Baseball, bears and bacon: Obama’s big week out

 

McClatchy Washington Bureau

He lobbed a baseball at a Little League game on Monday, went for a stroll near his home on Wednesday and stood at a restaurant counter Friday morning to place his breakfast order: two eggs over medium with bacon and hash browns.

Just a regular week. But for President Barack Obama -- who for security reasons lives largely within a protective bubble -- the past week presented a number of opportunities to escape and to mingle.

(Perhaps too many opportunities: Obama joked Friday at breakfast in Chicago with Gov. Pat Quinn that diners at Valois Restaurant were working him too hard: his food remained untouched as he took photos and chatted with the crowd.)

Breakfast at the Obama hotspot -- the Hyde Park restaurant features a glass cabinet filled with coffee mugs adorned with Obama’s face -- capped a week of out-of-the-White-House ventures that suggest that after six years in office, Obama is chafing a bit at the restrictive nature of the job.

“I don’t get a chance to take walks very often,” he told an audience Thursday at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “Secret Service gets a little stressed. But every once in a while I’m able to sneak off. I’m sort of like the circus bear that kind of breaks the chain, and I start taking off, and everybody starts whispering, ‘The bear is loose!”

(The bubble has its advantages: At Cooperstown -- where Obama promoted efforts to open up the U.S. to international tourists -- most visitors were instructed not to touch a display of World Series rings. But Obama slipped one on. “Oh, it fits,” he said with a smile.)

Obama on Wednesday declined the customary motorcade that transports him around town, doffing his suit jacket to walk several blocks to the Interior Department.

“The bear is loose,” he exclaimed on the walkabout, greeting tourists from China, Israel and North Carolina. An ever-present White House video crew filmed the scene, posting Obama’s every guy encounters on the White House website.

“This is like the best day of my life!” exclaimed one excited tourist, Karen, as she hugged Obama and posed for a photograph. “Oh my gosh, someone’s going to think you’re like wax.”

At Interior, where he designated half a million acres in New Mexico for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, Obama suggested to the audience that he misses not getting out more: “I think about the thrill of going on a hike without a security detail behind me. It’s a wistful feeling.”

Obama after the big midterm losses in 2010 noted there was an “inherent danger in being in the White House and being in the bubble.

“When you're in this place, it is hard not to seem removed,” he said at the time.

There have been other outings: He and vice president Joe Biden – in his signature RayBan shades -- left the White House on foot last October, walking a block to a sandwich shop to press House Republicans to put an end to the government shutdown.

And first lady Michelle Obama -- who routinely dines out in Washington, D.C. with friends -- has been photographed shopping at an area Target.

This summer, the president isn’t the only Obama looking to get beyond the gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. His daughters are “counting down for summer,” which will include camp and internships, the first lady said in an interview this week with Access Hollywood.

“One child is going to be driving this summer,” she added, speaking of their eldest, Malia. “Look out everyone!”

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