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Nobody Invited Obamas To Stay At Their House?

Eight years ago this month, two generations of George Bush families moved into Blair House, the presidential guest quarters across the street from the White House. As this page from the Blair House guest book shows, the two couples--president past and president-to-be--spent the four days prior to the swearing-in at the guest house.

That short stay immediately before the White House move-in is what the Bushes have in store for their successors as well, which is the reason the Obamas are at the Hay-Adams Hotel, which in turn is why traffic in downtown Washington is such a nightmare this week.

The First Family-in-waiting wanted to avoid this mess and spend the three weeks prior to the Inauguration at Blair House, but the Bush administration said no--someone else had already reserved those rooms for those dates. Just who are these spectacularly connected folks who rank high enough to keep the next president from getting into those digs?

Turns out it's the prime minister of Australia, John Howard, who will be in town for one night, Jan. 12, before joining two other world leaders to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. How can a one-night reservation by one guy box the next leader of the free world from bedding down at Blair House?

And why exactly can't they share? Blair House is a whopping 119 rooms (it's actually a series of rowhouses all grafted together immediately across Pennsylvania Avenue from the old WH.)

The only news out of the Bush administration on this is that there are also some parties scheduled at Blair over the next week or so, such as a reception for some diplomats hosted by the White House protocol chief. Pretty weak excuse.

But while you steam over that one, here's another puzzle:

Why did the Obamas choose to move into a hotel rather than stay in a house away from the federal core--perhaps closer to the girls' new school, Sidwell Friends, in the McLean Gardens section of Northwest? When John Kennedy was waiting to take office in 1961, he had the advantage of already having a house in Georgetown. Obama, in contrast, never had a house here during his time in the Senate; he continued to live primarily in Chicago, renting a small apartment on Capitol Hill that he used for sleeping and little else.

During Kennedy's interregnum, he used his house at 3307 N Street NW as base of his pre-inaugural operations, making his announcements about appointments from the front steps of the house. There's a delightful plaque on the side of a house across the street, at 3302 N Street, that marks that lovely brick house as the place where "the grateful newsmen" who covered Kennedy "were given warm haven" as they awaited each day's announcements. The owner of the house at that time, Helen Montgomery, would invite the reporters in for coffee and sandwiches; man, have times changed.

By Marc Fisher |  January 9, 2009; 1:01 PM ET
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I may be wrong but I believe GWB crashed at the Madison Hotel before he moved into Blair House before his 1st inauguration.

Posted by: JohnMike | January 9, 2009 1:52 PM

What is the point of this blog? Are you saying that the rules should be changed for Obama? Is that not the mentality that has created the sewer politics of Chicago? Bush has gone out of his way to make the transition one of the best in history and since one can't pick on the facts, Fisher needs some excuse to perpetuate the acrimony in DC.

Posted by: Weaver1 | January 9, 2009 1:58 PM

I don't believe that the White House is required to evict any scheduled visitors to accomodate Obama. Nor do I believe that they are required to say why.

Posted by: gm123 | January 9, 2009 2:34 PM

Actually, Marc, John Howard is not the prime minister of Australia. He left office in December 2007.

Posted by: fredpowledge | January 9, 2009 2:39 PM

The WaPo needs to get over itself and the grievous faux pas inflicted by the Bushes. The Man Who Would Be King (PEBO), the angry Queen To Be and the two cute daughters are just going to have to cool their heels at the Hay Adams for a few days.

Fisher, instead of whining about the slight inconvenience of four people, why don't you write something about the NOVA residents who won't be able to drive to work on the 20th? Or, how about something re the shopkeepers who were told they have close their businesses the day of the coronation?

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | January 9, 2009 2:51 PM

You'd have the same security issues wherever he stayed and the same complaints. This way, he's close to the base of operations for his transition team. Crystal City or Rosslyn might have been interesting alternatives, though that would probably shut down one of the bridges when he went into the District. Taking Metro would make a great statement, though.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 9, 2009 3:02 PM

Maybe Hillary could have bunked with Dianne Feinstein and offered her place to Obama? Asusming that Bill spent an occasional night there, I'm sure that the Secret Service would have no problems with it.

Posted by: destinysmom | January 9, 2009 3:17 PM

the Hay-Adams is best suited to put up a soon to be head of state with all the requisite attachments. and, as mentioned, it is close by to where Obama needs to be all day. Imagine the traffic jams if he had stayed uptown and drove to work every morning down Connecticut, it would be a complete mess.

by the way, who's paying for the floor at the Hay-Adams? that's gotta be ten grand a night, is that a campaign expense, or is it transition-related taxpayer expense? (either way, I have no problem with it.)

Blair House should be made available to incoming Presidents in the future the day the Senate counts the electoral college votes and it becomes official. Yes, that isn't the tradition, but Obama should make it so when he leaves office, especially if it is someone from another party taking office. Just seems like the decent thing to do, in the modern hyper-security era.

Posted by: joshuaostevens | January 9, 2009 5:25 PM

We can thank Bush on his way out for the massive travel tie ups around H street with the street closures.

Posted by: pdavis22 | January 9, 2009 6:16 PM

who gives a rats rear end that poor Barry has to stay at the Hay Adams? Pretty nice place from what I have experienced.

It's obvious Fischer wants to blow Barack. Better get in line behind Chris Matthews and everyone else in the LIBERAL Media...

Posted by: knight1977 | January 9, 2009 6:59 PM

John Howard is an ex-PM of Australia. He was kicked out of the office a year ago and also lost his parliament seat.

John Howard must've known his stay at Blair House would bump Obama, as this has been in the news for quite a while. Unless in retirement he no longer reads or follows the news. Tony Blair has the decency to pull out of Blair House. Why doesn't Howard? It may not be an important matter but it shows what character this ex-PM of Australia is like. We in Australia are so glad to get rid off him for good.

Posted by: joanne8 | January 10, 2009 5:44 AM

Simply another Democrat effort to find some way to discredit Bush. Makes true Americans want to vomit. When Bush is no longer President, how are they going to continue to make Bush responsible for all the Democrat mistakes - like Barney Frank and the Fannie Mae catastrophe.

Posted by: speedycampbell | January 10, 2009 12:09 PM

There was no one scheduled to stay at Blair House when Bush announced incorrectly that someone was staying there and the President-Elect could not. This is confirmed.

All of you petty whiners above- you lost, you lost BADLY, get over it or don't for all we care.

Posted by: bbcrock | January 11, 2009 10:20 PM

Where the Obamas stay is a minor issue when compared to the whole car parking issue for the tax payers of DC. At this rate the next Inauguration will see the Secret Service moving whole blocks of people out of the city for those of us that live downtown.

Posted by: edhorv | January 12, 2009 10:09 PM

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