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Obama leaves Hawaii, readies for re-election fight

By Rob Shikina

LAST UPDATED: 09:42 p.m. HST, Jan 02, 2012

President Barack Obama ended his 10-day winter vacation today, departing from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam aboard Air Force One with his family.

His boarded the plane at 5:25 p.m. against a setting sun with breezy winds and temperatures in the upper 70s, similar to conditions when he arrived a day before Christmas Eve.

Several dozen service members and their families were gathered on the tarmac to bid Obama farewell.

Chief Terry Thomas, of Headquarters Pacific Air Forces, said it was an honor to see Obama and felt a special kinship with the president as a native of Chicago, where Obama served as a U.S. senator. He finally got access to greet Obama through the military after trying three times.

Thomas, 46, was at a similar gathering to see President George Bush off at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, but Bush went into the plane and didn't stop to greet his well-wishers, he said. 

His wife Serena Thomas said they had tried to see Obama at a rally with 20,000 people in Virginia and barely got a glimpse of him. While her husband was stationed in Virginia, they unsuccessfully tried to visit the White House.

"Finally, I can't believe it," she said. "It must be destiny."

She wanted to tell Obama how proud she was of him.

"I think he's doing a great job with everything that's happened over the last several years," she said, citing the oil spill and other issues. "I think he's been dealt a tough hand, and he's dealing with it really well."

Their 12-year-old son Julian, said he was "shocked" and "scared" about the chance to see Obama.

Seven-year-old Elena was planning to write about Obama for a school report about what she did over the winter break.

"I'm happy, excited," she said.

Her mother Rebecca, who asked not to use their last name, prepped her daughter for the chance that Obama would walk up to them.

"When president Obama comes to you, say Happy New Year's," she said.

"She's very nervous."

Before boarding, Obama was greeted by Adm. Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and Col. Sam Barrett, commander of the 15th wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

With an eye on the 2012 campaign, Obama wrapped up a low-key Hawaiian vacation and planned to quickly get back in front of voters as he ratchets up his bid for re-election.

After more than a week out of the spotlight, Obama plans to make his presence in the campaign quickly known.

The president will host a live web chat with supporters in Iowa Tuesday night as the caucuses are unfolding. The following day, Obama will travel to Cleveland for an event focused on the economy.

Obama aides said the president will seek to draw a contrast with his GOP challengers during Wednesday's trip to Ohio, a state sure to factor prominently in the presidential campaign.

Aides say Obama spent a bit of time on vacation brainstorming ideas for his Jan. 24 State of the Union address, where he will lay out an agenda that will also serve as the basis for his campaign message. He was also briefed by a small cadre of traveling advisers on some of the international issues looming in 2012, including renewed threats from Iran and a request from Yemen's outgoing, autocratic president to come to the U.S. for medical treatment.

Obama also returns to Washington facing further debate on extending payroll tax cuts, the same issue that consumed Washington for the final days of December.

Congress broke through a stalemate just days before Christmas, agreeing to extend the cuts for two months. Lawmakers will get back to work later this month to negotiate a full-year extension, a proposal Obama supports.

White House officials say the tax cut extension is the last "must-do" legislative item on Obama's agenda this year. His strategy for his fourth year in office will focus largely on taking executive actions that do not need approval from lawmakers as he seeks to break away from a deeply unpopular Congress.

The payroll tax cut debate almost prevented Obama from taking his annual Christmas trip to Hawaii. He delayed the trip nearly a week, finally departing on Dec. 23, just hours after Congress finalized the two-month extension.

The president, wife Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha stayed largely out of the public eye during their trip to Oahu, the island where Obama was born and mostly raised.

The Obamas stayed in a multimillion-dollar oceanfront rental on Kailua Beach, near Honolulu, and surrounded themselves with a close-knit group of family and friends. That included Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who lives on Oahu, and several of the president's childhood friends.

Obama's outing consisted largely of trips to the gym and golf course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, a military base near his vacation rental. He returned to the gym this morning for one last workout.

The first family also made a few outings around the island, including a snorkeling trip to popular Hanauma Bay and a stop for shave ice, a Hawaiian snow cone.

On Sunday, the president took his family to pay respects to his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl and to an exhibit at the East West Centerwhich is featuring a display on the anthropological work of the president's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. The exhibition includes photographs taken during Dunham's years of field research in Indonesia, as well as her personal art and artifact collection.

