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Obama relaxes with dinner and golf on first day of vacation

By Star-Advertiser staff and the Los Angeles Times

LAST UPDATED: 10:58 a.m. HST, Dec 23, 2012

President Barack Obama began the holiday weekend as far removed as one could be from the stalled fiscal cliff talks in Washington: on a golf course in his native Hawaii, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

The president's motorcade left his Kailua compound at about 8 p.m. for Morimoto's restaurant in Waikiki. The president dined with family and friends and left the restaurant at about 11 p.m. A crowd of well-wishers had gathered and cheered when they spotted Obama, according to a news media pool report.

Earlier this afternoon, the president spent nearly six hours at the Kaneohe Klipper course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii with childhood friends Bobby Titcomb and Mike Ramos, White House chef Sam Kass and aide Marvin Nicholson.

The first family arrived in Honolulu just after midnight Saturday for their traditional Christmas trip, one that for the president is his bit of R-and-R after a grueling election year, though one that is likely to be briefer than usual given the Dec. 31 deadline to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect.

After the failure of House Speaker John A. Boehner’s “Plan B,” the president Friday called for all involved to use the coming holiday as a time to “cool off,” drink eggnog and enjoy time with family.

“Call me a hopeless optimist, but I actually still think we can get it done,” he said, before leaving the White House.

In his weekly address, Boehner said the Republican-led House had already done its part to avert the fiscal cliff, pointing to legislation that did pass Thursday to substitute what he called “responsible spending cuts” for deeper reductions that were part of the sequester to be triggered without a deal.

“Unfortunately, the president and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject and veto all of our proposals while failing to offer a responsible solution of their own,” he said. “The president’s solution of raising tax rates would still leave red ink as far as the eye can see. And it would hurt jobs, at a time when far too many of our citizens are struggling to find them.”

Boehner, too, offered a hint of optimism, however, saying: “Hope springs eternal, and I know we have it in us to come together and do the right thing.”

Congress is in recess until Thursday. Obama is likely to return from Hawaii by then.

Until then, the president and his family will seek to compress some of their traditional island jaunts - for shave ice, for instance - in the time he has this week. On Sunday, the president and first lady will also attend a memorial service for the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, which will also be attended by a delegation of his former Senate colleagues.

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