By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 27, 2008
WAIMANALO, Hawaii, Dec. 26 -- President-elect Barack Obama interrupted what has been a reclusive Hawaiian vacation Friday by taking his daughters and a caravan of family friends to a marine amusement park and to a mobbed shopping center.
In venturing out as a Hawaiian tourist, Obama ditched his "press pool" of reporters, photographers and cameramen, breaching the long-standing protocol requiring that presidents or presidents-elect travel at all times with at least some journalists.
Instead, with only his Secret Service detail in tow, Obama, his daughters and friends spent about an hour here at Sea Life Park, taking in a dolphin show.
On the way back to his Kailua vacation home, the president-elect stopped at the bustling Koko Marina Center for a bite (coincidentally allowing the pool to catch up with him). "So, what are we going to get?" Obama asked at the counter of Koko Marina Paradise Deli.
"Let me get a tuna sandwich," he said, asking for it on 12-grain bread with tomatoes. (Hold the mayo, he said.) "Actually, can you melt cheese on that? Can you make, like, a tuna melt with cheddar cheese?"
Carrying his sandwich, Obama walked with his daughters, Sasha and Malia, to Kokonuts to order "shave ice," a treat akin to a snow cone. As dozens of onlookers swarmed the shop, snapping pictures and saying hello, Obama ordered for his daughters and several other children.
"Everyone, once you've ordered, step back," Obama instructed the kids. "We're going to do it one at a time." He pulled out his wallet and paid for the shave ice with cash. (Eric Whitaker, a close friend from Chicago, pitched in to cover the tab.)
Obama joked with reporters that he ate his sandwich before his dessert to set an example for his daughters. He then enjoyed a green-and-orange shave ice.
He also offered to buy the journalists some.
"Guys, here's your chance," Obama said. "No? I'm telling you, this is really good."
No one took him up on the offer.
Earlier Friday, Obama's aides pushed back against reports that he may be planning a pre-inaugural visit to Iraq. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki abruptly canceled a trip to Iran, stoking speculation that he was opening his schedule for a possible visit by Obama.
Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said the president-elect has no plans to visit Iraq before his Jan. 20 inauguration.