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Obama slips out of White House to hit local barbecue restaurant

June 13, 2012|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • President Obama has lunch with two active-duty members of the armed services and two local barbers Wednesday at Kenny's BBQ on Capitol Hill in Washington.
President Obama has lunch with two active-duty members of the armed services… (Martin H. Simon / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON – President Obama unexpectedly ducked out of the White House for lunch on Wednesday, heading to a barbecue restaurant near Capitol Hill.

The White House said the president was honoring Father’s Day by dining with two active-duty military dads and two local barbers involved in a federal program to promote fatherhood.

The men ate at Kenny’s Smokehouse in northeast Washington, D.C., and chatted about parenting and haircuts as the president looked down at a plate of beef ribs, greens, black-eyed peas and a corn muffin.

Such unannounced ventures in D.C. are relatively rare for Obama. Although First Lady Michelle Obamais known to go out to dinner with friends in the city -- often to hotspots on the dining scene – the president has been reluctant to regularly tie up traffic with drop-ins around town.

Kenny’s is more of a local favorite than a hotspot, but the small, corner restaurant is near the up-and-coming corridor of revitalization in a historically black neighborhood that locals say never recovered from the 1968 riots. The Obamas have supported the H Street neighborhood before. They recently took supporters out to dinner there as part of a campaign contest.

Obama ate with two longtime neighborhood figures. Nurney Mason has operated Mason’s Barber Shop on H Street for 51 years. His employee, Otis “Big O” Gamble, has been a barber at Mason’s for 45 years. Both men participate in a Health and Human Services campaign called “Fatherhood Buzz,” which uses barbers to spread “positive information” to dads, according to the White House.

Obama also ate with 1st Lt. William Edwards of the U.S. Army, the 2012 Military Fatherhood Award Winner, and Capt. Joubert Paulino of the U.S Army based at Fort Meade.

A White House reporter allowed to listen in briefly heard the president chatting about the importance of fathers. Kids with fathers are "less likely to do drugs. … it makes a huge difference," Obama said.

He also joked that the two military men should get a discount at the barber, noting the length of their hair.
 
"It wouldn't be that complicated," he said.

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kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

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