Obama family arrives in Hawaii
Thursday, December 24, 2009; 8:57 PM
HONOLULU -- President Obama stepped off Air Force One into 80-degree weather in Hawaii on Thursday afternoon, leaving behind snow banks and that morning's Senate health care vote in favor of clear skies and a wide-open, 10-day vacation schedule.
Obama emerged smiling and without a coat, wearing a blue shirt and khakis and holding the hand of his younger daughter, Sasha. Michelle Obama, in a blue sleeveless dress, held older daughter Malia's hand as the family descended the stairs and put on colorful flowered leis, the island trademark.
The president and first lady briefly shook hands with several dozen uniformed military service members and their families at Hickam Air Force base adjacent to Pearl Harbor. But Obama made no remarks, and after a long first year in office, it appeared he was ready to shift into vacation mode.
During the flight from Washington to Honolulu, deputy press secretary Bill Burton told reporters that the president had a special message for them over the next week and a half.
"He would like for you to relax and to not anticipate any public announcements or news-making events," he said.
When Air Force One touched down at 2:41 p.m. local time, it put Obama just a few miles from the neighborhood where he was born, attended high school and lived at times with his grandmother, who died last year just two days before his election as president.
Obama's trip to Oahu is his fourth in 18 months. Spectacular 40-foot waves are expected on the island's north shore on Christmas Day, adding to what local tourism officials described as a perfect convergence for the industry -- a popular president and his attractive family against the backdrop of beautiful weather and scenic images, which could remind snowbound Americans on the mainland of a lush vacation spot in need of business.
Despite his recent trips, this is Obama's first vacation here as president. Spending a week and a half on a Hawaiian beach in the midst of a recession carries political risks. Wary of being here before the health care debate in the Senate ended, Obama already delayed his vacation by a day to see the bill through the Senate.
The Obamas are staying in the same oceanfront, five-bedroom estate they rented last Christmas when he was president-elect. This year, security in the Kailua neighborhood is tighter. Parking has been blocked off, and the U.S. Coast Guard has set up a security zone in the waters offshore. Earlier in the week, a woman was arrested for threatening to kill the first lady; she was later ordered to undergo a mental competency exam.
Obama brought a sizable entourage with him. In addition to his immediate family and at least two sets of friends from Chicago, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and National Security Council chief of staff Denis McDonough are also expected to join him on the trip.