Joining them was Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family. Soetoro-Ng is an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii's Institute for Teacher Education.

Later the Obamas went to the beach at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.

President Barack Obama and his wife and friends dined at Nobu's Waikiki on his last night in Hawaii.

Associated Press contributed to this report.



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Maneki_Neko wrote:
Ah yes, dinner at Nobu's....just keeping in touch with the average person.
on January 2,2012 | 07:50AM
butinski wrote:
Too good for lunch wagons where the rest of us go?
on January 2,2012 | 02:38PM
frontman wrote:
Not a day to soon........stop by Kenya and Chicago on your way back to the house.
on January 2,2012 | 03:36PM
GondaOhana wrote:
You guys are a bunch of frickin HATERS! Did he have to come home here to Hawaii? Uh No.... Was he looking for points in doing so (haha based on our local readers comments- uh no....) He came to spend time with his family and share with them the place where he grew up. If i had guests.... (aka-especially family!) would i wanna take them to a lunch wagon? for the person who stated that- pore you! frickin get a life people- HEʻS a PERSON!! just like us!
on January 2,2012 | 09:16PM
butinski wrote:
I guess you don't know sarcasm if it bit you in the rear.
on January 2,2012 | 10:09PM
alikarx03 wrote:
i've dined at Nobu's a few times, Alan Wong's, Morimoto's....what you saying? I'm an average person....ain't nothing wrong getting a well prepared meal at a place that offers an incredible dining experience. not to mention if you can afford it. don't be jealous neko.
on January 2,2012 | 05:24PM
Aieagrl wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 2,2012 | 08:07AM
Kapakahi wrote:

Actually, it is your comment which suggests intense racial hostility. Ron Paul is being hurt by his links to racist groups like Stormfront and offensive articles published in his newsletter in the past. You are not helping Paul broaden his appeal with your racist rant.

And I like Paul on about half the issues.

