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No Room at Blair House for the Obamas? Yep -- That Australian Guy Will Be There.

The Obamas were told there would be no room at Blair House before Jan. 15. Former Australian leader John Howard, left, apparently made reservations first.
The Obamas were told there would be no room at Blair House before Jan. 15. Former Australian leader John Howard, left, apparently made reservations first. (By J. Scott Applewhite -- Associated Press)

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By Al Kamen
Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The veil is lifted. We now know who is booked at Blair House, kicking President-elect Barack Obama and his family to the waiting list and across Lafayette Square to the Hay-Adams Hotel.

The only overnight visitor at the presidential guest manse is none other than John Howard, a former Australian prime minister and leading member of President Bush's coalition of the willing in Iraq.

Howard and his entourage will be bunking at Blair House on Jan. 12, the night before he, former British prime minister Tony Blair and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe are to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bush, said Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush. The three current and former heads of state are longtime political allies of the president's, and Blair and Howard were key partners in the Iraq war.

Blair and Uribe also were invited to stay at Blair House but declined Bush's invitation, said a second White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Blair, who traditionally stays at the British Embassy, and Uribe apparently found other accommodations, the source said.

There are other scheduled events at Blair House, but no other overnight visits between now and Jan. 15, when the Obama family is scheduled to move in, McDonough said.

Today, Laura Bush will hold a private reception honoring members of the administration's Global Cultural Initiative, 80 of whom are in the diplomatic corps, McDonough said. The reception will be hosted by Protocol Chief Nancy Brinker.

"This has been a long-planned celebratory event at the Blair House," McDonough said.

She added that there are several other planned parties at Blair House.

The incoming first family requested an early move-in at the 70,000-square-foot, 119-room mansion across the street from the White House so the children could settle in to start school this week at Sidwell Friends School. But the Obamas was told the residence had been booked, so they took a suite at the Hay-Adams.

At the time, the White House would not say which events were bumping the Obamas.

Maybe Howard might offer his digs on Craigslist in exchange for the presidential-elect suite at the Hay?


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