WASHINGTON — The bear was loose again on Tuesday.
Twice in two days, President Obama has veered from his official schedule and shaken off the confines of White House security to get a taste of life on the outside. At one point he left his Secret Service detail, the reporters who cover his every move and even his own staff scrambling to keep up.
“The bear is loose,” Mr. Obama likes to say of these unplanned outings, comparing himself to a circus bear off his chain.
On Monday, it was an impromptu stroll with his chief of staff to a nearby Starbucks, where the president had a venti-size cup of tea, sending reporters and members of his senior staff scurrying around downtown Washington in search of Mr. Obama as he shook hands with passers-by…
Blocks away, another aide who had rushed to intercept the president at a Dunkin’ Donuts stood gazing around on a street corner, cellphone to ear, realizing too late that she was in the wrong place.
On Tuesday, it was lunch at a burger joint in suburban Virginia, FireFlies, with Arne Duncan, the education secretary. Mr. Obama admired babies and shook hands with patrons, but warned that he would not be off his chain long enough for pictures with everyone. “I’ll be here too long,” Mr. Obama said at the restaurant, in Alexandria. “I’ve got to get back to work pretty quick.”
NYT: Obama’s Moments of Freedom Send His Aides Scrambling
10:17—The Bear enters Murtaugh’s Hardware, approaches several customers and asks, “Hey, do you know where I can get a five-cent screw,” cracking self up repeatedly.
10:22—The Bear visits Aaron’s Sporting Goods, tries on several Speedos and is overheard asking, “Say, does my skinny ass make these trunks look fat?” “Later, bitches,” he says as a parting shot as he exits, cackling.
10:25—The Bear spends several minutes mesmerized by a street mime, drops a 10-dollar bill in the performer’s hat, and says quietly, “You had me at the glass box, dude. You had me at the glass box.”
10:31—A block and a half away, the Bear purchases a set of curtain rod finials at Pottery Barn, exits as he is overheard complaining, “Sold in sets of two only. What a load of horseshit. I just need one goddamn finial, for Christ’s sake. Talk about waste, fraud and abuse.”
10:39—The Bear quickly downs a couple Bud Lights at The Hoop & Pigskin sports bar. Bystanders claim he tells the bartnder, “Hey, I’m off duty for at least another 10 minutes, so I’m not worried about it. Hit me again, good sir.” Leaves a $2 tip, stifles a belch, exits.
10:46—The advance and follow teams finally catch up to the Bear just as he is leaving a fragrance store holding up a small package and exclaiming, “Paco Rabanne—that’s my jam!”
10:49—Bear back on the chain. “Show’s over, folks,” he manages to shout to startled pedestrians, as a member of the Secret Service detail shoves him into the back of his limousine. Damage control commences.