Monday, January 19, 2009

Tex-Mex to Deep Dish: How will the White House change?

Tomorrow is the Inauguration. The level of enthusiasm in the District is reaching a fevered-pitch. Well, actually, given the temperature here the last couple days, it's not quite fevered, but it's definitely pitchy.

Top: the Presidential booth for watching the parade on January 20 on Pennsylvania Avenue. Bottom: the booth with a better shot of the White House in the background. Note: these pics are a few days old; the security is so tight I couldn't get new ones today.

Whatever negativity may have arisen during the campaign has evaporated in the face of collective enthusiasm about the Inauguration.

Watching the Presidential campaign unfold from within the White House was certainly a treat – but also a trick. For example, it was fun to learn one Friday that Colin Powell would be endorsing Obama the coming Sunday on "Meet the Press." But, it was traumatizing when they made me take down the Sarah Palin pictures I'd taped to my walls ("because it violated the Hatch Act" or some such nonsense).

Despite the rancor of anti-Bush sentiment throughout the campaign – from both parties – the President made historic efforts to ensure that this transition, the first since 9/11, went smoothly. Reports of President Bush's magnanimous efforts have not been exaggerated. He elegantly said in his first inaugural: "the peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our country." Being able to see this first-hand was truly a privilege. Shrugging off the relentless campaign-fueled criticism, his Administration reached out to both candidates, once they locked up their party's respective nominations, on issues like national security and the financial meltdown.

President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama walk the Colonnade to the Oval Office Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, as the President and Mrs. Laura Bush welcomed the President-elect and his wife, Michelle, to the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper

With the transition from Bush's folks to Obama's, I am eager to hear what cultural changes will occur within the White House – not political, obviously, those are readily apparent - but, for example, food. At Ike's – the creatively named cafeteria in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building where I worked – everyone looked forward to Tex-Mex Wednesday. (Did you know there were a lot of people from Texas in the Bush White House?) The President himself was such a Tex-Mex fan that Air Force One never lifted off without taco fixin's, the chef told us.

Will Tex-Mex Wednesday be replaced by Chicago deep dish pizza and chili dog Wednesday? Who's to say? Not I, but certainly the non-political support staff at the White House: food services, mail room, janitorial, etc., who still have their jobs. Since the District is 2/3rds black, so are many of the non-political workers at the White House, and they all seem pretty excited about their new boss.

The District voted 93 percent in favor of Obama. This is higher than Romney would have gotten in Utah; the people here are pretty excited to see him roll into town.

Example: The lady who picked up our mail every day (who is African American) asked me if she could have, as a souvenir, our stack of newspapers from the day after the election. Naturally, I said yes. She then asked if she could also have the papers for the day after the Inauguration. "As far as I'm concerned," I said, "But I won't be around to give them to you, and I have the feeling my replacement will be more interested in them than I would be – so be sure to get them fast that day." She laughed.

Tents set up on the White House Ellipse for media to gather under on Inauguration Day.

1 comment:

Mike Winder said...

These are fun posts. Thanks for sharing!


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