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4 Washingtonians’ Takes on the Obama Administration

Obama sitting for the Smithsonian team making the first-ever presidential portrait created by a 3-D scan. Photo by Alamy.

“Obama has relished needling the establishments of Washington, especially in foreign policy. One result is that there’s not necessarily an institution where, say, he really put his thumb on the scale. I don’t see anyone reaping a reward the way the American Enterprise Institute did during the George W. Bush years.”

Derek Chollet, Assistant Secretary of Defense, 2012–15

“The thing about the Bush family is that they’d leave for Texas. That made it hard for us to personalize Washington as their hometown. The current First Family has helped promote our DC Cool campaign. I was in Spain once, and a resident turned to me and said, ‘Ben’s Chili Bowl!’ He’d clearly seen the news about Obama going there. It was nice to see that new things had stuck.”

Elliott Ferguson, CEO of Destination DC

“The Obamas ventured to H Street, to 14th Street—to neighborhoods that were well on their way but still transitional. I’d pinch myself, because it seemed like I was out there just yesterday trying to convince people H Street was a destination, and then it felt like overnight the President was going there for dinner.”

Jim Abdo, CEO of Abdo Development

“After Michelle Obama announced her school-lunch reform initiative, the White House got 12 chefs together. We each picked a school and looked at what was missing. We began doing school-wide demos on healthy cooking, and it just grew from there. It helped chefs realize we have a true voice in this space.”

Spike Mendelsohn, Chef and restaurateur

This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Washingtonian.

 

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Staff Writer

Elaina Plott joined Washingtonian in June 2016 as a staff writer. She has written about her past life as an Ann Coulter fangirl, how the Obamas changed Washington, and the rise and fall of Roll Call. She previously covered Congress for National Review. Her writing has appeared in the New York Observer, GQ, and Harper’s Bazaar.