Obama's Florida visit ruffling feathers

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 7, 2014 

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are staying in Key Largo, Fla., for the weekend -- much to the dismay of some of their purported weekend neighbors.

The White House isn't commenting on the accommodations but various news reports say it rented several houses in the upscale Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo. The Miami Herald reported that the Federal Aviation Administration Thursday issued temporary flight restrictions over the Homestead/Miami area for Friday and over Key Largo from Friday through Sunday.

Meanwhile, says the Key West Citizen, "some members of the solidly Republican enclave have expressed outrage about the pending visit."

The newspaper quotes an email from residents Joe and Fran Murphy who say that Obama "has done nothing but degrade and punish the 'one percent' of Americans who have done the most for this country."

"To have a man here who hates us, who has divided America along racial lines, hates people who have been successful in life by hard work and determination is an affront to the membership," the email to Ocean Reef Club board members continues. "He despises what we have achieved, and would love to have the government open our gates to whomever would like to come into our lovely conservative community."

Vice President Joseph Biden stayed at Ocean Reef in 2013 and the Herald notes the Keys have "long been a destination for presidents, among them Carter, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, FDR, Kennedy and Truman."

The club's website boasts of 36 holes of golf, a salon and spa, more than a dozen restaurants, a 175-slip marina, a private airport, "and so much more, we are in a league of our own."

"What truly separates our Key Largo club is our unique lifestyle," the website says. "For sixty years, generations of Ocean Reef Club members have grown up with the shared values that make life so rewarding. This is a place where we can be ourselves – a place where privacy is paramount, security is assured, and family comes first."

Obama was leaving Friday morning for the weekend. He and the first lady were to first appear at Miami's Coral Reef High School where they are to visit a classroom.

Obama will also deliver remarks underscoring "how a quality education has never been more important to economic success in this country," the White House said.

The weekend vacation had been in flux for much of the weekend with administration officials saying quietly at one point that Obama might scrap it to stay in town and deal with mounting tension over Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin for an hour Thursday, though the White House take on the call suggested no resolution was reached.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters en route to Florida that Obama this week had juggled his budget rollout, a snow day and calls to foreign leaders on Ukraine and that he's likely to "do the same thing this weekend.

"The fact of the matter is what the president is doing this weekend in Florida is essentially what the President will be doing if he stayed back at the White House," Earnest said. "It’s just that the weather will be a little warmer."

He said Obama while traveling to Florida had received updates from his national security team and was expected to talk with a world leader at some point.

Still, Earnest said, Obama was looking forward to a "little bit of downtime in the warm weather with his wife and daughters."

"There are some recreational amenities on the property, including workout facilities, tennis courts, a couple of golf courses, as you’ve seen," Earnest said. He noted there was a six-hour time difference the U.S. and Europe, "so if there is an opportunity for the president to enjoy some of those amenities, then he’ll do that."

The family is scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday and although Earnest said there's "always" a chance it could change, he said the White House doesn't anticipate any changes.

Obama is traveling with his Deputy National Security Advisor, Tony Blinken, whom Earnest said has played a role in the Ukraine crisis. And he said Obama travels with communications tools that allow him to convene meetings with his national security team, if necessary.

"We have complete confidence that the President can handle all the responsibilities that he has, based on the resources that we have with us on the flight," Earnest said.


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