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Obama heads to Florida for weekend with the boys

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From page A5 | February 17, 2013 | 14 Comments

PALM CITY, Fla. — Faced with a long weekend in an empty White House, President Barack Obama figured he needed a getaway, too, so he put together a golf outing with some buddies.

Not at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland or at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, two Washington-area military posts where he’s a regular on their courses.

Instead, he went south, to Florida, to spend the long President’s Day weekend staying and playing at the Floridian, an exclusive and secluded yacht and golf club on the state’s Treasure Coast. He arrived Friday night after a speech in Chicago and wasn’t expected to be seen again in public – including by the members of the news media traveling with him – until he returns to Washington on Monday.

“At this time, there are no public events scheduled or plans for the president to leave the grounds of the golf club,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Saturday.

Call it a weekend with the boys, presidential style.

Eyebrows might have been raised at the thought of the president, any president, high-tailing it out of Washington, without his family, for some “me time” hundreds of miles away from the Oval Office. First lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha are on an annual ski vacation out West.

As it turns out, it isn’t at all uncommon for a president to go on vacation on his own.

And, Obama has gone off alone in the past.

During the weekend, the president, a sports enthusiast and avid golfer, planned to practice his putting technique on the club’s private, 18-hole course, which opened in 1996, according to golfnow.com, and is owned by Jim Crane, a Houston businessman who also owns Major League Baseball’s Astros.

Crane has made political contributions to Republican and Democratic candidates, including $35,800 last year to a joint fundraising committee for Obama and the Democratic Party, and $2,300 to Obama in 2007, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Members of the club and their guests have access to one of eight cottages, a 68-slip deep water marina, the club’s 61-foot Viking yacht, a 24-foot Hurricane Deck Boat and the club’s private helicopter service with two on-site helipads along the St. Lucie River.

The White House arranged for reporters traveling with the president to stay at a hotel in Port St. Lucie, about a 25-minute drive away.

Obama’s longtime friend from Chicago, Eric Whitaker, joined him on the flight from Chicago to Florida. The two have played golf together in the past. Another regular member of Obama’s golf foursomes is White House trip director Marvin Nicholson, who also traveled with the president on Friday.

Besides Whitaker and Crane, Obama played golf Saturday with Ron Kirk, the outgoing U.S. trade representative; Tony Chase, a Houston businessman and lawyer who threw a fundraiser for Obama last March; and Milton Carroll, chairman of Houston-based CenterPoint Energy. Carroll donated $2,300 to Obama’s first presidential campaign, according to campaignmoney.com, which gathers information about financial contributions to federal political campaigns.

Earnest, the White House spokesman, said Obama also got some instruction and played a few holes with Butch Harmon, Tiger Woods’ former swing coach. Harmon had told The Associated Press by text message earlier Saturday that he would be at the Floridian to play nine holes and practice with Obama.

Crane said earlier Saturday that he was scheduled to play a round of golf with Obama on Sunday, according to a report on the website for Major League Baseball. Crane said he was at the club to welcome Obama when he arrived Friday night.

“Looks like I might get to play with him a little bit tomorrow, and we’re looking forward to that,” Crane said Saturday as he addressed the Astros before a team workout, according to mlb.com. “He came in late last night and was very cordial. His staff is great and it’s very exciting. I mean, when do you get the president staying in your place?”

Crane said he received a call about a week ago asking if the president could use the course. He said Obama then contacted him personally to thank him.

America’s presidents have been taking solo vacations for decades, according to Larry Knutson, a former White House reporter for The Associated Press who wrote a book about presidents and their vacations.

Although Bess and Margaret Truman visited him there just a couple of times, President Harry Truman vacationed most often by himself in tropical Key West, Fla. Many aides, all men, accompanied him.

Truman enjoyed the male companionship and his wife may have stayed away out of a desire to not interrupt his cherished late afternoon and evening games of poker. Truman vacationed in Key West 11 times between November 1946 and March 1952; his wife and daughter joined him for the first time in November 1948, after his surprise victory in that year’s election campaign.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt often visited his cottage at Warm Springs, Ga., alone; wife, Eleanor, didn’t much care for the place or the Southern atmosphere. Roosevelt was at Warm Springs, on his own, when he died in April 1945.

He also often traveled solo to his home in Hyde Park, N.Y., during World War II. The first lady often did not accompany Roosevelt on his wartime visits to Shangri-La, which is now the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, or when he traveled on the presidential yacht or on Navy warships.

In 1997, President Bill Clinton was in Florida for fundraising and to play in a golf tournament when he stumbled on steps at the home of golf pro Greg Norman and needed surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right knee. He was treated at a hospital in West Palm Beach before being flown to Washington for the operation.

Obama’s stay at the Floridian isn’t his first get-away without his wife and daughters.

In 2010, as his 49th birthday approached, Obama was left home alone after the first lady took Sasha with her on a trip to Spain, and Malia was away at camp.

