National News

Dec 26, 2010 12:17 PM by Chris Welty

Obama Eases into Hawaiian Holiday

HONOLULU (AP) - President Barack Obama eased into the first day
of his Hawaiian vacation Thursday, opting for privacy over
publicity after wrapping up a frenzied lame-duck legislative
session.
The president began with what's become a familiar routine during
his trips to Hawaii - a morning workout at a gym at Marine Corps
Base Hawaii. He returned to the base later in the morning to play a
round of golf with two of his childhood friends from his years
growing up in Hawaii, as well as a family friend from Chicago.
Obama has no public events scheduled during his 11-day vacation,
and aides said he planned to spend much of his time at the
luxurious oceanfront home his family was renting in Kailua.
"He is, as much as anything, anxious to spend time where he
grew up with his family and to see his sister," White House press
secretary Robert Gibbs said.
Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family live on
Oahu. The president planned to visit with several childhood friends
while on the island, and he was also being joined on vacation by
Chicago friends Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker.
On the president's reading vacation reading list: "President
Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime," Lou Cannon's biography of the
Republican president.
The president's vacation won't be all rest and relaxation. He
was to be briefed by advisers daily, and he also planned to spend
time working on his State of the Union address, scheduled in
January, and a staff review headed by interim chief of staff Pete
Rouse.
Obama spoke by phone Thursday with Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev. The two leaders hailed the Senate's ratification a day
earlier of a U.S.-Russian nuclear arms pact as a historic event.
The White House says Obama and Medvedev agreed to continue
cooperation on a range of critical issues.
Security near Obama's home was briefly heightened Thursday
afternoon when a man evading arrest by Honolulu police led officers
on a high-speed chase that went through a security checkpoint near
the neighborhood where the president is staying. Secret Service
spokesman Ed Donovan said the man was arrested a short time later
and incident was not related to the president's visit. The man
didn't go through a security barricade that's closer to the Obama
vacation home.
Neighborhood resident Rhea Yamashiro took pictures of a Secret
Service agent sprinting toward the pickup truck and pointing her
gun toward the driver.
An Associated Press photographer working near the Obama home
heard several police sirens in the neighborhood, and saw at least
one officer running away from the home with a hand on his weapon.
Honolulu police said the chase began after officers went to a
Kailua home to arrest the man on five warrants for alleged driving
violations and he fled.
"He drove past a residential checkpoint that was set up near
the president's vacation home, turned around, then drove back
out," the police statement said.
The chase continued on nearby roads until he was stopped. Police
said officers used a stun gun to subdue him when he refused to get
out of his vehicle.
The man was treated for minor injuries and jailed on the
warrants with additional charges pending, police said.
The president was golfing at the time of the incident. Donovan
said the incident never posed a threat to the first family.
Obama arrived here shortly before midnight Wednesday after
having pushed back his scheduled Saturday departure to stay in
Washington while lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session.
He began his vacation on a high note, having secured victories
on the nuclear arms treaty with Russia and the repeal of the ban on
openly gay service members. He also struck a deal with Republican
lawmakers to allow tax cuts for all income earners to continue, a
compromise that angered some liberals.
At a Washington news conference Wednesday, Obama said the
accomplishments of a postelection session of Congress demonstrated
"we are not doomed to endless gridlock." He described the
six-week lame-duck session as "a season of progress for the
American people."
The waning weeks of 2010 provided the president a much-needed
boost following a volatile year and a self-proclaimed
"shellacking" in the November midterm elections. Awaiting Obama
in January: an economy still struggling to achieve steady growth, a
Congress more laden with Republicans, and a host of GOP challengers
poised to run for his job in 2012.
Christmas in Hawaii has become a family tradition for the
Obamas, who were spending their third straight year in Kailua.
Obama also was forced to delay his departure last December due to
action on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers worked until Christmas Eve
to pass his signature health care overhaul legislation.
At the time, Obama spokesman Bill Burton told reporters
traveling to Hawaii with Obama that the president's Christmas wish
for the press corps was to "relax and to not anticipate any public
announcements or news-making events."
It wasn't to be relaxing. On Christmas Day, a 23-year-old
Nigerian man allegedly attempted to blow up a jetliner bound for
Detroit. The incident consumed Obama's vacation, with the president
receiving thrice-daily updates from the White House Situation Room
and national security staffers briefing reporters, often at a
moment's notice.
Despite the president's plans to stay under the radar while in
Hawaii, locals were still likely to catch a few glimpses of the
president during outings around town. Obama and his daughters have
been regular visitors to Island Snow, a beachwear store famous for
its shave ice - a version of what mainlanders know as snow cones.

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