- The Washington Times
Friday, March 7, 2014

The White House defended President Obama’s decision Friday to spend the weekend on vacation in an ultra-exclusive resort in the Florida Keys while the economy remains weak and the showdown with Russia over Ukraine demands his attention.

Presidential spokesman Joshua Earnest said Mr. Obama can carry out all his duties this weekend at the posh Coral Reef Club in Key Largo, adding, “It’s just that the weather will be a little warmer.”

“What the president will be doing this weekend in Florida is essentially what the president would be doing back at the White House,” Mr. Earnest said.

Mr. Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters will spend the weekend at the private community that features features 36 holes of golf, a salon and spa, more than a dozen restaurants, and a 175-slip marina.

“This is a place where we can be ourselves — a place where privacy is paramount, security is assured, and family comes first,” the club’s website boasts. “We are in a league of our own.”

While the Obamas are vacationing in the Keys, Vice President Joseph R. Biden and wife Jill are spending the weekend in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Republican National Committee criticized the Obamas and Bidens for jetting off to the exclusive vacation spots while the unemployment rate rose slightly Friday to 6.7 percent.

“Only President Obama would deliver a brief speech about education and then have the nerve to jet over to the posh Ocean Reef Clubs — an exclusive members-only resort for the wealthy — for a quick vacation,” said RNC spokesman Jahan Wilcox. “As President Obama enjoys the Florida Keys and Vice President Biden vacations in the Virgin Islands for the weekend, their economic policies are still leaving millions of middle-class Americans and young adults struggling to get by in the Obama Economy.”

Mr. Earnest said the president “has had a very robust schedule,” noting that he has made calls in recent days to various world leaders about the crisis in Ukraine over Russia’s military occupation.

“He has been able to all that without interrupting what has otherwise been a pretty busy schedule fro him this week,” he said. “That’s true of the president’s schedule today.”

The president’s spokesman did say Mr. Obama was eager for a little relaxation as well.

“The president is looking forward to spending some time with his wife and daughters, who are traveling down to Florida as well,” he said. “There are some recreational amenities on the property, including workout facilities, tennis courts, a couple of golf courses. If there is an opportunity for the president to enjoy some of those amenities, then he’ll do that. What he will do, and what he is looking forward to doing, is getting a little downtime in the warm weather with his wife and daughters.”

Mr. and Mrs. Obama were visiting a high school in Miami Friday to promote the president’s education agenda before heading to the Keys.

“The point is, over the course of a very busy week, the president has maintained his schedule and his ability to monitor ongoing events in Ukraine,” Mr. Earnest said.

Ocean Reef’s website details its upscale attractions. It also has a section on its dress code, which deems “unacceptable attire” as follows: “Tank tops, tank-style undershirts and jogging tops for men, crop and jogging tops for women, frayed cut-offs and tattered jeans are not acceptable attire. Shirts with sleeves are required at all times in all public areas other than the pool. Thank you for your cooperation in maintaining our cultured family environment.”

The Federal Aviation Administration issued temporary flight restrictions over Key Largo for the weekend, meaning pilots must avoid the area. The agency wouldn’t confirm the restrictions were due to the president’s visit, according to Keysnet.com.

The Bidens also spent New Year’s Eve in the Virgin Islands.

The Bidens and Obamas leave behind the annual CPAC conference in Washington, where conservative speakers are blasting the administration’s policies, and a blanket of snow on the White House lawn.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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