on January 2,2012 | 09:21AM
motoxdad wrote:
no, but Aieagrl is is just what the republicans represent. way to go girl, way to represent.
on January 2,2012 | 10:58PM
inverse wrote:
Ron Paul is a racist and like Gingrich is a loose cannon.. You are better off backing Romney.
on January 2,2012 | 09:32AM
HD36 wrote:
Romney is Obama Jr. Ron Paul is anything but a racist He delivered a baby for an interracial couple when he was a doctor when no other doctors would help them. Then, he paid for it out of his own pocket. They asked Ron if he remembered and he said, he did so many to help people he couldn't remember.
on January 2,2012 | 01:10PM
NITRO08 wrote:
on January 2,2012 | 03:01PM
NITRO08 wrote:
on January 2,2012 | 03:00PM
motoxdad wrote:
NONE, I don't think Obama is doing a good job but could you imagine any one of those guys running this country?
on January 2,2012 | 11:03PM
NITRO08 wrote:
on January 2,2012 | 02:58PM
thanks4reading wrote:
what is scary is that you have the legal right to vote. What an amazing display of ignorance, bad grammar, and arrogance all rolled into one post.
on January 2,2012 | 06:41PM
Ronin006 wrote:
I wonder how many people had their reservations cancelled at Nobu's so the Obamas could dine there, just like the two or three hundred people who were turned away at the Arizona Memorial last Thursday for the Obamas' unannounced visit. Yes, two to three hundred people turned away at the Arizona Memorial Visitors Center, many there for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the memorial, just so the Obamas could visit the memorial. It shows just how much Obama truly cares about average Americans. .
on January 2,2012 | 08:21AM
IAmSane wrote:
I hope those people realize that our prayers are with them. Both the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross are ready to assist and get them through this terrible tragedy of getting their Nobu reservations cancelled. My heartfelt condolences to all affected. NEVER FORGET 1/1/2012!
on January 2,2012 | 04:19PM
Smiling wrote:
Great comment ! Thank you. Some of the idiocy I'm reading is deplorable. Thanks for coming, Obamas! Good luck and God bless.
on January 2,2012 | 04:49PM
motoxdad wrote:
Boohoo, as if any other president would of not done the same, name any politician that really cares about you......"the average american"
on January 2,2012 | 11:12PM
eastsidecopper wrote:
CRY ME A RIVER!!!!!!!!!!! Mr. OBAMA is the President of the United States. If he wants to eat at Nobu's let him. If he want's to come HOME from the holidays let him..... Some of you need to let it go and GROW UP!!!! Thank you Mr. Obama... I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season. Good luck with your upcoming presidential re-election
on January 2,2012 | 08:34AM
toomuchpilikia wrote:
Thanks again!! Just sent me the bill!
on January 2,2012 | 08:55AM
Ronin006 wrote:
You already are paying for Obama's vacation with your taxes, assuming you pay taxes.
on January 2,2012 | 12:14PM
NITRO08 wrote:
on January 2,2012 | 03:02PM
Musubi wrote:
He just tends to take more of them...
on January 2,2012 | 07:08PM
couggirlie wrote:
Musubi, how do you know "he just tends to take more ot them..."??? Get real!
on January 2,2012 | 07:40PM
WesleySMori wrote:
on January 2,2012 | 09:21AM
Kawika442 wrote:
I'm wishing Mr. Obama lots of luck in his permanent 2012 vacation. Maybe he can then retire in Hawaii and cancel reservations at Hobu's everyday, not to mention the hundreds of our Military that had their tee-times cancelled so he could play golf. Why doesn't Mr. Obama, with all of his guest, vacation at Camp David like the other Real Presidents?
on January 2,2012 | 09:44AM
Smiling wrote:
Thank you....well said. Gosh, the absolute nonsense of some people on this site !!
on January 2,2012 | 04:48PM
Classic_59Chevy wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 2,2012 | 08:44PM
motoxdad wrote:
you must be from the same village, peasant.
on January 2,2012 | 11:22PM
Anonymous wrote:
Hawaii is his "home"? I call BS!
on January 2,2012 | 11:32PM
butinski wrote:
She does have a fat behind.
on January 2,2012 | 08:48AM
motoxdad wrote:
i could only imagine what yours look like. BUTTinski
on January 2,2012 | 11:48PM
Rickyboy wrote:
President Obama came for a family vacation. He chose to be where he was born and had roots. Hawaii got the national press coverage for free. He could have chosen somewhere else where that place would have been subjected to the security needed for the most powerful leader of the World. The national elections are coming soon. Let your vote speak!
on January 2,2012 | 09:03AM
inverse wrote:
Not much national news coverage of Obama's Hawaii vacation. For one thing, he was not willing to take any reporters questions and his PR crew was only pushing photo ops such as Obama visiting the Arizona memorial. I did see CNN report of Hawaii's Civil Union law enacted January 1 of the new year.
on January 2,2012 | 11:41PM
HD36 wrote:
Here's some campaign slogans for you President Obama: Imprison the Rich and take all their money! Bomb Iran and take all their oil! We will print our way to prosperity!
on January 2,2012 | 09:05AM
motoxdad wrote:
it's called taxing the 1% ,bomb Iran and take all their oil, you can't steal that one from GW
on January 2,2012 | 11:31PM
meatgrinda wrote:
"readying for re-election"?, BO has been on the campaign re-election mode when 2011 began. The AP should've known that. Every press release held by him was a campaign speech.What a joke of an artical. Not to mention the fact that they"stayed in a MULTI-MILLION dollar OCEANFRONT rental", isn't this the same guy LEADING the charge AGAINST millionaires.
