Obama eager to escape the 'horse manure'

The Hawaiian island of Oahu is again bracing itself for a Christmas visit by President Barack Obama, his family and the massive security operation that surrounds them.

First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha arrived on Saturday on the island where Mr Obama was born and mostly raised. But he is not expected until after Congress adjourns, possibly tomorrow.

Last year, delayed by deliberations on the health care reform bill, the family did not get to Hawaii until Christmas Eve. This will be their third consecutive holiday visit to the Kailua area.

The Secret Service began alerting residents of spacious homes along Kailuana Place last week that checkpoints will soon go up. Hawaiian Telecom personnel were busily repairing telephone wiring outside one of the trio of multimillion-dollar beachfront homes where the Obama family and friends will spend Christmas and New Year.

Once authorities throw up a cordon around the district, simple pleasures like walking the beach or canoeing in a canal near the three houses will become difficult, if not impossible.

But although Mr Obama's standing in Washington has dropped a notch or two in the year since he and his family were last there, the thrill has definitely not gone for many Kailuans about him coming back.

"We have a local boy who's president and everybody's very proud of that," said Chuck Prentiss, chairman of the Kailua Neighbourhood Board, a panel that advises Honolulu city officials on community concerns.

The president is not expected to engage in fundraisers or other overtly political acts.

Dante Carpenter, chairman of the Hawaii Democratic Party, said he has asked if Mr Obama could be enticed into attending even a low-key event, but he has not heard back.

"I think he's been up to his eyeballs in horse manure and gun smoke, not necessarily in that order," Mr Carpenter said.