Past presidents have described the White House as "the crown jewel of the federal penal system" and "the great white jail." And lately, President Obama has been increasingly sending signals he's feeling claustrophobic in the presidential bubble.
1. That 'Bear' Thing
He keeps referring to himself as a "bear on the loose" while doing things that would be perfectly normal and mundane to regular people ... like walking around.
"I don't know, I'm just going to make it up as I go along," said Obama on Thursday at a town hall-style event. "With Secret Service, I always tease them I'm like a caged bear and every once in a while I break loose, and I'm feeling super loose today."
After the event, the bear did, in fact, get loose.
2. He Suddenly Loves To Shop
First it was the trip to the Gap, where he bought sweaters for his daughters. He talked about it for weeks.
Then, on Thursday, he dropped by the Golden Fig in St. Paul, Minn. According to the White House, it is "a small, specialty food store that carries Midwest-produced foods and gifts."
According to the pool report, Obama bought a lot of stuff. Salted caramels, salsa, blue corn chips and apple chips.
Then, the pool report says he chatted with two young women at the checkout counter.
"This is the kind of store you want to pop into," said Obama. "They don't let me do this stuff anymore. I used to be able to do this stuff."
On Monday, President Obama visited a Chipotle restaurant. While ordering his burrito bowl he (gasp!) reached over the sneeze guard, setting off a Twitter storm. Later when describing his exploits, he referred to the fast-casual Mexican eatery as "Chipotle's." Clearly, it had been too long since his last burrito bowl.
4. His Wallet
As president, it turns out you don't really need a wallet. And for security reasons, Obama isn't allowed to carry credit cards anyway. According to Thursday's pool report, from Washington Post reporter David Nakamura, that seems to bug the president.
"Obama pulled out some cash from his wallet and told the press it makes him happy when he can have his wallet, but he has just two things in his wallet these days — cash and his driver's license. It expires in 2016, he said, noting it was an old photo but a good one. 'I was a little younger then.' "
5. He Got Groans Of Disapproval At An Ice Cream Shop
After the grocery adventure, Obama was on a roll. So he stopped by an ice cream shop called the Grand Ole Creamery. But he got groans of disapproval when he told the young scoopers of his days as an employee at Baskin-Robbins.
He ordered Black Hills Gold, a caramel-based ice cream with pralines and cookies — in a fresh waffle cone.
Could it be that the president is doing what most of us do when we're stressed — eating really unhealthy yet comforting food?
In recent weeks, Obama has visited a Shake Shack in Washington, D.C., the Fireflies restaurant in Alexandria, Va. (where he got a "tasty burger"), and most recently Matt's Bar, home of the Jucy Lucy. It's like the Twinkie of burgers, with cheese stuffed into the beef patty.
We can only imagine what the health-conscious first lady has to say about all this red meat and cheese.
7. He's Threatening To Go Rogue
President Obama is getting mighty close to saying he's mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.
"I'm supposed to be, you know, politic about how I say things," Obama said in a speech on Friday. "But I'm finding lately that I just want to say what's on my mind."
The crowd roared.
8. Seeking Out Babies
Is the president so desperate for human contact he's seeking out even sweaty, crying babies? Yes, it seems so.
On Monday, at the White House Summit on Working Families, President Obama talked about needing a baby fix.
"People ask me what do I love most about being president," he said. "I was telling folks the other day that one of the best perks about being president is anybody will hand you their baby — here. So I get this baby fix like two or three times a week."
And, so, as he returned to the White House from Minnesota on Friday, he made a bee line for the assembled reporters (not something he normally does). The pool report picks up from here:
"He waved toward the cameras and the pool. It was then that he spotted the adorable baby nestled in the arms of ABC's Ann Compton. It was time for an executive decision to change course, so he veered sharply to his right and made a beeline for the baby and her grandmother. The baby was Olivia Hughes, age six months ... When the president arrived at the rope line, he commanded, 'Give me that baby.' Addressing little Olivia, he inquired, 'How you doing?' There was no discernible response from Olivia."
That pool report is courtesy of George Condon of National Journal.