Obamas Depart for Chicago for Valentine’s Weekend Retreat

Feb 13, 2009 5:23pm

President and first lady Obama, first tweens Malia and Sasha, and first mother-in-law Marian Robinson departed the White House today on Marine One, with their ultimate destination chez Obama in Hyde Park, Chicago. It will be the first time on Air Force One for all of them except, of course, for President Obama.

As the first family exited the residence and walked to the helicopter, a reporter shouted — above the din from the helicopter — for a reaction to the House passage of his stimulus package.

The president gave a thumbs up with his right hand and said "thumbs up."

Another reporter shouted out the observation that the bill didn’t get one Republican vote.

Mr. Obama did not react.

The Obama ladies boarded the plane before he did. As he entered the Marine chopper, he stooped purposefully, making certain not to bump his head. (A mistake he did not avoid at the beginning of this turbulent week.)

The Obama family will be spending three nights in their $1.65 million Hyde Park home for the Valentines Day weekend, their first home visit since before the inauguration. The last time they were in Chicago as a family was Jan. 3rd.

As much as possible, aides say, this will be a friends and family weekend for the Obamas. There will be no public events. On schedule for Saturday night is a Valentine’s date for Mr. and Mrs. Obama at a Chicago restaurant, the identity of which is guarded like a state secret.

Last year, the Obamas went to Blackbird for their Valentines Day dinner. They also are known for frequenting the Italian restaurant Spiaggia and Mexican-inspired Topolobampo while painting the Windy City red.

Aides say that Mr. Obama’s weekend in Chicago will be very much like his weekends before he was president. He will likely play basketball and see friends –- the Nesbitt and the Whitaker families.

The president will receive daily briefings. Along for the trip will be press secretary Robert Gibbs, senior advisers/Chicagoans David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, deputy chief of staff to the First Lady Melissa Winter, and other aides.

President Obama has said that it is important to him to visit Chicago often, at one point predicting that his family will get away to visit every six weeks.

"My Kennebunkport is on the south side of Chicago," Obama said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in December. "Our friends are here. Our family is here. We are going to try to come back here as often as possible … at least once every six weeks or couple months."

In an interview yesterday with The State Journal-Register, President Obama talked about his upcoming weekend, “We are going back to Chicago tomorrow and spend the … Presidents’ Day weekend back home in our house,” Obama said. “Obviously, it’s a great honor being in the White House, but, you know, Chicago is still home. We’re really looking forward to seeing our friends. The girls are really excited about seeing all their buddies.”

– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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