- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008


Need a ticket? Good luck

So your member of Congress has declared a first-come, first-served policy on handing out hard-to-get tickets to Barack Obama‘s presidential swearing-in. Sounds fair enough.

But in a town where “yes” can mean “no” and the definition of “is” has been rhetorically spun, “first” does not necessarily mean No. 1 in line.

Even the most egalitarian members of Congress have family members, friends, political contributors and others clamoring for what are, right now, the most sought-after 240,000 free tickets in the world. Lawmakers are not required to disclose the recipients, so the list of those who will get some of the 200 to 500 tickets per office might well begin before the average person gets in line.

Thousands upon thousands of people have requested tickets from members of Congress, forcing some lawmakers to tell constituents to stop calling. And those are just requests to be admitted somewhere within four blocks of the Capitol when Mr. Obama raises his right hand and takes the oath of office.

West of the Capitol complex, the unticketed masses will gather the length of the National Mall with next to no chance of seeing Mr. Obama sworn in with their own eyes. Jumbotrons are expected to relay the images.

More than a million people are expected, quite possibly more than the record 1.2 million people who attended Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration in 1965.

Think Woodstock, multiplied twice. Or the masses spread across London for Princess Diana’s funeral procession.

Tickets, then, might seem like a good idea. But some lawmakers aren’t even taking requests anymore.

“Special Alert!” blares a message in red on the Web page of the District’s congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton. “Inauguration tickets not available. Please do not call or e-mail.”


Obama ‘normal guy’ days numbered

CHICAGO | Barack Obama seems to be savoring his last few days of near-normalcy.

Or at least as normal as life can be for a president-elect living in a house fortified with barriers, traveling in a motorcade, surrounded by Secret Service agents and mapping out the next administration.

Even his barber makes house calls now, depriving Mr. Obama of the regular barber shop visits he seemed to enjoy.

Still, after winning the presidency on Nov. 4, Mr. Obama has tried to reclaim as much as he can of the family-focused routine he sacrificed while campaigning for nearly two years.

He wakes up in his own bed, heads to the gym for a workout, returns to his house in leafy Hyde Park to shower and change, and then travels to a downtown Chicago office building, 15 minutes away by motorcade. He spends several hours there before returning home to his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha.

The future president and first lady still go to their favorite restaurant, Spiaggia, for Italian food. Mr. Obama dropped the girls at their school two days last week, and even attended parent-teacher conferences.

He plans a family vacation in Hawaii, as usual, over the Christmas holiday.

“I am not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks,” Mr. Obama said in a recent phone conversation overheard by reporters on his plane.

But on Jan. 20 he will become president and move his family into the White House, where almost nothing will be the same.

“It transforms their lives,” said Thomas E. Cronin, a presidential scholar at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. “All of them, no matter who they are, yearn to get away for time with family or friends.”


Husband’s deals an issue for Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton’s globe-trotting business deals and fundraising for his foundation sometimes put his activities abroad at odds with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and could cause complications if President-elect Barack Obama picks her to be secretary of state.

During her own White House campaign, the New York senator criticized China for its crackdown on protesters in Tibet and urged President Bush to skip the Olympics in Beijing. Her campaign was embarrassed by reports that her husband’s foundation had raised money from a Chinese Internet company that posted an online government “Most Wanted” notice seeking information on Tibetan human rights activists who may have been involved in the demonstrations.

Mrs. Clinton has campaigned as a champion of workers’ rights. This year, Brazilian labor inspectors found what they called “degrading” living conditions for sugar cane workers employed by an ethanol company in which Mr. Clinton invested.

In the Senate, Mrs. Clinton was an outspoken critic of a proposed deal under which a Dubai company planned to buy a British business that helped run six major U.S. ports. The company, DP World, privately sought Bill Clinton’s advice about how to respond to the controversy over the ports plan, which later was abandoned.

Mr. Obama met with Mrs. Clinton on Thursday at his headquarters in Chicago, and some Democrats were enthusiastic amid speculation the pair discussed the job of secretary of state. She declined Friday to say anything about the matter, and Mr. Obama is understood to be considering other candidates as his top diplomat.

Mr. Clinton’s fundraising for his presidential library and charitable activities also could pose additional headaches for his wife if he selects her for the job.

Since leaving the White House in early 2001, Mr. Clinton has raised at least $353 million for the William J. Clinton Foundation, which finances his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., as well as his global anti-AIDS initiative and other charitable efforts.

The former president has raised money overseas beyond the Chinese Internet company’s contributions: from the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a foundation linked to the United Arab Emirates and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar, the New York Times reported last year.

Matt McKenna, a spokesman for the former president, declined to comment on any potential difficulties that Mr. Clinton’s activities could pose for his wife should she become secretary of state or whether the former president would alter any of his fundraising or other activities to avoid potential conflicts.

The Clintons have taken in more than $100 million since leaving the White House, thanks in large part to six-figure speaking fees charged by the former president and to his book royalties and partnership with Yucaipa Global Opportunities Fund, a Los Angeles-based investment firm founded by a longtime Clinton fundraiser.


Bush hosts leader of Abu Dhabi

Fresh off presiding over a global financial summit, President Bush on Sunday conferred privately about the world’s economic downturn with the leader of a wealthy Persian Gulf emirate.

Mr. Bush was hosting Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, at the president’s wooded retreat at Camp David. The visit marked the second time in just five months that the crown prince received a coveted invitation to the secluded compound.

“They always have a good time meeting with each other,” White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Sunday.

The two leaders were scheduled to discuss the world’s deteriorating financial stability, as well as Middle East security. On Saturday in Washington, Mr. Bush presided over a gathering of leaders from the world’s richest nations and developing economies, who pledged steps to revamp the global financial markets.

Mr. Bush’s government is prodding leaders in the oil-rich Gulf to invest in the staggering U.S. economy. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt offered that message in a visit to Dubai last month. Mr. Johndroe declined comment on whether Mr. Bush would urge the crown prince to funnel more money into U.S. interests, but said, “Secretary Kimmitt’s comments made in the Gulf stand: We encourage investment in the United States.”

The visit Sunday was decidedly low-key. There was no press coverage permitted at Mr. Bush’s retreat.

In January, Mr. Bush visited Abu Dhabi and traveled to the crown prince’s remote desert encampment, where he raises horses and prize falcons.

The sheik was expected to stay overnight at Camp David. Mr. Bush returns to the White House Monday morning.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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