Palm Springs, California (CNN) — President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are trading Washington’s late spring humidity for Southern California’s scorching desert heat, spending a long Father’s Day weekend near Palm Springs.
Like all presidential getaways, the Obamas’ Californian oasis comes equipped with a cadre of aides and secure communications equipment to ensure the business of running the country isn’t far away.
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Officials said Obama planned to convene meetings of his national security team over the weekend to discuss violence in Iraq, as well as call foreign leaders to gauge their support for military intervention.
On Friday, Obama said he was actively assessing options to try to halt militants in Iraq from gaining ground after extremist Sunni fighters captured cities and territory in the north of the country. Options for Washington to intervene including everything from ramping up equipment sales and intelligence sharing to targeted airstrikes, using either drones or manned planes.
While Obama said Friday he would not send U.S. ground troops back into the country, the situation presents a new challenge for a president who had touted the end of the Iraq war as a chief foreign policy achievement.
On Friday Obama said political change by Iraq’s leaders — or at least the promise of it — must accompany any U.S. action taken there. White House officials say they’ve long pressed Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to form a more inclusive government of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
During al-Maliki’s last visit to Washington in November, Obama praised the Iraqi Prime Minister’s effort toward that goal, saying he appreciated his work toward building “a strong, prosperous, inclusive and democratic Iraq.”
That sentiment was absent Friday, when Obama said Iraq’s leaders had yet to demonstrate a “sincere effort” to “set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability, and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities.”
“We can’t do it for them,” he said, before departing the White House for a visit to North Dakota’s Indian country and later California.
The first couple were staying in Rancho Mirage, a tony resort in California’s Coachella Valley, at the home of Michael Smith, the White House decorator, and his partner, James Costos, who Obama named ambassador to Spain last year.
On Saturday the president headed west to Orange Country, fundraising for Democrats in Laguna Beach before delivering the University of California, Irvine’s commencement address in Angels Stadium in Anaheim.
He planned to use the platform to advocate for more action on climate change, an issue his administration has taken on forcefully over the past month. In early June the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new restrictions aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants by 30%.
Met with harsh criticism by Republicans and even some coal-state Democrats, Obama and his aides hailed the measure as the single biggest step by the government so far in combatting global warming.
The rest of Obama’s weekend remained open as of Saturday morning. During past stays near Palm Springs, Obama has taken advantage of the area’s golf courses, though temperatures in the valley over the weekend were climbing north of 100 degrees.