Obamacare might be the nightmare before Christmas for those trying to sign up online, but it turns out that the White House does have a functioning web operation. And it was on full display on Thursday night as President Barack Obama celebrated Halloween with some 5,000 area schoolchildren and kids of military families.
The web in question housed a giant inflatable black widow spider above the entrance of the famed South Portico, with about a dozen more of the eight-legged creepy-crawlies swarming down the columns, escorted by bats and crows. Two large autumn wreaths were hung nearby.
At about 5:30 p.m., kids walked up the driveway and formed a line that snaked from near the main door, past the East Wing and down the driveway as far as this pooler's eye could see.
The president, first lady Michelle Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson, emerged shortly thereafter.
"Hi guys! Come on down," the president called out. He was wearing an orange shirt, black sweater and khakis. The first lady had on an orange and black top and orange pants. Mrs. Robinson was in orange as well. All three carried baskets with White House treats wrapped in individual clear-plastic packages.
Nearby, bales of hay were home to four carved white pumpkins spelling out "BOO!" under the vigilant eye of an inflatable black cat.
Not far, one cobweb-festooned pumpkin bore the carved message “LET’S MOVE!” (That, this reporter's experience growing up and the fact that Obama proclaimed November 2013 to be National Diabetes Month a few hours ago might have served as a warning to skip That House, lest you get 14 pennies in a UNICEF envelope and a near-its-past-due-date bag of baby carrots. But the Obamas gave out real treats, including boxed White House M&Ms, orange butter cookies shaped like the White House, and dried fruit mix. A junior administration official shared a piece of cookie with your pooler. Cookie = tasty).
The procession of kids began with Nakaiya, 10, who was dressed as "a goddess." She clutched a green plastic jack-o'-lantern treat basket. The most popular costumes (at least during the stretch of time when this reporter was present) seemed to be Mario (of video game legend) for boys and Dorothy (with ruby slippers) for girls. But there were pirates, fairies, a few Legos Ninjago Ninjas, a helmet-less Darth Vader, a Waldo, a couple of Captain Americas (one asked for his treat to be placed on his shield). There was a Big Bad Wolf; a superbly convincing Madeline; and a dad, mom, and three kids as Smurfs. Harry Potters and Hermione Grangers outnumbered Thomas the Tank engines. Reporters swooned over a homemade Abraham Lincoln costume.
The president's comments were mostly inaudible, except when he recognized one young girl in a white flowing outfit and a hood or hat that resembled an iconic hairstyle: "Princess Leia!" he called out, grinning.
The Babka family's homemade costumes might have been this reporter’s favorites: Mom and Dad as graham crackers, kids as a Hershey's bar and a marshmallow. Those s'mores are originally from Ohio, but he is a Marine stationed in Virginia.
There were grown-up actors clad as Wizard of Oz characters — perhaps most notable was Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, in a giant inflated plastic bubble. Other costumes: zebras, Snow White, a luchadora, a penguin, a flamingo, Dan Marino, a stoplight, Scooby-Doo, Indiana Jones, the Wicked Witch, the Tin Man.
The first dogs were represented. A Sunny statue, made of ribbons, was dressed as a sunflower. Bo, made of pipe cleaners, was a pirate, complete with eye patch, saber, hat with a bone decoration, and striped trousers.
On the South Lawn stood a ring of ghosts (they appeared to be sheets supported by posts). In front of the East Wing garden, 14 carved pumpkins spelled out "HAPPY HALLOWEEN."