- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

If only all home moves could be as quick and easy as at the White House.

President Bush will leave the White House on Tuesday morning and hand over the country to Barack Obama at noon sharp. By the time the Obamas enter their new quarters a few hours later, the new first family’s clothes will be hanging in the closets and their photos will be on display.

A team of federal employees will work nonstop during the few hours while the outgoing and incoming presidents are occupied with the inaugural festivities. Damage to White House furniture from the Bush years will be repaired, and anything else the new first family wants to bring will be unpacked.

“It really begins at almost 12 o’clock on the dot,” said Capricia Marshall, who as White House social secretary under President Clinton helped oversee the move in 2000. “The former president’s moving van is going out around the South grounds, and the newly elected president’s van is moving in.”

Katie McCormick Lelyveld, spokeswoman for first-lady-to-be Michelle Obama, said the Obamas aren’t bringing many large items because they are keeping their home and furniture in Chicago intact. Instead, they are bringing boxes of smaller personal items, including their clothes, family photos and toys for daughters Malia and Sasha, with the primary focus on getting the girls settled.

“You have those creature comforts for a 10- and a 7-year-old, instead of the heavy furniture coming in,” she said.

Ann Stock, the Clintons’ first social secretary at the White House, said the move will be finished by about 5 p.m., when the Obamas return from the parade to get ready for the inaugural balls. She said the process involves a lot of sorting, labeling and packing, and is not that different from a move for anyone else - except for the speed.

Miss Marshall and Miss Stock said the biggest priority and most work will be in transforming the Oval Office to Mr. Obama’s specifications. Mr. Bush often likes to joke that his preparations for taking over leadership of the country included an assignment to pick a design for the Oval Office rug. He delegated the job to his wife and often boasts about the result - a bright yellow design that he says portrays a sense of optimism. Mr. Clinton’s rug had diamonds in the design in recognition of the Arkansas Diamondbacks.

The new president also gets to pick which historic desk he would like from among four stored at a White House warehouse. Most modern presidents, including Mr. Bush, have chosen the desk made from the wood of the H.M.S. Resolute given to the United States by Britain in 1879.

President Franklin Roosevelt had a central panel installed to conceal his leg braces, and the desk became famous for the photo of little John Kennedy Jr. peaking out from behind the panel while his father worked above.

Obama aides wouldn’t say which desk Mr. Obama has chosen or give other details about how the Oval Office will look in his time there.

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