PRES­I­DEN­TIAL PERKS Obama given pri­vacy, few tasks dur­ing 16-day va­ca­tion in par­adise

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVE BOYER

His­tory will record that on the 12th day of his lat­est Hawai­ian va­ca­tion, Pres­i­dent Obama tweeted about Oba­macare.

That was one of the pres­i­dent’s few vis­i­ble acts of of­fi­cial busi­ness dur­ing his 16-day hol­i­day re­treat be­fore he and his fam­ily re­turn to Wash­ing­ton on Sun­day. The pres­i­dent’s win­ter re­cess has ri­valed just about any­one’s dream get­away, filled with golf, din­ners at high-end restau­rants and qual­ity beach time.

The pres­i­dent’s aides say he is al­ways on the job, even in the Pa­cific par­adise. Mr. Obama, they said, has re­ceived daily pres­i­den­tial brief­ings — se­cret guid­ance culled from in­tel­li­gence agen­cies about hot spots around the world.

The White House also is­sued a state­ment this week from Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama wish­ing a speedy re­cov­ery for for­mer first lady Bar­bara Bush, who is hos­pi­tal­ized in Houston with a res­pi­ra­tory ail­ment.

While in Hawaii, the pres­i­dent also has taken part in a se­cure con­fer­ence call about the cri­sis in South Su­dan, signed a hand­ful of bills, called se­na­tors about ex­tend­ing ex­pired un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and re­ceived an up­date on ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Rus­sia.

Oth­er­wise, the trip has been an un­bro­ken stretch of down­time for the pres­i­dent with his fam­ily at a beach house in trendy Kailua, an ocean­front neigh­bor­hood in Oahu where the homes rent for $3,500 per day — more than many fam­i­lies earn in a month. The Oba­mas are pay­ing for the $56,000 cost of the rental home, al­though tax­pay­ers foot the bill for the first fam­ily’s travel on Air Force One and the Se­cret Ser­vice se­cu­rity de­tail needed to pro­tect the Oba­mas while hik­ing or snor­kel­ing.

With Congress ap­prov­ing a two-year bud­get deal be­fore Christ­mas, this year’s Hawai­ian va­ca­tion has been far more tran­quil than in 2012, when the pres­i­dent flew to Wash­ing­ton the day af­ter Christ­mas to ne­go­ti­ate with con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans about pre­vent­ing a “fis­cal cliff.”

Mr. Obama played golf Thurs­day with New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter John Key, Mr. Key’s teenage son Max and White House aide Marvin Nicholson at the Ma­rine Corps base at Ka­neohe Bay, rated as one of the world’s best mil­i­tary golf cour­ses. Mr. Key, who is five days younger than the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and also was elected in 2008, owns a home in Hawaii.

It was Mr. Obama’s sev­enth round on the links since ar­riv­ing in Hawaii early Dec. 21. He has added to that eight gym work­outs so far at the Ma­rine base.

The Oba­mas also have taken two fam­ily hikes, two beach trips and one snor­kel­ing ad­ven­ture at a na­ture pre­serve. They have met with U.S. troops once and have not at­tended any church ser­vices, even for Christ­mas.

Re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers for news or­ga­ni­za­tions that are spend­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars to “cover” Mr. Obama’s va­ca­tion have been kept at a dis­tance and fre­quently fail to catch a glimpse of the pres­i­dent on his ex­cur­sions.

The me­dia, which were feuding with White House press of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton about ac­cess to the pres­i­dent, were al­lowed to watch Mr. Obama go out with his daugh­ters and other fam­ily and friends for shaved ice at a shop­ping center on New Year’s Eve.

Dur­ing the golf out­ing Thurs­day, White House han­dlers brought pool re­porters to the sec­ond green at the Ka­neohe Bay course to watch the pres­i­dent and his play­ing part­ners putt. Mr. Obama putted from just off the green and left his ball well short of the hole.

“I guess I should have chipped it, af­ter all,” the pres­i­dent said.

As Mr. Obama well knows, the de­ci­sions will get tougher again next week.

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