The bear is loose: Obama leaves White House without ever-present press


McClatchy Washington Bureau

President Barack Obama slipped out of the White House on foot today, declaring “the bear is loose” as he strolled a block to Starbucks, leaving reporters to scramble to catch up.

Obama -- who invoked the bear when he rambled out of the White House on May 21 -- left with chief of staff Denis McDonough. But not with the ever-present contingent of White House reporters, who were alerted after Obama and McDonough had left the building.

The White House press pool didn’t spot Obama until he was leaving the coffee shop at 17th and Pennsylvania avenues, carrying what reporters said appeared to be a venti-sized beverage.

During the walk, Obama instructed the press pool to keep its distance and give him room, at one point saying to the White House “wranglers,” who work with the press “let's test your wrangling skills."

As he had during a stroll to the nearby Interior Department on May 21, Obama stopped and exchanged pleasantries with onlookers, chatting with a hot dog vendor and construction workers in front of the Renwick Gallery near the White House.

The walkabout is the latest in a series of out-of-the-White-House ventures that suggest that after six years in office, Obama is chafing a bit at the restrictive nature of the job.

“I don’t get a chance to take walks very often,” he told an audience last month at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “Secret Service gets a little stressed. But every once in a while I’m able to sneak off. I’m sort of like the circus bear that kind of breaks the chain, and I start taking off, and everybody starts whispering, ‘The bear is loose!”

It also gives the White House an opportunity to cast Obama as a man of the people: An ever-present White House video crew filmed his surprise trip to Interior, showing astonished tourists gasping as the president walked over to shake hands and pose for pictures.

“We think you'll get a kick out of it,” the White House website says of the video. “Take a look -- and then pass it on.”

The first trip also spurred a new Twitter profile: @BearObama

“Get used to it, not hiding my true self anymore. Rawr!” @BearObama tweeted on Monday.

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