As he nears the end of his Hawaii holiday, President Barack Obama is proving to be a creature of habit.
While some travelers seek adventure and spontaneity, Obama seeks comfort and consistency. His routine on Oahu, the island where he was born and mostly raised, is by now patently familiar. Obama is almost certain to spend his mornings working out at Marine Corps Base Hawaii. A leisurely dinner with friends and family at Alan Wong’s Restaurant, located in the neighborhood where Obama grew up, is now an annual tradition. And a guaranteed place to spot the president is at Island Snow, a shop near his rented Kailua oceanfront home, where he treats daughters Malia and Sasha to shave ice.
So, doesn’t the president ever want to mix things up? Not really, says White House spokesman Bill Burton, who is with the president in Hawaii.
"Like most Americans, the president knows what he likes in his own hometown," Burton said. "He’s been going to a lot of these places since he was a very young child, and they hold an important place in his life."
OBAMA FAMILY TALENT SHOW? CLASSIFIED!
President Barack Obama rang in 2011 with friendly competition at his family’s annual New Year’s Eve talent show.
The White House is keeping Obama’s talent a closely guarded secret. Several friends and family members joined the Obamas at their rented beachfront home in Kailua.
As for the talent show, White House spokesman Bill Burton would say only that it is an annual tradition. And it turns out that Obama, known for his oratorical gifts, is also apparently something of a singer. A Time magazine story said the president sang "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" one year when it was his turn to perform. The first lady opted for a Hula-Hoop display.
Obama has stayed under the radar for much of his Hawaii vacation, mostly spending his time at the gym, golf course or beach. The White House says he has been reading three books: Lou Cannon’s biography of Ronald Reagan, "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime," and two novels: "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet," by David Mitchell, and "Our Kind of Traitor," by John le Carre.
He played golf again in the afternoon at the Kaneohe Klipper course at Marine Corps Base Hawaii with friends Bobby Titcomb, Mike Ramos, Eric Whitaker and Marty Nesbitt.
A handful of well-wishers held signs yesterday as the president’s motorcade drove to his morning workout at the Kaneohe Marine base gym. One of the signs read, "Mahalo President Barack."
—Star-Advertiser staff and news services
Of course, things have changed since the days when Obama lived here with his grandparents and scooped ice cream at a local Baskin-Robbins. The logistics make a truly spontaneous stop nearly impossible. Advance teams scope out all potential destinations, and Secret Service agents have to sign off on security.
That means no more walks in the park or swimming at public beaches. The Obamas now spend their beach time at Pyramid Rock, a secluded spot on the Marine base, and snorkel only at Hanauma Bay on Tuesdays, when the nature preserve is closed to the public. There are also no more rounds of golf at Olomana, where he played as senator. He instead opts to play on base or at the more secluded Mid Pacific Country Club.
Another familiar element of Obama’s Hawaii vacations is the small circle of friends and family he surrounds himself with while here. His sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, lives on Oahu with her family. Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker, two of Obama’s friends from Chicago, join him here for the holidays, as do childhood friends Mike Ramos and Bobby Titcomb. The Obamas spent much of Thursday enjoying a barbecue at Titcomb’s Mokuleia beachfront home.
While his trips here still generate excitement, some residents would like to see the president more engaged with the community.
"Just because we’re in Hawaii and it’s paradise doesn’t mean it’s paradise for everyone," said Mike Irvine, who has lived in Honolulu since 1985. "Going to a black church or maybe a homeless shelter would be a big deal."
Obama’s desire for routine during vacations is nothing new for occupants of the Oval Office. Ronald Reagan often retreated to his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., spending more than a year there over the course of his presidency. George H.W. Bush sought sanctuary at his home in Maine, and his son, George W. Bush, rarely left his ranch during trips to Crawford, Texas.
Former President Bill Clinton was the rare exception, often spotted jogging, sailing and dining out during summer trips to Martha’s Vineyard. He also varied his destinations.