President Obama provoked fresh outrage today after taking a 20-man motorcade to visit a childhood friend during his lavish Christmas holiday in Hawaii.
The 10-vehicle convoy drove the president and wife Michelle from his rental property in Kailua, across highways cleared of traffic and through a military community to reach Bobby Titcomb’s beachfront house.
Mr Obama, who spent eight years at Punahou School in Hawaii before graduating in 1979, has splashed out $1.5m on his trip–a decision that will not endear him to the millions of Americans facing economic hardship in the New Year.
The extra cost of the excessive security levels demanded by the holidaying Mr Obama will further enrage opponents of the 49-year-old, who will return to work on January 3.
After a game of golf with his old friends in the day, the president ate at the barbecue, played volleyball and relaxed on the beach with family and friends, White House spokesman Bill Burton said.
Police had stopped cars along the route at on ramps and side streets. Onlookers were often waving or flashing the famous shaka sign.
While enjoying the barbecue the president’s men, armed to the teeth, carefully guarded the area, and waterways, against any possible attack.
Near Dillingham Airfield a group unveiled a sign which read: ‘Hi, Mr. Prez.’
The airfield, frequented by gliders and parachute jumpers, was dormant due to security for the President. Bill Star, one the operators of Original Glider Rides, lamented the lost business as it was the first day of excellent weather this week.
Mr Obama, who also visited Mr Titcomb on the same day a year ago, is facing claims that he could have been more frugal in his two-week getaway with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha at a luxury beachfront rental home in Kailua, an upscale resort about 12 miles from the capital, Honolulu.
According to the Hawaii Reporter, the bill for the trip included:
* $63,000 on an early flight bringing Mrs Obama and the children to Hawaii ahead of the president.
* $1,000,000 on Mr Obama’s return trip from Washington on Air Force One.
* $38,000 for the ‘Winter White House’ the president has rented for his family on the beach.
* $16,000 to rent beachfront homes for Secret Service and Navy Seals.
* $134,000 for 24 White House staff to stay at the Moana Hotel.
* $251,000 in police overtime.
* $10,000 for an ambulance to be on hand at all times
And those tallies do not include the travel costs of Mr Obama’s staff and Secret Service, car rentals and surveillance operations in advance of the trip, which could easily add up to more than £30,000.
The White House would not comment on the cost of the stay.
A spokesman said the president’s holiday expenses are in line with those of previous presidents.
But the Hawaii Reporter claimed: ‘They could have chosen a less expensive and more secure place to stay such as a beachfront home on the Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station–just a two-minute drive away from the Kailuana Place property where they are now.
‘The president visits the military base daily to workout, bowl with his kids or enjoy the more private beach there. ‘He also could have stayed at a home 15 minutes away on the beach fronting Bellows Air Force Base as President Bill Clinton did.’
The 7,000 square foot home where the president is vacationing has five bedrooms, a media room and a secluded lagoon-style pool with tropical waterfalls and a spa.
The Obamas holidayed at the same spot last year, but rising fuel costs have pushed up the estimated travel costs and the president flew later than the rest of his family because of delayed votes in Washington, adding more to the escalating expenses.
The Honolulu Police Department said overtime for officers cost $250,000 last year, compared to $106,000 in 2008 before his inauguration.
The President has no intention of going to a new location for his vacations.
Mr Burton, who is with the president in Hawaii, said: ‘Like most Americans, the president knows what he likes in his own hometown.
‘He’s been going to a lot of these places since he was a very young child and they hold an important place in his life.’