The article incorrectly said that the Obama family plans to buy a dog. President-elect Barack Obama said last month that the family's preference is to adopt a dog from an animal shelter.
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For Obama, White House Is an Unusually Big Transition
Obama's typical day as president-elect follows a routine that is necessarily spare: breakfast at home with his daughters, a trip to the apartment-building gym, six or seven hours at his downtown transition office and the evening at home. He usually enters buildings through underground parking garages and almost never ventures outside.
Gone are the trips to his cacophonous Hyde Park barbershop to see the man who has cut his hair for 15 years; now his barber, Zariff, comes to him. Gone are lunches at Medici, where servers still wear T-shirts that read "Obama Eats Here." Now, if anything, Obama carries in, although on Friday he allowed himself a rare liberty: a trip to Manny's Coffee Shop and Deli. "I'm just glad to be out," he said.
"There's still some things we're not adjusted to," Obama told "60 Minutes" during his only extended interview since he was elected. "You know, the small routines of life that keep you connected, I think some of those are being lost. One of the challenges I think that we're going to be wrestling with is how to stay pretty normal."
That challenge is exacerbated by the fact that Obama must build his new life in Washington, a city where he has never felt comfortable. After he was elected to the Senate in 2004, Obama decided to commute to work instead of moving his family to what he called the "hothouse environment" of Washington. He spent three days a week in Washington and then rushed home to Chicago, buying tickets on multiple flights to ensure the earliest possible arrival. He met Cassandra Butts, a law school friend, for dinner in Washington once each month. Most other nights, Obama ate takeout food alone in a one-bedroom apartment near the Capitol.
"There's a sort of fishbowl, ingrown quality to Washington," Obama said in 2005. "I think everybody is very status-conscious about, you know, who's a senator and who's in power and who's not."
A close friend from Chicago, Mike Strautmanis, who worked for Obama in the Senate, worries about the change in cultures. "The one thing about Chicago as compared to Washington is that most relationships in Washington are fundamentally based on politics either currently or building things for the future." he said. "I think what he wanted is a few relationships that didn't have that subtext."
As president, Obama's first option is to bring some of those relationships to Washington with him. His mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, is expected to move into or near the White House and continue to help raise her grandchildren, whom she often supervised during the 21-month campaign. Some people in Obama's inner circle expect Nesbitt to move to Washington with his physician wife, Anita, and five children, but Nesbitt said he has not had time to even consider the possibility of transplanting.
Several other Obama friends and associates -- all of whom now receive a deluge of résumés and inauguration ticket requests from near-strangers -- said they either are considering moving to Washington or will move if asked.
"You know, if he calls and asks me to be the head custodian, I still don't think I could say no," Link said. "If he needs me, then I'm going to be there. For a lot of us friends, our first interest is going to be looking out for him and just helping him get adjusted however we can."
Four of the past five presidents moved into the White House from a government mansion; the fifth, Ronald Reagan, had spent two terms as a California governor. All were familiar with living in a security bubble -- a public space -- and dealing antiseptically with the outside world.
Until recently, Obama and his wife were accustomed to pumping their own gas, shopping at a nearby food co-op, riding bikes along Lake Michigan and attending neighborhood barbecues.
"I don't know how you re-create that, even if everybody moves to D.C.," one friend said. "You just don't have as much time if you're president of the United States, and it's not as easy to drop by the White House. It's hard to make new friends for anybody, especially when you're in their position and, 'Oh, we have to make sure they're not purely interested in us and laughing at our jokes because of who we are.' "