The Washington Times - February 7, 2009, 08:44AM

President Obama took his family to the Camp David presidential retreat for the first time Saturday afternoon, strolling out of the White House residence onto the South Lawn at 3:49 p.m.

“Nice day, huh?” Mr. Obama said to reporters as he emerged from the South Portico, behind first lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.


“It’s a beautiful day,” he said, his voice barely audible above the whine of the idling Marine One engines.

The Obama’s were joined by Michelle’s mom, Marian Robinson, and an unidentified young friend of Sasha’s. Lucky friend.

The entire crew was dressed casually. Michelle wore an open jacket over a blue jump suit. The girls wore jeans and light jackets. The president was dressed most formally, with a dark light coat over a sweater and open collared shirt, and dark slacks.

Malia walked out at the rear of the Obama family and appeared bashful. Her father, after making his brief remarks striding by the cameras, noticed her walking with her head down and put his arm around her as they walked the 50 or so feet to the helicopter.

It was the first flight on the presidential helicopter for Mrs. Obama and the two young girls. Mr. Obama made his first trip on board the aircraft Thursday on the way to speak to House Democrats in Williamsburg.

And it’s the first time for the Obama family at Camp David, a presidential retreat in the Catoctin Mountains near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first used the retreat, and President Eisenhower named it Camp David in honor of his grandson.

The retreat compound is in a heavily wooded and secluded area and is guarded year-round by a special Marine unit, affording the family the freedom to wander the grounds. There are several houses, as well as room to hike, one regulation size golf hole, a swimming pool, and other amenities. President Reagan rode horses on the grounds.

Some presidents have spent lots of time at Camp David — President Bush was a big fan — while others have spent less time there.

As Mr. Obama approached the Marine standing at the bottom of the stairs onto the helicopter, with whom Mr. Obama shook hands on Thursday in a break of protocol, Mr. Obama saluted. No handshake this time.

He boarded the steps last, turned and waved to the cameras, smiling as if he thought there were a bit of humor in all of the formality. But it’s an iconic image, the commander-in-chief at the top of the steps, whether it be to Marine One or Air Force One.

In his weekly video and radio address this morning, the president continued to issue dire warnings about what wlll happen if Congress doesn’t pass his stimulus bill.

Here’s the top of our story up on the website:

President Obama on Saturday morning warned the nation of a “national catastrophe” if Congress does not move quickly to pass and implement his economic rescue plan, even as he lauded the Senate’s movement toward passage of an $827 billion version of the bill.

“Yesterday began with some devastating news with regard to our economic crisis,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the Labor Department report Friday showing the loss of nearly 600,000 jobs in January, which moved the national unemployment rate up to 7.6 percent.

“But I’m pleased to say it ended on a more positive note,” he said of the deal struck between Senate Democratic leaders and a group of moderates over the issue of how much spending to cut from the massive bill.


Vice President Biden is also in the news today. He spoke about foreign policy in Munich, in the first real preview of how the Obama administration will handle its relations with the rest of the world.

Here’s the top to that story, which you can read by clicking here:

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Saturday described a “dangerous drift” in relations between Russia and democratic nations, and laid out the Obama administration’s prescription for fixing it, during an address to world leaders at a meeting in Munich.

Mr. Biden’s speech was highly anticipated because President Obama has not yet traveled abroad or delivered a major foreign policy address as he deals with the economic crisis at home.

The vice president’s address to a few hundred leaders — including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and top U.S. military officials — was the first chance for many in the world to see and hear how the new American government will deal with the world.

Mr. Biden delivered a wide-ranging speech that promised a new global approach from the eight years of President Bush, whose strong-willed and sometimes unilateral foreign policy at many points angered friends and foes alike.

- Jon Ward, White House reporter, The Washington Times