At Sidwell Friends School, Obamas Will Encounter Parents From Clinton Campaign

By Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama missed being interviewed by David Gregory on "Meet the Press" by just a week -- the new host does not take over until Sunday. Maybe Gregory will catch Obama at back-to-school night at Sidwell Friends School, where, as of next month, both will be sending their children.

And that could be one of Obama's easier encounters.

Sidwell is not filled only with the children of the powerful and the ambitious and the wealthy, as was widely discussed when the Obamas were looking at elite Washington private schools. It is also home to some of the very strategists who once worked to defeat Obama's presidential bid (one or two of whom, despite the recent Obama-Clinton detente, are rumored to carry a lingering grudge). Obama's older daughter, Malia, is about to enter the fifth grade at Sidwell alongside the child of Lissa Muscatine, a speechwriter for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Numerous other Clinton loyalists are Sidwell parents as well, among them Mark Penn, the former Clinton chief strategist; Mandy Grunwald, the ad maker; Capricia Marshall, the senior adviser; and Beth Dozoretz, the prolific Clinton fundraiser.

The Obamas are planning to move to Washington in early January, aides said yesterday, in time for their two girls to start school along with their peers when classes resume after Christmas vacation. The incoming first family is likely to move into temporary housing at first, and then, right before the inauguration, to Blair House, the presidential guest house across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

And one of the first tasks, even before Obama is sworn in, will be settling daughters Sasha and Malia at Sidwell -- where there will be no shortage of children whose parents have either tangled with the Obama universe, or worked inside it.

Do any of the legendary rivalries that occur during the workday ever spill into their children's Sidwell lives?

"Never for me. Never," said Patti Solis Doyle, the former Clinton campaign manager who made a somewhat delicate transition to the Obama headquarters after Clinton's defeat, and is a parent of two Sidwell students. Her daughter, another fifth-grader, met Malia briefly when the Obamas were school-shopping, Solis Doyle said. To the children, the excitement of a presidential-grade addition to their class was overwhelming for "all of about 30 seconds" before they returned to normal.

"It's a great school, and my kids have just really grown and thrived at the school, but what's great about it is that, sure, there are a lot of quote-unquote D.C. power parents, but in the carpool and at back-to-school night, they're just regular parents," Solis Doyle said. "They're there to find out how their kids are doing and talk to their teachers just like everybody else."

In a school replete with children of the near-famous, the Obama girls will be in classes with other well-known progeny, including, in Sasha's second-grade class, a grandchild of Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Elsewhere in the school are the children of other well-known Washington figures, such as former recording industry lobbying head and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen, Democratic strategist Nick Baldick, former transportation secretary Rodney E. Slater, and incoming White House staff secretary Lisa Brown, as well as Kurt Campbell, a respected defense expert, and his wife, Lael Brainard, a former White House deputy economic adviser.

The roster also includes many, many journalists, including Gregory's Sunday morning rival, George Stephanopoulos, and two other ABC colleagues, Claire Shipman and Terry Moran; Newsweek's Howard Fineman; Time's Jay Carney (who is married to Shipman); the BBC's Katty Kay; the Wall Street Journal's Monica Langley; the New York Times' Adam Liptak; Assistant Treasury Secretary Anthony Ryan; and more than half a dozen parents who work at The Washington Post, including columnist E.J. Dionne and Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward.

And according to people familiar with the Obama campaign, there could, in due course, be more influential parents joining the Sidwell carpool line: Rahm Emanuel, the incoming chief of staff, is moving his family to Washington, as is Timothy F. Geithner, the new Treasury secretary and a father of two.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company