Obama Kicks Back For The Fourth

Golf, Cookout, Rock Concert Mark President's Holiday

July 05, 2009|By Paul West | Paul West,paul.west@baltsun.com

Washington - -President Barack Obama took his own advice Saturday, relaxing on the Fourth of July with some golf, a cookout and a private Foo Fighters concert in the backyard, capped by the annual fireworks show on the National Mall.

While Vice President Joe Biden celebrated with U.S. forces in Iraq, the president played host to 1,200 members of the military and their families at a White House barbecue.

In his weekly radio and online video address, Obama called on Americans to celebrate the spirit of their national day with family and friends. "Kick back and enjoy a little time off," he advised. "I hope that's exactly what all of you do."

That's what the president did. With his wife, Michelle, he took a helicopter back to Washington from Camp David, after spending Friday night at the Maryland mountain retreat. Daughter Malia, who turned 11 on Saturday, invited about 20 friends for her birthday celebration at the complex north of Frederick.

Speaking from a balcony of the South Portico with his wife and daughters by his side, Obama thanked U.S. servicemen and women for the job they do for the country and paid special attention to the recent handover of security in Iraq's cities.

"Because of what you did," he said, "a sovereign and united Iraq has taken control of its own destiny."

Obama took note of the special significance that July Fourth has for Malia, who sported an American flag painted on her right cheek. "When she was young, I used to say that all these fireworks were for her," he said. "I'm not sure she buys that."

The first Obama White House backyard Fourth celebration featured volleyball, mini-basketball, face painting and an Uncle Sam on stilts. Evening entertainment included comedian Jimmy Fallon and the first appearance in months by the Foo Fighters, who went on hiatus last year. At an afternoon sound check, the musicians paused to snap pictures of one another with the White House in the background.

During last year's campaign, the Foo Fighters protested Republican nominee John McCain's use of their song "My Hero" to promote his candidacy. That song, among the tunes the band practiced during its sound check, reverberated off the sandstone walls of the White House while the president was inside.

Obama, who leaves this evening on a weeklong foreign trip, put in some desk time in the Oval Office in the late morning. Then, declaring his independence from work, he broke away for an afternoon round of golf. In keeping with his practice, the president did not allow members of the news media to photograph him on the course or watch him play.

Obama, his wife and daughters are to leave tonight for Moscow, where the president plans to continue efforts to "reset" relations with Russian leaders. He will also visit Italy and the West African nation of Ghana, where he plans to deliver a major speech about development and democracy.

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