George W. Obama

Susan Glasser, the former Washington Post assistant managing editor who became executive editor of Foreign Policy magazine, brings readers an eye-opening headline for her debut issue: "The Making of George W. Obama."

Equally intriguing, the article is the first by former State Department "boy-wonder" Christian Brose, newly crowned senior editor at Foreign Policy, who only a few weeks ago was chief speechwriter and policy adviser for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, having previously reported to her predecessor, Colin L. Powell.

(When the just-nominated Miss Rice heard foreign-policy suggestions offered by the normally reserved Mr. Brose, who had shyly raised his hand to speak, she inquired about the identity of "that young red-haired kid." He was 25 years old.)

"One of my regrets about my work at the State Department is that we were unable to convince the American people that [George W.] Bush‘s pragmatic internationalism had within it the makings of a strong, sustainable global leadership for the 21st century — and that, as such, it had the potential to heal some of the fraught divisions over America’s role in the world that have plagued the country since the end of the Cold War," Mr. Brose now writes.

As for President-elect Barack Obama: "The 2008 U.S. election was all about change. But that’s not what we’re going to get on foreign policy," Foreign Policy recaps. "Instead of a radical departure from Bush, we’re likely to end up with a lot more of the same. And that may be just what we need."

Success, By George

Washington’s Media Research Center observes that nearly two years after reporters derided President Bush‘s troop surge as "a folly" and "lost cause," American troop deaths are at their lowest level since the Iraq war began in 2003.

"So right on cue," says the media watchdog, the New York Times reports that "ABC, CBS and NBC have all pulled their full-time reporters from Iraq. According to correspondent Brian Stelter, the lack of violence means the networks are less interested in the Iraq story."

Wrote Mr. Stelter: "Representatives for the networks emphasized that they would continue to cover the war and said the staff adjustments reflected the evolution of the conflict in Iraq from a story primarily about violence to one about reconstruction and politics."

No ‘Ho Hum’

"It’s one of those things that if you’ve done it a number of times, it’s usually, ‘Ho hum.’ But this is no ordinary thing. I’m as excited now as I was the first time. I’m sky-high."

So legendary presidential-inaugural parade announcer Charlie Brotman tells this columnist in advance of announcing his 14th presidential inauguration parade for "my 10th new president — a period of 52 years. It’s a good thing I started when I was 3, or I would be old."

Actually, Mr. Brotman was 28 in 1957 when he announced to re-elected President Dwight D. Eisenhower what band was next marching up Pennsylvania Avenue before the presidential reviewing stand — and now marches up before the nation’s first black president.

"I think this could be the most meaningful and the most exciting inaugural we’ve ever had," Brotman agreed. "It appears to me that from everything I’ve heard, seen and read, our new leader Barack Obama is creating the America every American wants it to be."

Nothing Magic

The National Black Republican Association is calling on President-elect Barack Obama, on behalf of his fellow black Americans, to demand an apology from the Los Angeles Times and opinion writer David Ehrenstein "for denigrating you as a ‘Magic Negro’ in an article entitled ‘Obama the ‘Magic Negro.’"

The article, which appeared in March 2007, was subtitled: "The Illinois senator lends himself to white America’s idealized, less-than-real black man."

Bargain Shopper

Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, pushed a bill last year successfully preventing Uncle Sam from refilling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve until the cost of oil came down.

That time has now come — for how long, nobody knows — so Mr. Markey in recent days requested the Department of Energy go ahead and purchase about 12 million barrels of crude oil.

Banking on Obama

Many first-time visitors to Washington who will be attending Barack Obama‘s inauguration might be surprised to find their nation’s capital overflowing with street vendors.

Whether it’s a hot dog coated with chili, an FBI baseball cap, or warm woolen (rayon, more likely) mittens, virtually everything one’s heart could ever desire is peddled on a daily basis from the sidewalks bordering monuments, memorials and museums.

Now, wouldn’t you know, the D.C. government is offering additional street vending "opportunities" for the 2009 inauguration. Bottom line: vendors not licensed can apply in person to receive a temporary "2009 Inaugural Vending Badge." In other words, Washington’s already large army of vendors isn’t disappearing in honor of Obama, it’s growing.

Indeed, apart from allowing the city’s saloons to serve booze until 5 a.m. inaugural week, city fathers have just designated "more than 700 sites" near the inaugural parade route as "Special Inaugural Vending Zones." The sites will be distributed through three lotteries, with winners to be announced this week.

As for the non-winners who wanted to cash in on the unprecedented masses expected for Inauguration Day, the D.C. government will establish "more than 1,000 overflow vending locations" near the city’s major transportation hubs.

Getting Closer

Before President-elect Barack Obama bunked at the Hay-Adams Hotel (opened in 1928 as the Hay-Adams House, offering steamed heat, circulating ice water, Washington’s first air-conditioned dining room and unparalleled views of the White House), overnight guests included Amelia Earhart, Sinclair Lewis and Charles Lindbergh.

The luxury hotel where Obama and his family will remain before moving a short distance across Lafayette Square, first to Blair House and then finally into the White House, is named after John Hay, close aide to President Abraham Lincoln, and author Henry Adams, a descendant of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

Both lived in homes torn down to make space for the 145-room hotel, which these days is ranked by both Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler as Washington’s No. 1 hotel.

Ducking in Blair

Once his two-week stay at the Hay-Adams Hotel is complete, Barack Obama and his family will move Jan. 15 into Blair House, which took considerable heat in the media for honoring its earlier bookings (mostly receptions for the outgoing Bush administration).

Two years ago, this columnist was provided a rare tour of the newly-renovated Blair House, which is not open to the public. Inside, I found all the updated comforts of home — new carpeting, wallpaper and bed linens, and a replacement fountain for the garden. And that major crack that appeared in Bedroom 21 — Bess Truman‘s former bedroom during the first family’s stay in Blair House from 1948 to 1952 — also got repaired.

Harry S. Truman, by the way, was just down the hallway in what has been renamed the Eisenhower Sitting Room, dedicated by Mamie Eisenhower in 1970 to honor her late husband, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In fact, two of Eisenhower’s own "Sunday" paintings are hanging in the second-floor sitting room — one of a brilliant sunset over a lake, the other of a country cottage.

At the time of my visit, all the living former U.S. presidents were asked to consider donating an original work of art from their personal collections to be enjoyed by visiting foreign heads of state and other VIP guests staying at Blair House. Among the first to arrive is "Early Morning Kennebunkport," a watercolor gift from former President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush of their vacation home in Maine.

No Cigar

The headline reads: "Castle on Capitol Hill for Inauguration."

That’s right, a flat fee of $15,000 (plus a security deposit of $8,000) gets one of their very own castle for five days just east of the U.S. Capitol dome, where President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office Jan. 20.

Not so fast. The only castle we know of in Washington is the Norman-style (12th-century late Romanesque and early Gothic motifs) Smithsonian Castle, designed by the prominent architect James Renwick Jr. This legitimate 1847 castle, like others around the world, features sweeping halls, lofty towers, even a crypt (of James Smithson, benefactor of the Smithsonian Institution).

Beyond the headline, the advertisement reveals a three-bedroom, three-bath home, with the request "that you not bring pets. This is a no-smoking house."


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