WAIMANALO, Hawaii (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama slipped away Friday from the traveling press pool that follows him wherever he goes, taking his two young daughters and other family members and friends to Sea Life Park Hawaii.
The Obamas are vacationing in Hawaii.
CNN was the only news organization to witness the park outing. The president-elect was joined by about nine others, including daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, half-sister Maya Sotero-Ng, her husband and daughter and friend Eric Whitaker.
The group caught a dolphin show before visiting a touch pool and the sea lion exhibit, where it was feeding time.
After the park visit, the Obama group was joined by the press pool - which arrived at the park about an hour after the Obamas but was not allowed in - as they stopped for a sandwich and shaved ice. The reporters refused an offer from Obama to buy them some shaved ice.
The press was allowed to take photographs for more than 20 minutes - much longer than the typical photo opportunity at such an event - before Obama asked the crews and the large crowd that had gathered to "let me eat in peace."
The traveling press pool that accompanies high-ranking officials like the president-elect or the president is made up of about 15 representatives from all types of media - newspaper, magazine, radio, television. Those representatives report back on their subject's movements for the rest of the media.
Their purpose is to provide a public record of the official's activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy.
On Friday, the pool went with Obama to the gym earlier in the day and then returned to their hotels after the transition team said there would be no further events.
"With no further scheduled events for the day, a lid was called until further notice," said Ben Labolt, a transition team spokesman. "The president-elect (later) decided to take the girls to a water park, and we assembled the pool as quickly as possible."
When the travel pool was notified that the Obamas were heading to the park, they notified other news agencies - including CNN. The pool had to return to the Obamas' vacation home to be taken to the park by the transition team; CNN's crew, not a part of the pool on Friday, was closer to the park.
When visitors of the park recognized the president-elect, they began snapping more photos and videos of Obama's group than of the marine animals. A number of Secret Service agents kept people at a safe distance, asking onlookers to keep walking after they stood looking at the group a while.
The Obamas are trying to establish a level of privacy for Sasha and Malia, as previous presidents have done with their own children. But it's been more than 30 years since a presidential child has been under the age of 10, and the fine line between keeping the public eye on the president-elect while keeping the children's privacy intact is not always clear.
Amy Carter, daughter of President Jimmy Carter, was 9 years old when her father took office. The children of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were grown when they took office, and Chelsea Clinton was 12 when President Bill Clinton took office. President George W. Bush's twins Jenna and Barbara were 20 when their father became president.
Four days ago, paparazzi staked out the Obamas' vacation rental home on the public Kailua Beach and snapped photographs of the family. The photos, particularly one of a shirtless Obama in swim trunks, caused a media firestorm.
The transition team dismissed the photo of the president-elect, but they were not pleased with the photos of the children.
CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah contributed to this report.
Obviously he did not give ALL of the Paparazzi Press the slip! *LOL* Otherwise we would not have this photo op!
Ok. this is good. It is expected that he will visit his family at this time. Many do this too. It is Holiday.
But why we have to follow his every private step? Does he want this publicity?
Wow, I was hoping that after the election, the right wing nut jobs would go into hiding. Looks like some did but now we have Richard Rohde to take their place.
So, I'll repeat...instead of just foaming at the mouth and spreading a bunch of nonsense, how about something constructive? It's not hard and does not require an advanced degree. Give it a shot!
If he stops it there would be shouts of CENSORSHIP and then your right wing buddies would ask what was he hiding and if he was having secret meetings with Jeremiah Wright, Gov. Blago, or Mr. Spock.
Being a public figure is part of being President in this paparazzi culture Americans have engendered. Frankly, I would rather hear more about this than about Britney.
Barack Obama is awesome
You are missing some important details also. Liberal anger at Bush was a direct result of how the 2000 election was decided. Remember, Gore got more popular votes and the whole Florida debacle was shut down when the Republicans got the Supreme Court involved. Talk about activist judges?
Also, remember that Bush had a 90% approval rating after 9/11. He and his administration threw that away since then by dividing the nation as much as possible.
And, if you want to argue like a 6th grader, then let's remember that whatever hate Bush caught was a direct response to the Republican hypocrites and their hate towards Clinton from the day he beat Bush's daddy.
Perhaps he was just "silencing" anyone who knows the truth about his birth certificate.
No better for the reporters, they should have been home enjoying the holidays with their friends and families. I hope he gives them more slips. LOL
Isn't amazing how much vacation time politicians get?
"Showing the way December 27th, 2008 12:35 pm ET
I think it's great he went to Sea World…he is role modeling for all the sit home parents to get out and do something constructive with their children….."
he just went with his kids to have some fun. Not everyone can afford this. SO he is not showing a example.....if you cannot afford it, you have to be at home.....
Obama will be on vacation more than GB. Wait and see, he is lazy.
I agree with DX from TX.