Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said the Government Accountability Office handles repairs at the White House. The General Services Administration does that. This version has been corrected.
Moving Day For the Obamas
Thursday, November 6, 2008
The moving trucks show up when the country's attention is distracted, focused on the pomp of Inauguration Day.
In splendid synchronization, one set of trucks rolls onto the White House grounds at precisely noon, another set rolls out -- with the move all done quietly and blindingly fast in the few hours it takes to do the swearing-in of a new president and the traditional after-luncheoning.
Bushes out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Obamas in.
Barack and Michelle, Sasha and Malia.
Their beds will be made up and waiting for them before they return from the parties.
"It's very efficient," says Ann Stock, former social secretary to Hillary Clinton and now a Kennedy Center vice president.
But so much to do first.
The girls, 7 and 10, will need schools. A church could be selected. And a puppy -- daddy promised-- must be found. And so much of establishing this new life will fall to lawyer and hospital executive Michelle Obama, the first-lady-in-waiting who calls herself "mom in chief."
So many little choices, writ big -- massive, gargantuan -- because a nation will be watching, keyed minutely to every symbolic overtone, mulling the message behind every move.
"It's like a new neighbor in the neighborhood. You want to know, 'What do they do after work? Where do they go to church? Do they eat grilled cheese for lunch?' " says Washington event planner and longtime social observer Carolyn Peachey. "It's just that in this case, it's the nation's neighborhood."
Barack Obama has been in the Senate not quite four years, and for 21 months of that time he has been running for president, so he is no creature of social Washington. The Obamas are said to be close to former Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan and his wife, Ann. But the family's network of close friends is primarily in Chicago, where the Obamas live in the same Hyde Park neighborhood as Michelle Obama's mother. Sasha and Malia go to school in their neighborhood.
All of which makes the guessing game more intense; there are fewer clues.