Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Obamas settle into Washington

Barack Obama pictured with his daughters Malia (centre) and Sasha

Without fanfare or even a wave to the waiting crowd, at 7.10am yesterday, Barack Obama's two children and their mother Michelle were whisked by Secret Service motorcade from the exclusive Hay-Adams Hotel to their new school in Washington DC.

The President-elect made his own “no drama” arrival to the capital the night before, helping to to ensure his children made a smooth transition to their new Quaker school, Sidwell Friends. His solitary departure from the family home in Chicago brought out the loneliness of the challenges that lie ahead of him.

He admitted he “choked up” as he left his empty house when a friend of one of his daughters gave him an album she made showing their pre-school years together.

He then headed for Washington on an air force plane normally used to transport the vice-president or the first lady.

For his first meal on a presidential plane, he ordered a cheeseburger with fries and a glass of water. George Bush, by contrast, usually has a low-fat hot dog.

He received no official welcome from the predominantly black city, but residents are in a state of excitement about the new first family. Some were so keen to get a glimpse they booked in for a $65 (£45) brunch at the Hay-Adams, where the Obamas are staying.

The inauguration of the 44th president is two weeks away and a mountain of problems await Mr Obama's attention, not least the crisis in Gaza. But sticking to his mantra that “there is only one president at a time”, Mr Obama has refrained from commenting on the situation.

His biggest headache is trying to sort out the worsening economy. He spent much of yesterday with his economic team and Congressional leaders, seeking bipartisan support for a “stimulus” package for the US economy. To win over Republicans — and Democrats opposed to a government spending programme — the plan calls for about $300bn in tax cuts.

Mr Obama's advisers say there is almost “no chance” Congress will approve a new stimulus package before Mr Obama's inauguration on 20 January and it will be mid-February before it becomes law. By splitting the money between the programmes Democrats like— $150bn in tax cuts for workers — and those favoured by Republicans — $100bn in job creation subsidies for business — they hope to secure quick approval.

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