Obama starting to hit the roadWASHINGTON (AP) — It’s time to get out. Barack Obama, who has spent most of his nascent presidency in the White House compound, is shifting into travel mode.
WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s time to get out.
Barack Obama, who has spent most of his nascent presidency in the White House compound, is shifting into travel mode.
The rundown: Saturday and Sunday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland; Monday in Indiana and Tuesday in Florida for economic events; Thursday in Illinois to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday; and then Valentine’s Day weekend with his wife, Michelle, at home in Chicago.
One motivation is for Obama to break free of the Washington debate and sell his economic plan among the people it is designed to help. The other is for the president simply to get away from the White House, the gated address that has quickly become his office and his family’s home.
Asked if the president is already starting to feel cooped up, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs smiled and said: “Safe to say.”
“Look, you know, some of you have covered him and some of you haven’t,” Gibbs told reporters in his daily briefing on Friday. “But he’s a bit of a restless soul.”
Obama has acknowledged that one of his biggest adjustments to becoming president is the loss of privacy. The days of just being able to take a walk in public are gone. He is now flanked like never before by the Secret Service, followed by the media and engulfed by intense public interest wherever he goes.
When he and Mrs. Obama made a surprise visit to a local school on Tuesday, he told some second-graders: “We were just tired of being in the White House.”
And clearly, Obama enjoyed his first taste of high-flying presidential travel this week.
He took both the Marine One helicopter and the president’s jet for the first time in office on Thursday as part of a trip to a Democratic retreat in Williamsburg, Va. “Thank you for giving me a reason to use Air Force One,” he told the lawmakers. “It’s pretty nice.”
This weekend, Obama plans to make his first trip, with his family, to Camp David. The secluded, highly guarded estate in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains has long been a favorite getaway for presidents.
He will hold town halls on Monday in Elkhart, Ind., and on Tuesday in Fort Myers, Fla. — both areas with soaring unemployment. In between will be Obama’s first news conference, a prime-time event on Monday night. With those events coming after Obama’s feisty speech to his party’s House members, Obama’s agenda and rhetoric are starting to take on a campaign feel. “Sounds like the good old days, doesn’t it?” Gibbs said.
After Obama’s out-and-back trip to Springfield, Ill., on Thursday, he will leave Washington next Friday for Chicago for the Feb. 14 weekend. Gibbs had few details about the president’s first return trip to Chicago, but he confirmed this: “I’m sure the president and the first lady will go out for Valentine’s Day.”
Getting a head start, the Obamas and daughters Malia and Sasha went to the Kennedy Center on Friday night to see a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The Obama family entered the theater with Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone, and received a standing ovation. Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty and his wife, Michelle, also were part of the group.