In December, President-elect Obama asked the White House if he and his family could move into Blair House — the White House’s guest house — a week early, so that his daughters Malia and Sasha could start school. The White House rebuffed them, saying the house was already booked for another guest. A White House source added that “Blair House was appalled” by the request.
After weeks of speculation, the mystery guest that trumps the President-elect and his family has finally been revealed. The White House offered the house to John Howard, the former Prime Minister of Australia who is set to receive a Medal of Freedom. Instead of arranging other accommodations for Howard’s one-night stay, the Bush administration told the Obama family to stay in a hotel for two weeks. (Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who are also receiving the Medal of Freedom, opted to find other accommodations.)
Last night on MSNBC’s “Countdown,” Bloomberg journalist Margaret Carlson revealed that when the White House turned down Obama’s request in early December, it had not yet even invited Howard to stay at the Blair House:
I reported…on December 11 and 12 that there were no foreign dignitaries booked into Blair House during that period of time. … I have the feeling they asked him [Howard] to come and stay so that there might be some plausible reason for not letting the Obamas stay there.
She also pointed out that Blair House has “119 rooms with 35 bathrooms. Howard wouldn’t even have to share a sink with the Obamas.” Watch it:
That the White House choose to prioritize the former prime minister of Australia over the incoming President of the United States emphasizes Bush’s sense of loyalty. Howard, a darling of the right wing, was one of Bush’s biggest cheerleaders whom Bush has called his “mate of steel” for standing with him on Iraq and being the only leader of an industrialized nation — besides Bush, of course — to refuse to sign the Kyoto Protocol.
Still, supplanting the incoming President with Howard seems like a final, petty kick in the teeth from Bush.