WASHINGTON — President Obama has begun many outside-the-Beltway speeches with a suggestion that he, too, feels like an outsider in the nation’s capital.
“It is good to be out of Washington,” he often says, a line that always generates sympathetic applause.
Now, Obama has raised the possibility that he might remain a resident of the capital after his lease on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. expires in January 2017.
In an interview this week with Barbara Walters of ABC News, Obama and the first lady, Michelle, said they may live in Washington beyond their time in the White House to allow their younger daughter, Sasha, to graduate from Sidwell Friends School.
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Sasha would be a high-school sophomore at the end of the president’s second term, giving the family a couple of years to enjoy, or endure, Washington as private citizens.
“We gotta make sure that she’s doing well … until she goes off to college,” Obama told Walters, according to an advance transcript of the interview, which aired Friday night. “Sasha will have a big say in where we are.”
He said his wife and daughters already have made “a lot of sacrifices on behalf of my cockamamie ideas, the running for office and things.”
In another portion of the interview, Mrs. Obama says she tries not to tell her husband what to do because, “He’s got enough people in his ear.”
“I try to stay out of his ear,” she said.
For a couple who celebrate Chicago as often as they skewer Washington’s nasty political culture, the suggestion that they may stick around past the constitutionally mandated time is surprising.
Obama would be the first former president to remain in Washington post-presidency since the dying Woodrow Wilson more than nine decades ago.
Sticking around is “a terrible idea and I can’t imagine it will last very long,” said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution. “Once you’re in Washington you are somehow connected to every problem that your predecessor is going to be confronting. And you will be asked to say something each time your name comes up, given that you will have reporters camping out on your doorstep.”
Josh Earnest, White House principal deputy press secretary, said the decision will likely be made late in the president’s term and pivot largely on Sasha, who is 12 and in seventh grade. Malia, 15, a high-school sophomore, will have left for college by then.
“I think it is school and Sasha being able to keep her social group as much as possible — that is what is most important to them,” Earnest said.
The Obamas have kept their home in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, staying there on some visits home. Their departure was always meant to be temporary. As Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and senior adviser to Obama, said as the family decamped for Washington, “It is really not goodbye. Rather, Chicago will say, ‘See you soon.’ ”
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.