on January 2,2012 | 09:32AM
false wrote:
No matter what he does high profile or low profile, he gets damned. Sorry for all of you who just don't get how hard the job is battling the public, the congress and political puppet masters and still run an international peace! What are you thinking? Not able to think. As for the rental, it takes a village for a president to hide out and be safe. Just listen to all of you and your angst. Safe trip Obama family and thanks for the coverage. WE needed it.
on January 2,2012 | 09:50AM
Anonymous wrote:
Good bye and good riddance.
on January 2,2012 | 11:09AM
Oye_Como_Va wrote:
Ah yes, Nobu's was great while thinking of the 'litttle guys". Ha, ha, ha. Kent bowman said it best in one of his comedy skits, it went something like this, 'When you go into the voting booth no forget to put the cross by my name and not the double cross.' Guess what, when it comes to incumbants this year, they can expect the later while I smile & say 'no worry brah, you get my vote." Just like how they say no worry we get you covered.
on January 2,2012 | 11:47AM
shcole wrote:
Re-election? Why? Because all that hope and change he promised has worked out so well? Seriously? I hope this nation isn't that stupid.
on January 2,2012 | 12:21PM
NITRO08 wrote:
on January 2,2012 | 03:05PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Bush invaded Iraq, because WMD. Lies. Cost the American taxpayers trillions. Truth. At the cost of 4800 lives. Truth. Caught Osama Bin Laden, No. President Obama picks up the bill. Truth. Catches and eliminates Bin Laden. Truth. Is the only President of color in the history of the USA. Truth,even if it hurts..
on January 2,2012 | 01:21PM
Thegame wrote:
Truth...in intel for the Bin Laden thing came from work that took place before Obama took office.
on January 2,2012 | 08:41PM
motoxdad wrote:
take the tea bags off your eyes.
on January 2,2012 | 11:35PM
Meleana22 wrote:
I remember when Bill Clinton and family went to Zippy's in Hawaii Kai--now that's fitting in with the average local family...
on January 2,2012 | 03:19PM
ISCREAM wrote:
Obama's been running for 3 years...will still be defeated.
on January 2,2012 | 04:38PM
kona1069 wrote:
Obama 2012!! Yes We Can Again!!!
on January 2,2012 | 05:29PM
Smiling wrote:
For goodness sake, for all of the 'haters' with these foolish comments, what do you say concerning George Bush's 77 trips to his ranch in Crawford, Texas at approx $226,072 per trip....(from a reputable site.) 879 days at Crawford, Texas and another 487 at Camp David. It certainly is apparent that President Obama takes FAR fewer vacations (and for much less money) than his predecessor did !! One week in Kailua at Chistmas and one week on Martha's Vineyard in the summertime.
on January 2,2012 | 05:54PM
HD36 wrote:
And Ron Paul has pledged to take only 39,000 as President of the United States, the average earnings in America. He is the only one who will cut 1 trillion in government spending his first year.
on January 2,2012 | 07:07PM
motoxdad wrote:
Smiling, notice none of these tea baggers replied to your comment, it's because they have their eyes covered with tea bags and don't want to look at the facts.
on January 2,2012 | 11:42PM
JFSD wrote:
Christmas in Hawaii - doesn't get much better than that! Well, real shave ice and warm weather isn't half-bad either! ;)
on January 2,2012 | 05:58PM
Musubi wrote:
Sure he stopped to greet his well wishers... It's an election year.. I wonder what he and his royal family will do in regards to the numerous vacations he's taken on the country's dime, should he not be reelected?
on January 2,2012 | 07:07PM
couggirlie wrote:
What is your point? What about the other PRESIDENTS when they go on their vacations?? Oh boy...
on January 2,2012 | 07:44PM
Bdpapa wrote:
Stuck in traffic 2 hours. Poop or get off the pot. He needs to stay on schedule and not dilly dally. He actually go home to Chicago for the holidays!
on January 2,2012 | 08:41PM
Kuniarr wrote:
Based on what Obama accomplished before he took a vacation in Hawaii, Obama has a very strong chance of getting re-elected. Before he left for Hawaii, Obama thumped the Republicans into submission on his Payroll Tax Cuts. Which may have increased his approval rating. A debate between Obama and any of the Republican candidates - except the hated Newt Gingrich - would be like a contest between a heavy weight champion against a featherweight champion. No contest. But should the hated Gingrich become the Republican challenger (most unlikely though), a debate between Obama and Gingrich would be the debate of the century.
on January 2,2012 | 08:42PM
HD36 wrote:
Real people, and those with a modicum of intellect aren't looking for the smoothest debater, the greatest orator, or the best looking. That mentality has gotten us the hollywood president puppets that cater to the big banks, military industrial complex and the Federal Reserve. I know of an old guy, who's not the best speaker, but he's got the people's back. Ron Paul 2012
on January 2,2012 | 10:58PM
inverse wrote:
Obama won the last election because independents and/or moderates bought into his "hope and change" spiel. It is clear the same independents and/or moderates will NOT vote for Obama again, hence his chance of getting re-elected are slim to none.
on January 2,2012 | 11:46PM
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