Jill Biden Says Role of First Lady Is 'Harder than I Imagined' But the President Is an 'Eternal Optimist'

Dr. Jill Biden opens up in a new interview about life in the White House and her husband's presidency approaches the end of a challenging first year

jill biden
Photo: Jeff Fusco/Getty

Dr. Jill Biden served for eight years as second lady of the United States but says stepping into the role of first lady this year wasn't exactly what she expected.

"I think it's a little harder than I imagined," Biden, 70, tells CBS Sunday Morning's Rita Braver in an interview to air this weekend. "It's not like a job that you do, it's a lifestyle that you live and it's not something that you leave at 5 o'clock or 3 o'clock. It's 24 hours a day."

The first lady spoke with Braver from Camp David about life with her husband Joe Biden, as they approach the end of a challenging first year in office and continue to push for the president's policies despite Republican opposition.

"He keeps working at it. He's an eternal optimist and he keeps working," Dr. Biden says, "like almost 24 hours a day at creating relationships with Republicans as well as Democrats to push his agenda forward. It's that important."

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Working towards compromise often means making difficult decisions and setting priorities, which can leave some policies behind as others move to the top of the list. Case in point: removing free community college tuition from the president's social spending plan, which may have been a disappointment for Dr. Biden, who has continued to work as a professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College while serving as the first lady.

Jill Biden; Courtesy White House
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. White House photo by Adam Schultz

"No, I understand compromise. And I knew this was not the right moment for it," Dr. Biden says. "But that doesn't mean it might not get passed somewhere down the future."

Still, the first lady admits she's heard the president get frustrated at opponents who are determined to block key aspects of his agenda. "He might make a disparaging remark once in a while but I'm telling you he believes as he always has," she says. "He's always worked with both sides of the aisle and that's what he'll continue to do."

Dr. Biden also dismisses questions about her husband's mental fitness as "ridiculous" and says the president — whose doctor recently declared him "healthy and vigorous" — remains focused on unifying the country, like he did while praising the late Republican Sen. Bob Dole at the Capitol on Thursday.

"I don't care if it's a red state or a blue state," Dr. Biden says in the interview airing Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on CBS, "I think, you know, Joe is the president for all Americans."

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