Obama's left Hawaii for D.C., but is still feeling the heat

It wasn't all that relaxing for Obama in Hawaii, but in D.C. the focus is even more intense on who's to blame for the Christmas Day bombing attempt on an airliner bound for Detroit.

Alex Brandon/AP
President Obama, the first lady, and their daughters step off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Monday, after spending the holidays in Hawaii.

One day you’re in sunny Hawaii, enjoying a shaved ice treat named after you (the “Snowbama”) and watching the wife and kids bounce around the Honolulu Zoo.

The next, you’re back in Washington, where it’s frigid on several levels. The city itself is gripped by unusual cold, and politics is dominated by an argument about who, if anyone, is to blame for the Christmas Day bombing attempt on an airliner landing in Detroit.

That’s Barack Obama’s plight – in hours he’s gone from “Snowbama” to “oh, mama.” (Cue groans, stage right.)

First business: security briefings

President Obama touched down in Washington at midday Monday and got right back to work in the Oval Office, receiving the first of an expected string of reports about the attempted attack on the Northwest Airlines flight.

Mr. Obama’s first scheduled briefing was from the CIA, dealing with what the agency knew, and when it knew it, about bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The president was also set to hear from White House homeland security and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan.

On Tuesday, Obama is scheduled to take part in a more comprehensive look at the attack, said Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton.

“Coming out of that meeting we’ll probably have more on what the next steps are,” said Mr. Burton in a briefing with reporters.

But Obama hasn’t waited to get back to D.C. before pressing for action, noted Burton. Modern presidents, after all, in one sense only appear to be on vacation. The weight of the office – plus lots of high-tech communications gear – is with them at all times.

Travel adjustments so far

The Transportation Security Agency has already moved to tighten security, requiring extra screening on all travelers from or transiting through 14 countries on a new watch list, noted spokesman Burton.

In addition, the names of dozens of people have been added to the government’s terrorist watch lists and a do-not-fly list which bans entry into the US.

“There’s already been a rescrubbing of the different lists,” said Burton.

All this is on top of a normal presidential workload, which includes monitoring lawmakers as House and Senate try to work out the differences between their versions of health reform legislation, and the drafting of an upcoming State of the Union speech. The State of the Union will probably be later this month, though the date has yet to be set.

“We’re in the process of piecing together what it will be – a speech that is going to have to cover quite a bit of ground,” said spokesman Burton.

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