RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — It’s perhaps appropriate that President Barack Obama is vacationing this weekend in California, where the state flag features a roaming grizzly.
The restless president, who has compared himself to a caged animal on recent wanderings by declaring the “bear is loose,” took a long Father’s Day weekend away with his wife and older daughter.
The visit to the desert resort area of Palm Springs is one of the ways Obama has been trying to escape during his sixth year cloistered in the White House.
“I think frankly we’ve all been through a cold and bitter winter and the bear has cabin fever,” said Obama friend and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. “His cabin is a little bit bigger and harder to escape than most.”
Obama has fantasized about being “on a beach somewhere drinking out of a coconut” or simply being able to walk out of the White House gate and stroll around unrecognized.
In California, Obama has worked out mornings at a gym near the Rancho Mirage home where the first family is staying with White House decorator Michael Smith and his partner, James Costos, the American ambassador to Spain.
The hilltop home has sweeping views, a private tennis court and trapezoid swimming pool. Despite temperatures above 100 degrees, Obama was able to golf at two nearby courses — Saturday at the Sunnylands estate and Sunday at the Porcupine Creek Estate owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison.
Obama interspersed his four-day weekend with official duties, including Democratic Party fundraising, a speech on climate change and calls to his national security adviser discussing military options to stop a violent insurgency in Iraq. As his administration announced that some staff were being evacuated from the Baghdad embassy, Obama was on the golf course.
Obama seemed determined not to let the crisis overseas keep him from getting a break, in a time-honored tradition of presidents going on working vacations even as some question the optics.
“Sometimes when all of the brown stuff is hitting the rotating blades, a vacation is not the best thing to go on,” said Dana Perino, who was President George W. Bush’s press secretary.