WASHINGTON (CNN) - Feeling the wind at his back President Obama decided to surprise the White House Press Corps as he prepared to depart for his Hawaiian vacation.
While walking from the Oval office to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, the president made a turn and then walked over to reporters, producers, and crews and shook as many hands as possible.
He wished the startled and shivering members of the press, who had been waiting for nearly a half hour in the cold, a "Merry Christmas" and asked if anyone was coming with him to Hawaii.
This is a unprecendented move for the president. While he always waves goodbye and sometimes will shake hands with visitors who line up to watch his departure, he has never "worked the rope line" for those who cover him everyday.
Mr. Obama, carrying what appeared to be a card in his hand, seemed enthusiastic as he handed out holiday greetings. He departed with a "huge bag of gifts" himself: A START treaty, "don't ask, don't tell" repeal, a tax cut, health care for 9/11 responders, and funding for the funding for the federal government until March.
By: CNN Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy
WASHINGTON (CNN) - It wasn't a surprise that a lot of people would want to see President Obama sign the bill repealing the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy, after all the administration moved the event to a nearby auditorium at the Department of the Interior that holds far more people than any room in the White House.
But they may not have anticipated the zeal the crowd brought to the event. "Enlist us now," one audience member yelled as Obama was speaking.
A CNN White House producer who has been to a number of these events said she'd never seen a crowd at a bill signing that was so "upbeat and jovial."
As they waited for the president and his party to take the stage there were smiles, hugs and kisses between people in the audience who have been working for years to get rid of DADT.
By: CNN Wire Staff
Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the lame duck session of Congress and plans for the upcoming year.
The CNN Political Ticker live blogged the news conference.
HONOLULU (CNN) - With President Obama staying in Washington a bit longer for a news conference as Congress wraps up its final business in a lame-duck session, federal officials here in Hawaii have adjusted flight restrictions and are now expecting him to arrive for vacation in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration has now issued an advisory instituting a no-fly zone for 10 nautical miles over Honolulu early Thursday from 2:45am until 445am local time. But the White House announced that they now anticipate the president arriving in Honolulu at approximately 11:50 pm local time on Wednesday, so the FAA will of course adjust their arrangements.
Hawaii is five time zones behind the East Coast so Obama will now leave Washington at approximately 6:45 pm eastern on Wednesday after an end of the year news conference.
John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, responds to criticism of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper unaware of UK terror plot during television interview
"Jim Clapper, is I think, the consummate DNI. He was working on developments on the Korean peninsula in terms of political and military developments. He was focused on trying to provide support to the Congress as far as the START treaty deliberations were concerned. He was engaged in a variety of classified matters.
Should he have been briefed by his staff on those arrests? Yes. And I know there was breathless attention by the media about these arrests and it was constantly on the news networks. I am glad that Jim Clapper is not sitting in front of the TV 24 hours a day and monitoring what is coming out of the media. What he is doing is focusing on those intelligence issues that the president expects him to focus on and to make sure that we don't have conflict in different parts of the world. He continues to focus on those and his not being briefed yesterday afternoon – this is something they've acknowledged that he should have been briefed on. They have taken steps to correct that now and if that happens again I am sure that he is going to be au courant as far as a takedown overseas."
By the CNN Wire Staff
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama brought the long political struggle over the military's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy to a
close Wednesday, signing legislation that will bring an end of the ban on openly gay men and women serving in the armed forces.
The president signed the bill repealing the 17-year ban in front an jubilant crowd of supporters at the Department of Interior. Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, were among those in attendance.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen was also present for the occasion.
The repeal "will strengthen our national security and uphold (America's) ideals," Obama said. "No longer will tens of thousands of Americans in uniform be asked to live a lie."
"I believe this is the right thing to do for our military," he added. "It's the right thing to do, period."
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (CNN) - CNN senior White House correspondent Ed Henry and I visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial to gauge reaction to President Obama's historic signing of the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell Wednesday morning.
We also interviewed two gay veterans, Jeff Cadavona (Ret. U.S. Air Force) and his partner Dale Head (Ret. U.S. Army), who live on Oahu and served in the U.S. military long before Don't Ask Don't Tell, back when gay people were simply banned from serving. Both of them are glad to be alive to see the law repealed.
After speaking to veterans and non-veterans of all ages, Henry found that most people thought this was a long time coming and would have happened sooner if not for politics.
CNN senior photojournalist Peter Morris shot and edited this story.