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Obamas to Spend Rare Weekend at Chicago Home

The home of Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is seen in Chicago on Wednesday, July 2, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong
AP

The great anthem to The Windy City, "My Kind of Town," proclaims, "Each time I roam, Chicago is calling me home."

President and Mrs. Obama have "roamed" the country and the world since moving to the White House but their extended weekend visit is the first time their hometown has called them home in a long time. The big red brick house on South Greenwood Avenue (at left) will be the Midwestern White House until the Obamas and daughters Sasha and Malia return to Washington on Monday.

Barack Obama has publicly complained that, "One of the toughest things about being president is I don't get a chance to come home as much as I'd like."

After winning the presidential election, he said he hoped to return to Chicago every six to eight weeks. But trips back to the Hyde Park neighborhood have been very rare. Most of the president's visits to the city have been brief without even seeing the house. He and the family stayed there for three nights in February of 2009. He also made two day-trips to Chicago last year.

Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, "If it were up to him (the president), he'd be able to spend a lot more time there. But the pressures of the job keep him in Washington quite a bit."

There's also another major factor that has kept Obamas away from their hometown. Both publicly and privately, the president has bemoaned the disruptions that are caused by the security precautions, motorcades and other presidential requirements.

"Part of the problem is when I travel now it kind of causes a ruckus," Mr. Obama recently told a Quincy, Illinois, audience.

The Obamas are reluctant to create hassles for their Greenwood Avenue neighbors who are again dealing with barricades and other intrusions. Tour buses also travel the streets of the area, pointing out sites that have played a role in the lives of the Obama family.

President Obama walks down the stairs from Air Force One with, from left, Malia, Sasha and first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday, May 27, 2010, in Chicago.
AP

Mr. Obama is the first president in recent memory who owns a home in a busy city neighborhood. George W. Bush could retreat to his Texas ranch without causing any major inconvenience. (For the record, he spent 490 days there during his eight years in office.)

Unlike the Obama's who have true "next-door neighbors," the Bushes probably couldn't even see other homes from their ranch in the wide open spaces near Crawford, Texas.

President Bill Clinton often vacationed at the secured estates of friends on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. He had moved from the Arkansas Governor's mansion to the White House.

Of the White House he once said, "I don't know whether it's the finest public housing in America or the crown jewel of the federal prison system."

George H.W. Bush often stayed at a Houston hotel when he returned to his adopted home state of Texas. Most of his vacations were spent at his vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, where often said he liked to "recreate." A typical day would include golf, swimming fishing, horseshoes and other pursuits.

Ronald Reagan retreated to remote "Rancho del Cielo," his property in the Santa Ynez Mountains northwest of Santa Barbara, California. Reagan rarely left the "Western White House" during vacations that often lasted several weeks.

Jimmy Carter was the last president who owned a home in a "real" neighborhood. The ranch-style house in tiny Plains, Georgia, not far from his birthplace, is still home to Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter.

Going back to Washington's Mount Vernon, presidential homes and vacation retreats are among the best reflections of the personalities and values of the nation's leaders.

Of course presidents are really never on vacation. Later today, Mr. Obama will break away from the Chicago visit to travel to Louisiana for his second inspection tour of the oil disaster zone.


Peter Maer is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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    Peter Maer is a CBS News White House Correspondent.