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Presidents have often invoked big-screen characters to create their own movie moments. By Tevi Troy

Barack Obama

Senator Jay Billington Bulworth

Obama has spoken longingly of “going Bulworth,” implying a sympathy with Warren Beatty’s Bulworth character, who tires of political politesse. “The rich is getting richer and richer and richer while the middle class is getting more poor,” Bulworth raps.

Richard Nixon

George C. Scott as General George Patton

Nixon watched Patton often and urged his staff to do so. In his 1977 interview with David Frost, he felt compelled to say that a viewing five days before ordering the invasion of Cambodia had “no effect whatever on my decisions.”

Ronald Reagan

Clint Eastwood

Facing a congressional threat to raise taxes, Reagan borrowed a line from Eastwood’s character in Sudden Impact: “Go ahead—make my day.”

Bill Clinton

Marshal Will Kane, played by Gary Cooper in High Noon

Clinton admitted watching High Noon some 20 times and once noted, “Any time you’re alone and you feel you’re not getting the support you need, Cooper’s Will Kane becomes the perfect metaphor.”

This article appears in the March 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 02/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
If it truly shows Lincoln in death, this image would be the only one of its kind. By Shane Mettlen

Image courtesy of Ernestine Glessner.

Ernestine Glessner of Martinsburg, West Virginia, was combing a flea market in Harpers Ferry a few years ago when she found what she believes is the only known deathbed portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Glessner is so convinced that after Laurie Verge, director of the Surratt House Museum in Clinton, Maryland, wrote on the museum’s website in 2012, “This is no more a photo of Abe Lincoln than it is of me. Ignore her,” Glessner sued Verge and the Surratt House.

Glessner says forensic experts back her claim. “Nobody has ever been able to prove to me this is not a deathbed photo of Abraham Lincoln,” she says.

She’s hardly the first to stake much on a personal connection to the assassination. Laura Keene, who starred in the Ford’s Theatre production of Our American Cousin the night of the murder, purportedly forced her way into the President’s box and cradled Lincoln’s head in her lap. Preserving her blood-stained dress—even reenacting her role that night—was her obsession until her death in 1873.

“Over time it just sort of becomes your life,” historian Michael W. Kauffman says of his own Lincoln fascination.

Kauffman, who owns a replica cast of Lincoln’s face made months before his death—and who has had his own disputes with Verge—says, “Though an entire field of science is devoted to the measure and comparison of photographs, it ultimately comes down to one simple question: Does it look like the subject it is claimed to be? In this case, I think not.”

Verge’s lawyer, who declined to comment, has filed a motion to dismiss.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 09:41 AM/ET, 01/02/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Our recommendations for where he might pick up some gifts. By Carol Ross Joynt, Anna Spiegel, Benjamin Freed, Chris Campbell
Stachowski’s Market in Georgetown is a combination butcher shop, sandwich shop, and market. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

The heavy push may be for holiday shopping on Black Friday, but a new addition to the frenzy, Small Business Saturday, is hoping to gain some ground this weekend. It was started by American Express in 2010 with the theme “shop small,” and for the past two years, President Barack Obama and his daughters, Sasha and Malia, used the occasion to visit area bookstores. We hope he shops small and local again this year, and Washingtonian staffers have some suggestions for where he should go (in no particular order).

Union Market

The President could indulge his burger tooth with a Red Apron patty or a fantastic meatball sub, promote Chesapeake Bay health by tackling a platter of freshly shucked oysters at Rappahannock Oyster Company, snag fresh milk and veggies for Michelle and the girls from Trickling Springs and Eastern-Shore Organic, and pick up one of the American-made knives at DC Sharp for White House chef Sam Kass. And should he decide to jump into the ever-long food truck debate, those TaKorean “takos” are pretty delicious. 1309 Fifth St., NE.

Hill’s Kitchen

This independent cooking and home-goods store is just a quick jaunt from the White House. There the President will ifnd foodie gadgets, classic cookware, and Washington-centric gifts like District-shaped cutting boards and cookie cutters in the form of DC and every state—except, alas, Hawaii. 713 D St., SE.

Stachowski’s Market

Both President Obama and Vice President Biden are well-documented sandwich lovers. If they stop by Jamie Stachowski’s Georgetown shop, they might become addicts. The four-meat grinder could take on most Chicago Italian subs, and Obama could also pick up local steaks and chicken for a family dinner. Another perk: Can you imagine the reaction from the colorful Stachowski? 1425 28th St., NW.

