On Thursday’s Newsroom program, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta indirectly compared the Obama family to the pregnant Virgin Mary and St. Joseph looking for a place to stay in Bethlehem during a report about the unavailability of the Blair House: “...[I]t’s still not clear why there wasn’t enough room at the inn for the Obamas. The 70,000 square foot complex is actually bigger than the White House. There are 119 rooms, 14 guest bedrooms, 35 bathrooms, four dining rooms, dry cleaning facilities, an exercise room, and a fully-equipped hair salon.” Acosta also played clips from two sympathetic liberals who bewailed the situation.
Acosta began his report by presenting the lack of accommodations at the presidential guest house as a “Washington mystery.” He then played his first clip from Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University who unsuccessfully ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Maryland in 2006. The on-screen graphic described Lichtman, who ran on anti-war, pro-abortion platform in the primary, as merely a “presidential historian.”
The correspondent emphasized the “mystery” component of the story by highlighting how “the Bush administration said the house was already booked, and wouldn’t provide details” and that “in addition to a few events already slated for the Blair House, there was a mystery guest.”
After Acosta revealed that the “mystery guest” was Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, he played his second clip from Lichtman, who described Howard as a someone who was “most staunchly behind the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.” When Acosta referenced the “coalition of the willing,” Lichtman replied, “He was one of the very few of really willing.” Actually, as of December 18, 2008, four countries besides Australia had troops in Iraq, and 33 countries other than the U.S. have had troops in the country at one time or another since 2003.
The correspondent, after making his “no room at the inn” remark, also played the professor’s take on the size of the Blair House complex: “There’s room at the Blair House for John Howard, an entire Australian-rules football team, as well as the Obamas.” A clip from The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn, whose liberal leanings was also not mentioned, concluded the report.
The full transcript of Jim Acosta’s report, which began 54 minutes into the 9 am Eastern hour of Thursday’s Newsroom program:
HEIDI COLLINS: The Obamas checked in at a Washington hotel, because early check-in was denied at the presidential guest house. CNN’s Jim Acosta reports now on the Blair House mystery.
(CNN GRAPHIC: “No Room at Blair House?”)
PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: I just want to thank the president for hosting us.
ACOSTA (voice-over): It didn’t come up on camera at the presidential power lunch, but it’s been a Washington mystery for weeks.
ALLAN LICHTMAN, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: It’s like a big splat of egg in the face of the Bush administration for it to come out this way.
ACOSTA: An official hotel for guests of the White House, the Blair House is supposed to be available to the president-elect on January 15th. With the girls starting school on the 5th, the Obamas had asked for an early check-in. But the Bush administration said the house was already booked, and wouldn’t provide details.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why don’t you --
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY DANA PERINO: I think that’s three questions you already asked.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In consideration of these children that are going to school, why not let them come?
PERINO: Thank you.
ACOSTA: As it turns out, in addition to a few events already slated for the Blair House, there was a mystery guest.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Somebody said don’t -- you and John Howard appear to be so close, don't you have any differences? And I said, yeah, he doesn’t have any hair.
ACOSTA: Who is not a mystery anymore -- Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard will be staying there on January 12th to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
LICHTMAN: He was one of the world leaders, when he was in power, who was most staunchly behind the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.
ACOSTA: The coalition of the willing.
LICHTMAN: He was one of the very few of really willing.
ACOSTA: But it’s still not clear why there wasn’t enough room at the inn for the Obamas. The 70,000 square foot complex is actually bigger than the White House. There are 119 rooms, 14 guest bedrooms, 35 bathrooms, four dining rooms, dry cleaning facilities, an exercise room, and a fully-equipped hair salon.
LICHTMAN: There’s room at the Blair House for John Howard, an entire Australian-rules football team, as well as the Obamas. (laughs)
ACOSTA: Washington writer and socialite Sally Quinn says an executive order should have been issued.
SALLY QUINN: If I had been the Bushes, I would have said, you know, mi casa, su casa -- of course, we would love to have you and your children stay there.
ACOSTA (on-camera): For now, the First Family is staying at the upscale Hay-Adams Hotel. A spokeswoman for First Lady Laura Bush says she believes the Obama family is quote, ‘very understanding about the scheduling conflict.’ The Obama transition team has its own statement that can be summed up as ‘no worries.’ Translation: he’s got bigger fish to fry. Jim Acosta, CNN, Washington.