TRENTON, Maine — President Barack Obama brought his family to the coast of Maine Friday for a biking and hiking getaway made even sweeter by a double helping of good news from Congress and the Gulf of Mexico.
Obama, his wife Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha touched down at Bar Harbor airport on a smaller version of Air Force One around lunchtime. Their dog, Bo, and staff had arrived earlier.
The Obamas planned to stay through Sunday to enjoy Acadia National Park’s trails and scenic coastal views. No public events were planned.
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From the airport, the Obamas’ motorcade drove for about a half hour onto Mount Desert Island, passing forested granite hills and ocean inlets before turning onto a narrow park road. The family planned to ride bicycles on a trail along Witch Hole Pond, aides said.
Obama’s getaway from the Washington bubble he regularly decries came a day after the Senate sent him a far-reaching new banking and consumer protection bill that had been one of the president’s top domestic priorities since taking office. It also came a day after BP managed to cap the well that has been spewing oil into the Gulf since April.
Obama no doubt hopes this jaunt doesn’t fall victim to the family’s travel hex. That would be the one in which events seem to scramble the plans whenever Obama has his wife and daughters in tow.
In a mere 18 months on the job, Obama has rolled up an impressive record of diversions, interruptions, delays and outright cancellations of planned family travel — all thanks to the nonstop demands of a turbulent presidency.
The visit to Acadia National Park follows last summer’s Obama family trip to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Canyon National Park, which included whitewater rafting and peach-picking.
But that schedule was altered to include town meetings in Montana and Colorado, so Obama could address the growing furor over his health care plan.
It set a pattern, which has continued this year.
Their Memorial Day weekend in Chicago was overtaken by the Gulf oil spill. After the Obamas slept at their Chicago home for the first time in a year, the president got up and left for a daylong Gulf inspection tour.
That followed the Obamas’ Christmas trip to Hawaii, interrupted repeatedly for briefings and comment on the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound jet.
And it followed last summer’s Martha’s Vineyard stay, marred by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose Boston funeral Obama and his wife, Michelle, attended.
Then there was the planned visit to Indonesia, where Obama spent part of his youth. He’d hoped to show his daughters his old haunts. But the trip was scrubbed twice, first in March as health care neared its climax in Congress, then again in June because of the oil spill. It’s now expected late this year.
The spill could further scramble the family’s plans. In an NBC interview Thursday, Obama didn’t rule out a vacation trip to a Gulf beach.
Despite two wars and an economic collapse crowding his plate, Obama’s taken comparatively little time off.
According to a tally kept by Mark Knoller, a CBS News reporter long recognized by the White House as authoritative on such matters, Obama has spent all or part of 65 days on vacation, including days at Camp David. At this point in his tenure, George W. Bush had logged 120 days. That included 13 trips to his Texas ranch.
That hasn’t stopped critics from complaining. GOP Chairman Michael Steele, for one, has been scathing — calling it incredible that Obama goes on golf outings while oil flows into the Gulf.
The White House dismisses such gripes.
Bar Harbor and its surroundings are famed as a summer getaway for the rich and famous, from the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts who built homes there to Hollywood stars who often turn up.