Mountains Out of Molehills: WaPo Hypes Obama's 'Amazing' Arrival In D.C.

Barack Obama arriving in Washington to prepare for assuming the presidency is a newsworthy fact. But just arriving isn’t really a front-page story. As the Post explained Monday, "There were no speeches, no ceremonies or official welcoming committees. Instead, Barack Obama, a man famous for his no-drama persona, arrived in the nation's capital in a similarly subdued fashion."

But the Post splashed this spare-change news across the front page with the headline "Obama Arrives In Style: Crowds Greet President-Elect at Hotel; Daughters Begin School."

Reporters William Wan and Nikita Stewart went looking for people inside and outside the Hay-Adams Hotel having thrills up their leg at the chance to spot an Obama:

Don't let the cool demeanors fool you, though, said one diner. "That's what everyone's thinking about even if they don't say it," Terrance Mason said later, a safe distance from the elegant dining room. "Just to be in the same building, to be breathing the same air. It's amazing."

The "crowds" were small, described as "scores of strangers," but the Post is trying to build a historic moment here. The front page also carried the promotional headline "Crowds gather near Hay-Adams [Hotel], hoping for a glimpse / Style, C1".

On the top of the front page of the Style section was another story on the scattered Obama fans in front of the hotel: "The Long Wait for a Quick Glimpse of History." Reporter DeNeen Brown compared the Obama to the British royal family and underlined how the Obamas were the In crowd, and no one cared about the outgoing Bush family:

On Sunday morning, crowds gather in front of the posh hotel on 16th Street NW, near Lafayette Square, where Secret Service officers have turned the block into a fortress of gray barriers and white canopies.

The barriers hold back scores of people who gather in front of St. John's Church, the pale yellow building across the street, where President and Mrs. Bush are attending services. The crowds do not appear to know that the Bushes are inside the church. People are facing the hotel, hoping for a sighting....

You think about the poor crowds who pressed their faces against the black gates at Buckingham Palace to glimpse the future Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding day in 1947. You see in the old black-and-white grainy footage the anticipation in the faces of the crowd. You do not know how long the British throngs had been waiting. Or how far they came. But you see in their faces a need to be acknowledged. Then Elizabeth comes on a balcony and waves. It is not an excited wave. She doesn't bother to lift her arm above her shoulder. It is a tired gloved wave, a twist of the wrist. The crowd erupts in cheers. Elizabeth turns and retreats into the palace. But she has satisfied the need of those outside the gates.

It feels like that here, on a much smaller scale. Standing on 16th Street at midmorning, small crowds of Washingtonians and tourists have gathered with anticipation to watch for the Obamas. Not really knowing what to expect.

This crowd later spotted Michelle Obama and her girls and received a wave from the alleged American queen as they hopped in a limousine. The Post suggested in its headline that "patience is rewarded."

On the front page of the whole paper, William Wan and Nikita Stewart tried to inflate the importance of small details usually buried in a White House pool report:

His limousine pulled up to claps and cheers from crowds lining the blocks near the hotel and also the cries of protesters angry about the Gaza Strip -- a reminder of the vexing problems he will face when he takes office. Then, in seconds, he was whisked inside.

Although the moment was brief, its historic nature was not lost on many in the crowd. For some, it marked the beginning of a long-promised day. For others around town, it was the move that triggers a thousand other moves, as loyalists of the old regime make room for coming appointees, staff workers and their families.

And throughout the District, longtime residents talked about forging a new kind of relationship with their president, one more intimate than any before.

The Post seemed so determined to build the moment it suggested Obama had never lived before in D.C. despite joining the Senate in 2005. Over his picture were the words "Making the District His Home."

Washington Post Obama Watch DeNeen Brown
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