Rather than stay in the sprawling White House by himself, Obama fled, taking family dog Bo, home to Chicago for a birthday dinner with friends there that included Oprah Winfrey, her pal Gayle King, Whitaker and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, a fellow Chicagoan.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 14 comments

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  • PatriotFebruary 17, 2013 - 5:36 am

    Isn't this nice..The country is in shambles and he and wifey go separate ways on our dime..The King and Queen of this monarchy..I listened to Dr. Carson the last few days..We need someone with his perspective and ethics in the WH.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 17, 2013 - 7:46 am

    Patriot, if you read the article, you may recognize that he is not and probably won't be the only president ever to take a vacation and he has actually taken fewer vacations than former presidents. Where do you get the information that his trip is on “our dime?” Life goes on dude we all need an occasional break.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PariotFebruary 17, 2013 - 9:17 am

    wow, you must be one of those folks that has the money to go on vacation..Good for you, for the most of the rest of us when our bank accounts are in the red, we don't go on vacation..His (OURS) bank account is in the deep red...Hypocrite..No touch with what true American's are suffering through at this time.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 17, 2013 - 9:44 am

    Patriot, didn't know this was about me? I am retired and doing ok but make no apologies for that, because I worked hard and earned my way. Sorry if you cannot but maybe in time, you will be able to do so as well. I completely disagree with your assertion that the president going on vacation and spending his own money to do so somehow makes him a hypocrite.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PatriotFebruary 17, 2013 - 10:19 am

    ok, let's get this straight did you just say he is going on vacation on his own dime?? Are you fricking kidding? When did you last go on vacation and spend over $1.0 million? Kick in Michelle and the girl's well deserved vacation, do you actually think they are paying for fun in the sun in Aspen, Colorado??

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 17, 2013 - 4:13 pm

    Patriot, your disdain for the president is duly noted. You should do some research about past presidents vacations, the federally mandated requirements for security (the guy and his family kinda need it), and the costs they pay on their own, you might be surprised. Have a good evening.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensFebruary 17, 2013 - 9:45 am

    Gee, how many vacations does Hussein Obama need and when can we expect some economic relief in the form of job creation and lower oil prices that effects all consumer prices? Just askin'! I don't want to deny the royal monarch's entertainment or pleasure.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PatriotFebruary 18, 2013 - 4:10 pm

    And as I recall to respond to my buddy who says all President's have gone on vacations..Here are fact, those god awful facts: Bush 2 would go to Camp David and to his ranch in Texas..Obama goes to Hawaii, no home there, Florida to play and converse with Tiger Woods...There is a big difference.. And by the Michelle takes the two princesses to Aspen on our dime..I don't believe they have a residence there either..

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksFebruary 18, 2013 - 4:42 pm

    Patriot, your FOX/GOP skirts are showing with your typical “those god awful facts”comment. I have spent too much time with this and I know better. Good luck with your angst.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PatriotFebruary 18, 2013 - 5:04 pm

    wow, I am impressed that you watch Fox News..You get the truth versus watching the liberal MSNBC, NBC, CBS and ABC..."Those god awful misfacts in broadcasting!"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DJKFebruary 17, 2013 - 10:01 am

    I'm a true American and I'm doing pretty good since the market went from around 6,500 to 14,000 since President Obama took office. I also have been given about 4 raises from my employer in that time. They are doing OK too. Funny how R's never said a peep when Ronald Reagan increased the USA's debt from around 800 billion to 2.5 trillion during his reign. Nothing was said either when Bush II's tenure raised the debt from 4 trillion to nearly 10 trillion.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PatriotFebruary 17, 2013 - 10:16 am

    Glad to hear you are doing so well during Obama's reign..My stocks are also doing well. They would be better if the government stayed out of the business of trying to run everything in the US. Businesses would start spending some of their cash to hire folks..Hired folks pay taxes. Taxes improves the overall economy..Regulating them to death does nothing for the economy. Obama's debt went from $10-16.5 in his first reign. It is estmated he will take it to $25.0 by the end of his reign..I would say that is the worst performance in the history of the USA. Facts, oh those ugly facts...My last question is you must work for the federal government so an employer tied to them...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895February 17, 2013 - 12:05 pm

    It's OK with me if the president takes breaks on our dimes. That's all it costs each of us. And by "the president," I mean any president. What a bunch of garbage this line of argument is. Give it rest.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensFebruary 17, 2013 - 12:13 pm

    Remember Ray's Hell Burgers, the burger joint Obama visited a couple of times early in his first term? Dead. Kaput. The latest victims of the Obama Kiss of Death, in which seemingly every business he personally visits - especially those he touts as New Economy success stories - goes bankrupt.Sometimes this is understandable, as in the case of those green energy losers he keeps picking. But other times it really does seem like a curse. And if he was a Republican, it would already be cemented in popular culture thanks to comedy skits where businesses fold up as soon as Obama walks in the door to order a sandwich. But instead, we'll probably get another four years of "irreverent" comedians telling us there's no way to make fun of Obama.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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