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Housing meltdown

The White House still eludes Obama,but enjoy the show while it lasts

Mr Obama finally comes to Washington,but it wasn’t quite the cymbals-crashing arrival we might have expected. Even as he plans his Lincolnian route to the inauguration,riding the rails with Joe Biden,his actual arrival has been somewhat anticlimactic. The Bush administration (which clearly has a less finely tuned sense of political theatre) informed him that the White House,including guest residence Blair House,was fully booked up till the inauguration.

So for now,Barack Obama will have to content himself with a sumptuous view of his future residence at the historic Hay Adams

hotel,off Lafayette Square. The hotel is steeped in Beltway legend,and frequented by movers and shakers of the Washington establishment for decades. Even the rumour that the Hay Adams is haunted by presidential kin (Clover Adams’ ghost,related to John and John Quincy Adams,is said to wander the floors solicitously asking after the guests and staff) offers a fitting historical-political frisson. And given Obama’s previous digs in DC,where he lived a spare,solitary existence as a senator,even shopping for his own shelves,the 6000-dollars-a-night hotel couldn’t be much of a hardship.

And not that he has much time to loll around in the fancy suite under goosedown duvets — in between extensive meetings on the economic recovery plan and the Gaza situation,he will also trade notes with George Bush,Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter at a White House lunch. Even though 1600,Pennsylvania Avenue is still firmly someone else’s territory Obama has been easing into his new role for months now. But at least the little piquant details of his arrival afford some more entertainment to the vast worldwide public with a consuming interest in the Obama family. From Barack’s closet quirks to Michelle’s closet’s quirks,from the promised presidential pup to the Obama girls’ sleepovers and various allergies — America can’t seem to get enough of its “Bamalot”.