Crooked Beat Records

Sure, it might be a little impractical for the Secret Service to scope out a cramped basement-level record shop, but as Washington’s largest vinyl store, Crooked Beat, has yards of used and new albums spanning every genre. There are also racks devoted to Dischord Records, perfect for any parent of two kids growing up in DC. 2116 18th St., NW.

A Mano

This 19-year-old homewares store is stocked up with clever holiday gifts, including ties with donkeys and elephants (for bipartisan Capitol Hill gift-giving) and Portuguese water dog cuff links—a nice gift from Bo and Sunny to the President. 1677 Wisconsin Ave., NW.

Wake Up Little Suzie

This store in Cleveland Park may be small, but it’s packed to the gills with jewelry, accessories, and unique items that can serve as stocking stuffers or Secret Santa gifts. The store has something for guys and gals of all ages, and thanks to the eclectic range and wit behind all the pieces, your gift will likely stand out from the pack. 3409 Connecticut Ave., NW.

Smucker Farms

The Obamas can revel in the retail and culinary explosion that is 14th Street by checking out the goods at Smucker Farms. With the wonderfully curated selection of food and sundries from just up the highway in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, you’d be hard-pressed to walk away without half a dozen items in your shopping bag as thoughtful gifts (and maybe another half dozen just for yourself). 2118 14th St., NW.

Good Wood

Dan and Anna Kahoe’s home furnishing shop has been operating on U Street since 1994, and the rotating selection of antiques, rehabbed vintage items, and decorative accents still deserves attention. The President could pick out a new leather chair, some vintage jewelry for the First Lady, or a standing wooden desk for one of the girls. 1428 U St., NW.

The Hour

The White House could show its hipper side with a trip to this cocktail lover’s mecca in Alexandria. The small shop is filled with vintage glassware and shakers, retro serving trays, antique barware, ice buckets, and more, with items in every price range. It’s too bad the collection wasn’t around in the Nixon years. 1015 King St., Alexandria.

Fleurir Chocolates

Husband-and-wife team Robert Ludlow and Ashley Hubbard are a small-business success story. The duo started selling their gourmet chocolates at local farmers markets, and now own two small boutiques—the original in Georgetown, and another in Alexandria. We love flavors like lavender-Shiraz, ginger, and almond amaretto, all artfully painted. Candy bars themed after regions of the United States, such as the bacon-studded South Bar, would make a fitting presidential purchase. 3235 P St., NW; 724 Jefferson St., Alexandria.

Got a suggestion for where President Obama should go? Let us know in the comments!

Posted at 09:51 AM/ET, 11/27/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
A look at the film, plus other Kennedy portrayals worth watching. By Carol Ross Joynt
Rob Lowe and Jack Noseworthy as John and Robert Kennedy. Photograph courtesy of the National Geographic Channel.

It would be nearly impossible to consume every book, movie, and TV show appearing over the next few weeks to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One of the first out of the chute (along with the October 4 theatrical release Parkland) is National Geographic Channel’s Killing Kennedy, which debuts Sunday night. 

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Posted at 01:31 PM/ET, 11/07/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Walter Scheib explains chefs' “food security clearance.” By Carol Ross Joynt

Photograph courtesy of Walter Scheib.

The issue of whether President Obama uses an official “food taster” tiptoed into a pool of controversy this week after a report that he had to refuse lobster salad at a lunch in the Capitol because his taster was not available. Whether that was in fact the case has not been resolved, but a former White House executive chef, Walter Scheib, has stepped forward to try to clear the air. The orginal report was on the Daily Caller, quoting Republican senator Susan Collins, who was at the lunch.

“There is no presidential food taster,” says Scheib, who ran the White House kitchen for 11 years for presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He claims the distinction of bringing “American contemporary cuisine” to White House menus after he was hired by First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1994. It caused quite a stir at the time, he recalls, after years of White House menus abiding to a code of mostly “continental” cuisine. 

Scheib says that while there is no “taster” there is still a lot of protection and security involved in what the President eats. “Nothing gets to the President that hasn’t fallen under somebody’s jurisdiction," he says. “If the President is just grabbing a pretzel randomly at the table, it’s been screened.” 

