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White House unbuttons formal dress code

world Updated: Jan 29, 2009 23:26 IST
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The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket.

There was, however, a logical explanation: Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, OK?” said his senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

Thus did a rule of the George W. Bush administration — coat and tie in the Oval Office at all times — fall by the wayside. Obama promised to bring change to Washington, and he has — not just in substance, but in presidential style.

The president arrives at work shortly before 9 in the morning, roughly two hours later than his early-to-bed, early-to-rise predecessor.

Under Bush, punctuality was a virtue.

Meetings started early: Bush once famously locked his secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, out of the Cabinet Room when Powell showed up a few minutes late. In the Obama White House, meetings start on time and often finish late.

Over the weekend, Obama’s first in office, his aides did not quite know how to dress. So the president issued an informal edict for “business casual” on weekends — and set his own example.

He showed up Saturday for a briefing with his chief economics adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, dressed in slacks and a gray sweater over a white but toned-down shirt.