to give an update until it’s done,” Biden said.
Asked whether a three-year-old American girl would be among the first hostages to be released, the president said, “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
In his earlier remarks as the parade was set to begin, Biden steered clear of the hostage deal, as well as anything that smacked of a partisan message. “I’ve never been more optimistic,” he said.
His campaign didn’t hold back, however.
An email released by Biden’s re-election campaign on Thursday was titled, “Your Handy Guide for Responding To Crazy MAGA Nonsense This Thanksgiving.” In it, the campaign suggests ways to respond at the dinner table if and when family members start talking politics and praising Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination in polling.
Should they mention polls showing Trump running ahead of Biden, the campaign suggests countering with, “Oh — those same polls and pundits who said Joe Biden would never be president, and that Republicans would have massive wins last November” during the midterm elections.
For his Thanksgiving message, Trump took a darker tone. “Our country is in serious trouble,” he wrote on his social media platform Truth Social. “We don’t have victories anymore.”
Nantucket became the Biden family’s Thanksgiving vacation spot more or less by accident. In 1975, Biden was a widower with two young sons, Beau and Hunter. He was dating then-Jill Jacobs. Rather than choose one family or the other for Thanksgiving dinner, then-Sen. Biden took an aide’s advice and the four of them all went to Nantucket, he wrote in his 2017 memoir, “Promise Me, Dad.”
“It was chilly on the island at the end of November, but you could smell the tangy salt air of the Atlantic,” Biden wrote. “The island had emptied for the season, so we had much of the place to ourselves.”
No more. As president, Biden travels with an immense entourage of support staff. Hulking C-17 planes landed at the island’s small airport earlier in the week to unload vehicles and cargo. Secret Service agents were spotted on Thanksgiving eve walking through the island’s cobblestone streets.
“It’s important that we all commit to an act of kindness today,” Jill Biden said when she and her husband spoke to Roker. “Call someone and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving or do something kind.”