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Obama sounds triumphal note at start of vacation in Hawaii.

Byline: Amy Chozick

HONOLULU -- In previous years, President Barack Obama's vacation here has involved the Christmas Day shoe bomber (2009), the fiscal crisis (2012) and historically low approval ratings (2013).

But this holiday season, Obama's family vacation to the oceanfront enclave of Kailua had the feel of a victory lap.

"In terms of my own job, I'm energized, I'm excited about the prospects for the next couple of years,'' Obama said hours before heading to Andrews Air Force Base with his wife, Michelle; their two daughters; and their two Portuguese water dogs.

On board Air Force One, Obama popped back to the rear of the aircraft to tell the accompanying journalists to enjoy their time in Hawaii.

After a tumultuous year in which his party was pummeled in the midterm elections, Obama took a rare opportunity in his end-of-year-remarks at the White House to show some braggadocio after his historic move to reopen diplomatic relations with Cuba.

"Pick any metric you want -- America's resurgence is real,'' he said. "We are better off.''

He mentioned the creation of nearly 11 million new jobs in the past 57 months, the end of the country's combat mission in Afghanistan, the increase in domestic production of oil and gas, and the campaign in West Africa against Ebola.

But Obama also showed a relaxed approach to the barrage of reporters' questions, as if already tapping into the laid-back vibe of Hawaii, his childhood home.

"All I want for Christmas is to take your questions,'' he joked.

It was quite a change from the tone of the remarks he made before last year's vacation to Hawaii, when he told reporters he was "eager to skip town.''

On Friday, he called 2014 a "breakthrough year'' and pushed back at claims by politicians in both parties that he had entered the lame-duck period of his presidency.

"My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter,'' Obama said. "And I'm looking forward to it.''

"But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout,'' he added. "I'm now looking forward to a quiet timeout -- Christmas with my family.''

Obama got his wish at 10:38 p.m. local time Friday, when he emerged from Air Force One tieless and in khakis.

The Obama family briefly greeted Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, before the presidential motorcade wove through the humid streets to the Obamas' vacation home in Kailua, Hawaii.

While the U.S. response to a security breach at Sony by North Korea still looms over the president's vacation, press aides said they did not expect any news conferences or public events. Obama will play golf and catch up with friends.

"Mele kalikimaka,'' he told reporters earlier in the day. Or Merry Christmas, in Hawaiian.

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Author:Chozick, Amy
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Geographic Code:1U9HI
Date:Dec 21, 2014
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