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A Burger Run Or A Photo Op?

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
It's not that President Obama can't get a first-rate hamburger from one of the five chefs in the White House kitchens, but we're told he likes getting out of this building he fought so fiercely to occupy.

And so, for the second time this month, Mr. Obama went out for a lunch of burgers and fries. He fired up the motorcade and drove a couple of miles into southeast D.C. to a Five Guys restaurant near Nationals' Stadium.

This time, he didn't take Vice President Biden along. Instead, he was accompanied by NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who was at the White House today taping elements for his two-part hour-long prime time specials on a day-in-the-life the president.

Spokesman Robert Gibbs pooh-poohed a reporter's suggestion that today's burger outing was staged principally for the benefit of NBC's cameras.

"I can assure you it was done simply for the benefit of the appetite of the Commander-in-Chief," he said.

Don't believe it. NBC had its own camera van in the motorcade and another camera on a boom to get a moving high-shot of the president's limo pulling away on the South Lawn.

The visit to the burger joint provided just the kind of pictures the White House wants people to see about the president's life.

"Oh my God," screamed one lunch patron as she saw Mr. Obama pop out of his limo and head into the restaurant. "I can't believe it," said another.

When it was his turn at the counter, he ordered himself a cheeseburger and fries to go. Toppings? You bet. Jalapenos, tomatoes and mustard, he said. "That's it for me," but then added, "plus lettuce on mine too."

He ordered burgers and fries for many of the members of his entourage, including Williams. Taking out his wallet, Mr. Obama peeled off four $20 bills to pay for the sizeable takeout order and then chatted with other patrons as he waited, munching on the free peanuts Five Guys provide. He was warmly received by all the other customers, most of whom couldn't believe he was there.

When his number was called, the president went back to the counter to claim his takeout order, packed in two large brown shopping bags. He posed for a group photo with the guys and gals from Five Guys and headed back to the White House to eat. But it was NBC producers really smacking their lips at getting a fun segment for their day-in-the-life broadcast.

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: