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Hawaii neighbors spy first family, await president

December 21, 2011|By Peter Nicholas
(Eric Risberg/AP )

Reporting from Kailua, Hi. — Meantime, here in paradise ….

It’s not clear when President Obama will decide it’s safe to walk away from the latest congressional impasse and join his family for their annual holiday retreat.

But a visit to the vacation spot Tuesday afternoon confirmed that First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia must be having a far better week than the president.

They’re staying in a five-bedroom home sandwiched between a canal and Kailua Bay on the east side of Oahu. Once he tears himself away from House Speaker John Boehner, the president can look forward to drinking in the 80-degree sunshine and gazing at the green sea turtles.

Neighbors seemed ambivalent about the inconvenience that goes with having the first family move onto your street, if only temporarily. Mary Bibby, whose house is opposite the security checkpoint, is spending her fourth straight Christmas in proximity to the Obamas. One year, she says, she shook the president’s hand at a nearby church service.

Bibby could live without the bomb-sniffing dogs constantly checking her car. Asked about Obama's performance in office, she pointed a thumb earthward. “I don’t think he’s healing any of the ails that bother people so much,’’ she said.

Ruth Bessinger, 45, who recently moved into the neighborhood, said she was excited to have caught the first lady’s glance as the motorcade returned home one day. She looked at one of the passing cars, realized she was staring straight at Michelle Obama through the window, and smiled and waved. She said she was delighted when the first lady smiled and waved in return.

Bessinger said she has one regret: she was holding bag from McDonald's. Knowing the first lady is a stickler about nutrition, she said she felt a bit “embarrassed.’’

“For us, it’s exciting and nice that they come here,’’ she said. “If it were my husband, I’d be like — ‘When is he coming?’ ’’

With children about the same age as the two first daughters, Bessinger added: “They’re welcome to come over for a play date.’’

Michelle Obama’s office would give no details of the first lady’s activities, saying in an email message that she and her daughters are on “a private vacation.’’

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