Oba­mas en­joy fi­nal hol­i­day on tax­pay­ers

An­nual trips to to­tal $35 mil­lion

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVE BOYER

For the last time, tax­pay­ers are pay­ing for a Hawai­ian Christ­mas va­ca­tion for Pres­i­dent Obama and his fam­ily, an an­nual lux­ury get­away that has cost the Trea­sury eas­ily more than $35 mil­lion over eight years.

Golfing on ocean­side cour­ses, din­ing at high-end restau­rants and frol­ick­ing on stunning white-sand beaches where se­cu­rity guards keep other tourists at bay, the pres­i­dent and his fam­ily are in the midst of a 17-day hol­i­day that re­quires dozens of Se­cret Ser­vice agents, military per­son­nel and other gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ees to guar­an­tee their safety and ease of travel around Oahu.

The Oba­mas are once again rent­ing a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ocean­front home in Kailua, a town on the north­east side of the is­land where houses in the neigh­bor­hood fetch around $10 mil­lion. It’s near golf cour­ses and a Ma­rine Corps base where the pres­i­dent goes for morn­ing

work­outs at the gym.

One plan­ta­tion-style house in Kailua touted on­line as the “Obama win­ter White House” is listed for sale for $8 mil­lion, fea­tur­ing more than 7,000 square feet of in­te­rior space, 5.5 bath­rooms, five bed­rooms, a rock-walled pool and wa­ter­fall, three lanais (porches) and ma­jes­tic ocean views.

The pres­i­dent’s itinerary on Wed­nes­day was typ­i­cal — a work­out at the gym fol­lowed by a mo­tor­cade trip to Bel­lows Beach.

“Bel­lows could hardly be more ideal, with a wide strip of ma­ture pines edg­ing up to a white sand beach,” said a pool re­porter chron­i­cling the pres­i­dent’s trav­els. “The wa­ter of­fers four dis­tinct shades of aqua­ma­rine go­ing out to what ap­pears to be a reef, where white break­ers form a bound­ary with a sap­phire blue Pa­cific be­yond.”

The Oba­mas pay for the Kailua ren­tal home them­selves each year. Last year, their rented es­tate was priced at $5,000 to $10,000 per night, de­pend­ing on the sea­son.

Tax­pay­ers foot the bill for nearly ev­ery­thing else.

The first fam­ily’s Christ­mas va­ca­tion in 2015 cost tax­pay­ers more than $4.8 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the con­ser­va­tive watch­dog group Ju­di­cial Watch, which ob­tained Se­cret Ser­vice records af­ter fil­ing Freedom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests and a law­suit. Mul­ti­ply that cost by eight years, and tax­pay­ers have paid in the range of $35 mil­lion to $40 mil­lion — at a min­i­mum — for the first fam­ily’s trop­i­cal va­ca­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s re­view of gov­ern­ment records, the Se­cret Ser­vice spent more than $1.2 mil­lion on travel costs alone for the Oba­mas’ Hawaii trip last year. The pro­tec­tive ser­vice’s to­tal in­cluded just over $1 mil­lion for ho­tel and lodg­ing, with agents rent­ing sev­eral Kailua homes for 19 nights at a cost of nearly $250,000, and rooms at the Ala Moana Ho­tel cost­ing more than $671,000.

It could be tough for the av­er­age tourist to rent a car on Oahu when the Oba­mas are vis­it­ing. Last year, the Se­cret Ser­vice rented 103 cars from Alamo, Avis and Hertz at a to­tal cost to tax­pay­ers of $165,893.

Ju­di­cial Watch Pres­i­dent Tom Fit­ton said Mr. Obama has taken too much ad­van­tage of the travel perks of his of­fice.

“The Se­cret Ser­vice and the Air Force are be­ing abused by un­nec­es­sary travel,” Mr. Fit­ton said. “Un­nec­es­sary presidential travel for fundrais­ing and lux­ury va­ca­tions on the tax­pay­ers’ dime would be a good tar­get for re­form for the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Mr. Obama will mix in some business dur­ing his last Hawai­ian va­ca­tion. On Tues­day, he will host Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe for a visit to Pearl Har­bor to honor the more than 2,000 U.S. ser­vice mem­bers killed by Ja­pan’s at­tack in De­cem­ber 1941, pro­pel­ling the U.S. into World War II.

Mr. Abe wants to use the visit to send a mes­sage that the al­liance be­tween for­mer foes Ja­pan and the U.S. is solid. He was the first for­eign head of state to meet with Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump af­ter the Nov. 8 elec­tion.

When Mr. Obama made a historic visit to Hiroshima, Ja­pan, in May to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bomb­ing, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Does Pres­i­dent Obama ever dis­cuss the sneak at­tack on Pearl Har­bor while he’s in Ja­pan? Thou­sands of Amer­i­can lives lost.”

Mr. Abe will not apol­o­gize for the at­tack 75 years ago, say­ing his trip will be “a visit to soothe the souls of the vic­tims. We should never re­peat the rav­ages of the war.”

Mr. Obama like­wise didn’t apol­o­gize for Hiroshima, al­though some in the U.S. viewed the visit it­self as a sym­bolic apol­ogy.

The prime min­is­ter’s visit to Pearl Har­bor will “ex­press the value of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween Ja­pan and the United States,” Chief Cabi­net Sec­re­tary Yoshi­hide Suga said this month.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Abe also will hold their fi­nal sum­mit in Hawaii be­fore the pres­i­dent leaves of­fice on Jan. 20.


JUST AN­OTHER DAY IN PAR­ADISE: Golfing and morn­ing work­outs at a Ma­rine Corps gym are on Pres­i­dent Obama’s itinerary for his Hawai­ian va­ca­tion.


Se­cu­rity guards keep other tourists away as Pres­i­dent Obama plays a round at Kapolei Golf Club near the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ocean­front home where he is stay­ing.

The first fam­ily’s mo­tor­cade makes its way from Bel­lows Beach, which a pool re­porter says “could hardly be more ideal. … The wa­ter of­fers four dis­tinct shades of aqua­ma­rine go­ing out to what ap­pears to be a reef.”

Shave ice is a treat for the pres­i­dent. He and his fam­ily also dine at high-end restau­rants and frolic on white-sand beaches

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