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Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 03/21/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Details from Wednesday night’s dinner, including the guest list, menu, and more. By Carol Ross Joynt
The Parlor Boardroom at the Jefferson, where President Obama dined with 12 Republican senators on Wednesday night. Photograph courtesy of the Jefferson Hotel.

It’s been widely reported that President Obama hosted a dinner at the Jefferson Hotel on Wednesday night for a group of 12 Republican senators. Here are some of the behind-the-scenes details we’ve learned about the dinner from a few good sources, showing that much was involved in putting the evening together.

• It lasted about two hours, from approximately 6:30 to 8:30.

• A few of the senators grabbed a glass of wine in the hotel’s bar before dinner. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina picked up the tab for the drinks.

• All food and drink was prepared under the watchful eyes of Secret Service agents.

• All staff who interacted with the President were pre-screened and cleared by security.

• The group dined in the Parlor Boardroom at one long table. The room can seat as many as 28, has its own wi-fi and a hook-up for a table phone, if needed. There was a computer set up in the room during dinner. The room also has special glass windows that can be “fogged” at the push of a button. In addition to the fog-effect windows, the room was screened off with draping.

• The senators entered and exited through the hotel’s front door on 16th Street, while the President used a private back entrance that led directly to the private dining room.

• Though the meal was served in one of the hotel’s private dining rooms, it was prepared by chef Chris Jakubiec and his staff at Plume, the Jefferson’s highly regarded signature restaurant.

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Posted at 02:25 PM/ET, 03/07/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The week has been all Michelle Obama, all the time. By Carol Ross Joynt
Since her Oscars appearance, the First Lady has kept the buzz going on behalf of her causes, like when she beat Jimmy Fallon in a sack race to promote her fitness initiative. Official White House photograph by Chuck Kennedy/White House Flickr feed.

Typically, once the President of the United States gives his State of the Union speech, the next day he embarks on some travel and appearances to bolster the points he made before Congress and the national television audience. It’s essentially big audience wholesale turned into smaller audience retail. Michelle Obama’s appearance on the Oscars broadcast Sunday—with an audience of 40 million—seems like her own version of the same formula, because this has been one very busy week for the First Lady. Is she running for something? Not that we’ve been told, but she’s been on the move all over the country, especially on behalf of her anti-obesity campaign.

Let’s break it down.

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Posted at 12:50 PM/ET, 02/28/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
How has our hoops-loving President’s record fared during March Madness? Here’s a closer look at Obama’s NCAA bracket performance, 2008–12. By Patrick Hruby
Photograph by Pete Souza/White House.

Forget gun control. Never mind a grand fiscal bargain. In March, there’s only one urgent national question facing Washingtonians that really, truly matters: How can President Obama help us win our NCAA men’s-basketball office pool?

Call it Baracketology: For the last half decade, Obama has made his March Madness bracket picks public. Some years, he has shown a winning touch (correctly picking 29 of 32 first-round games in 2011); other years, not so much (incorrectly picking the entire Final Four in 2010).

What can the rest of us learn from our commander in chief? After crunching the numbers, we identified four key lessons.

Overall picks

Championship picks

Final Four picks

First-round upset picks

Elite Eight picks

1. Be Conservative

Obama may be a Democrat, but he’s hardly a bracket liberal. In predicting a tournament renowned for its downright progressive upsets (when number-15 seed Lehigh knocked off number-2 seed Duke last year, it was college basketball’s answer to the 99 percent rising up against the 1 percent), the President prefers a cautious approach. To wit: Over five seasons, Obama has picked just one team seeded below number 3 (number-4 Pitt in 2008) to reach the Final Four. He also has predicted an average of 10.6 total upsets per bracket, roughly one game in which the higher seed loses per six games played. The President is similarly conservative in the wild and woolly 32-game first round, picking an average of only 6.4 upsets per year.

Turns out this is a wise approach.

Since 1985, the tournament has averaged just 8.1 first-round upsets. Moreover, only seven schools seeded below number 12 ever have made it to the Sweet Sixteen, while more than 70 percent of the Elite Eight has been composed of teams seeded between numbers 1 and 3. The upshot? Play it safe with the bulk of your bracket—particularly in the early rounds—and don’t bet on small-school underdogs to make deep runs. Practice Obama’s audacity of nope.

2. Don’t Be Too Conservative

If you want to win your pool, you’ll still have to pick a few early surprises. And you need to get them right. After all, Obama hasn’t posted a solid 74-percent first-round winning-pick percentage over five seasons by simply selecting higher seeds to win every game—favored teams won only 73 percent of their first-round games over the same span. The President was particularly prescient in 2011, hitting on five of his six upset picks and going 29-32 in the first round, a mark that reportedly would have placed him in the top 1 percent of the tens of thousands of fans who participated in a Yahoo online bracket contest.

In the pool-points-rich Elite Eight and beyond, however, you’re better off breaking with Obama’s play-it-safe strategy. On one hand, high seeds have a better chance of advancing; on the other, everyone else in your pool is likely picking the same handful of schools to reach the Final Four and the same 1-2 top teams to win it all. Make the same selections and the best you can do is tie your competitors. So look at the later rounds as an arbitrage opportunity: Double down on an undervalued high seed—such as number-3 seed and eventual national champion UConn in 2011—and give yourself a higher probability of winning your pool if your pick comes through.

Remember Obama’s scorching 2011 first-round performance? None of his Final Four picks—number-1 seeds Duke, Kansas, Pitt, and Ohio State—panned out. His bracket was utterly busted. Meanwhile, number-4 seed Kentucky reached the Final Four, while UConn and number-8 seed Butler (the previous year’s national runner-up) played in the championship game. Less presidential prudence would have gone a long way.

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Posted at 10:48 AM/ET, 02/27/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The lottery for online tickets is now open and runs through the weekend. By Carol Ross Joynt
Enter the lottery now for tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll. Photograph courtesy of Pete Souza/

The White House has opened an online lottery for parents and guardians who want to obtain tickets for the 135th annual Easter Egg Roll, which is held on the Monday after Easter on the mansion’s South Lawn. This year it will be Monday, April 1. The lottery runs through the weekend and closes at 10 AM on Monday, February 25. Enter online.

The principal restrictions are that children must be 13 years of age or younger. Tickets are free and cannot be sold.

The Easter Egg Roll is the largest event held at the White House each year, featuring live entertainment, sports and cooking activities, storytelling, and celebrity appearances along with the rolling of commemorative wooden eggs. This year’s egg will come in four colors—purple, blue, yellow, pink—and be embossed with the signatures of the President and First Lady.

Posted at 01:20 PM/ET, 02/22/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The list, issued by the White House, is diverse in professions, ages, and regions of the country By Carol Ross Joynt
President Obama during the 2010 State of the Union address. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user

First Lady Michelle Obama will have 25 special guests joining her in the House chamber Tuesday evening for the President’s State of the Union address at the Capitol. In the official realm they include the Vice President’s wife, Jill Biden, and senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, but the remainder of the guests span a diverse range of professions, experiences, ages, and personal stories. The list includes two people from Arlington, Virginia, and one from Crownsville, Maryland. Together the group will sit in a special box assigned to the First Lady.

From the White House, here’s the list of who will be sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday evening’s State of the Union address.

• The Vice President’s wife, Jill Biden

• Presidential senior adviser Valerie Jarrett

• Sergeant Sheena Adams of Vista, California, a team adviser and lead instructor for the Marine Corps Female Engagement Team

• Alan Aleman of Las Vegas, Nevada, a beneficiary of the Obama administration’s DREAM program

• Jack Andraka of Crownsville, Maryland, winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his creation of an early detection for pancreatic cancer

• Susan Baumgarner of Norman, Oklahoma, an early childhood educator

• Deb Carey of New Glarus, Wisconsin, a small business owner who founded the New Glarus Brewing company

• Sergeant Carlos Evans, USMC, of Cameron, North Carolina, a wounded warrior who is recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center from injuries received in Afghanistan during his fourth overseas deployment

• Tim Cook, of Cupertino, California, the CEO of Apple

• Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr., of Chicago, Illinois—the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, who was murdered in Chicago on January 29, eight days after she participated in the inaugural parade

• Menchu de Luna Sanchez of Secaucus, New Jersey—a registered nurse with the Langone Medical Center of New York University

• Bobak Ferdowsi of Pasadena, California—flight director for the Mars Curiosity rover team at NASA

• Bradley Henning of Louisville, Kentucky—a machinist with the Atlas Machine and Supply company

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Posted at 04:25 PM/ET, 02/12/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()