WH Tells Obamas, No Room at the Blair House
By Dan Eggen
The Bush administration has denied President-elect Barack Obama's request to move early into an official guest house across from the White House, citing previously scheduled commitments, a transition official said today.
The Obamas wanted to move into Blair House before Jan. 5, so that daughters Malia and Sasha could start classes on time at Sidwell Friends School in Washington. "But there were previously scheduled events and guests that couldn't be displaced," said a transition spokesperson, who agreed to be quoted only on condition of anonymity.
Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said in a statement that Blair House will be "available to President-elect Obama and his family starting January 15, as is historically the case." Prior to that, McDonough said, "should he need to use it for a meeting or such he can certainly request it and the transition office will check its availability."
She said that in addition to presidential guests, Blair House "is frequently used by White House officials, the State Department and its Office of Protocol for various events."
McDonough declined to say what events had been booked at the house. Administration officials said there are no foreign dignitaries scheduled to stay there during the first two weeks of January, but some farewell events have been booked for departing Bush administration officials.
Transition officials say the Obamas hope to find temporary housing until Jan. 15 so the girls can start school on time.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported on the White House action on Wednesday.
Blair House, which dates to 1824, has served as the official presidential guest house since 1942 for heads of state and other foreign dignitaries. Appearing deceptively small from Pennsylvania Avenue, Blair House is actually a complex of four joined townhouses that is larger than the White House, with 119 rooms and 70,000 square feet of space.
"There are 14 guest bedrooms, eight staff bedrooms, 35 bathrooms, four dining rooms, kitchen facilities, laundry and dry cleaning facilities, an exercise room, a flower shop, and a fully equipped hair salon," according to the Blair House Web site. "Blair House strives to be comfortable, discreet and secure, and to provide any service that a visiting dignitary might require."
Posted at 6:53 PM ET on Dec 12, 2008
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