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Obama's got sun, sand, golf and, yes, work too

The president-elect vacations in Hawaii with family and friends. But it's not all play, his aides say.

December 22, 2008|John McCormick

HONOLULU — President-elect Barack Obama worked out at the fitness center of a Marine Corps base in Honolulu on Sunday, the first full day of a 12-night vacation on Oahu, his final getaway before he takes office Jan. 20.

Though Obama is expected to spend considerable time with family and friends, aides say he is still doing transition work while on vacation, including receiving national security briefings each day.

Aides are expected to release a document this week outlining contacts Obama staff members have had with Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich or his administration. The Democratic governor is accused by federal prosecutors of trying to barter Obama's former U.S. Senate seat for his financial advantage.

Obama's wife, Michelle, joined him for the 45-minute workout at the Marine fitness center. The two had traveled a short distance from their rented vacation home in Kailua, Hawaii.

Obama later headed out for a round of golf, enjoying temperatures about 80 degrees warmer than those back home in Chicago.

"OK guys, come on," the president-elect said to photographers as they snapped away before his game. "How many shots do you need?"

The beachfront estate that will serve as the holiday-season headquarters for Obama and his entourage should offer all the comforts of home -- and then some.

Nestled along a white-sand beach rated among the best in the world and with a view of a lush mountain range, the home has a stone fence.

But even in paradise, the nation's problems will not be far away. There are at least three "for sale" signs on the block, and property tax records show that the vacation home, built in 2006, has never been sold.

The property is on a small peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and a narrow canal on the other.

Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokesman, declined to confirm the exact location of the family's housing.

Aides said the Obamas and their friends were expected to cover the costs of their stay in Hawaii. A typical rental price for the property could not immediately be found, although one home on the block has a sale price of $7.9 million.

Since he left the islands for college in California, Obama has returned virtually every year to see friends and family.

A year ago, the Obamas were too busy campaigning before the Iowa caucuses in January to take their annual Hawaiian vacation.

The Obamas are expected to be joined by Valerie Jarrett, a longtime family friend who will be moving to Washington as a senior advisor to the president. Hawaii's Republican Gov. Linda Lingle has said she expects to meet with Jarrett during the trip.

Also expected are the families of close friends Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker, who, like Jarrett, were active in the campaign.

The president-elect was most recently in Hawaii in October, when he left the campaign trail to visit his gravely ill grandmother, Madelyn Dunham.

Then, less than two days before Obama was elected president, his grandmother died at the Punahou Circle Apartments in Honolulu, where she helped raise him.

The family's Hawaii visit is expected to include a private memorial service for Dunham.

The visit will also give Obama a chance to visit his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, a history teacher. She was unable to attend his election night celebration in Chicago because of their grandmother's death.

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mccormickj@tribune.com

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