ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Two days. Two surprise outings from the White House for President Barack Obama. What will day three bring?
On Monday, Obama and Denis McDonough, the chief of staff, walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to Starbucks. On Tuesday, Obama cleared a seat in his motorcade for his education secretary, Arne Duncan, and together they were hustled to lunch in an Alexandria, Virginia, neighborhood known for its good restaurants. Obama had been invited earlier this year by the owner, who sent him a letter asking him to come try what she says is the best burger around, according to the White House.
What kind of outing will Wednesday bring? That's unknown. But the bottom line from the White House is to expect more such outings by a president whose term in office is winding down. Obama also complains with some regularity about life inside the White House "bubble" and speaks just as often about how it refreshes him to get out of the building and mingle with everyday people.
When Obama travels around the country, aides often schedule what's known in White House parlance as an OTR at a local business, a visit that is considered "off the record" because the stop is not on his public schedule.
He's been making these kinds of appearances in the Washington area with increasing frequency of late. "It's one of the things that he enjoyed a lot about the campaign," spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday, referencing Obama's presidential campaigns. "It afforded him the opportunity to spend a lot of time ... outside of the gates of the White House. He's looking for opportunities to do more of that now, and that's what he's doing."
After lunch, Obama greeted patrons of FireFlies Restaurant in Alexandria's Del Ray neighborhood but said he couldn't pose for pictures with everyone because he had to get back to work. "I'll give you a hug. I'll give you a kiss, if you want," he said.
Obama also spoke on the telephone at the bar with the restaurant's owner, telling Marylisa Lichens he was sorry she wasn't there but that he was "very happy" with his "tasty burger." Burger runs are becoming a regular thing for Obama. Last month, he and Vice President Joe Biden surprised diners at Shake Shack in DuPont Circle. The guest on one of Obama's more notable burger runs was then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Obama's surprise outings aren't limited to the hunt for cooked beef patties on sesame seed buns. Recent weeks brought a walk to the Interior Department for a ceremony and a stop at a Washington park where Little League baseball teams warmed up for a game. Obama tossed a ball to a 10-year-old.
Obama referred to himself on at least two of these occasions by saying that "the bear is loose."
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