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.
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