On Christmas, it's hoops and troops for President Obama

The first family celebrates the holidays at the White House with a variety of guests.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 25, 2010; 11:21 PM

HONOLULU - If President Obama asked Santa for a more low-key Christmas Day this year, he got his wish.

Twelve months ago, a man was accused of attempting to detonate explosives in his underwear on a flight bound for Detroit, leaving Obama to spend Christmas Day on the phone with advisers, scrambling to deal with the fallout and ensure that U.S. planes were safe.

But this time around, Obama relaxed at his family's beachfront rental house in Hawaii, watching NBA games on television. He and first lady Michelle Obama emerged late in the afternoon to spend 70 minutes with U.S. troops having Christmas dinner at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, a few miles from the Obama vacation home.

The visit with troops was not officially announced, but it was widely anticipated here, given that Obama had stopped by the base and offered holiday greetings to troops as president-elect in 2008 and on his first Christmas in office in 2009.

The president shook hands with Marines and their families, while the first lady gave out hugs. They juggled babies and children, leaning in to hear some of the kids reveal what presents they had received for Christmas.

Earlier in the day, Obama issued a statement condemning a suicide bombing in Pakistan that killed dozens of people.

The White House said the Obamas spent the morning opening gifts, and celebrated the holiday with several families that traditionally have vacationed here with the first family.

The president also was joined by sister Maya Soetero-Ng and her husband and children, who live in Honolulu.

It was the third day of the president's 10-day Hawaii trip. He spent the first two days exercising, playing golf and taking his daughters to the beach.

On Saturday, Obama skipped his usual morning trip to the gym. Instead, the avid hoops fan caught some basketball on TV. His hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, played the New York Knicks, while the Los Angeles Lakers played the Miami Heat, whose progress the president has followed closely since the team signed all-star player LeBron James over the summer.

The Bulls lost; the Heat won.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company