November 9th, 2010
11:02 AM ET
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) - Even on days when he's jet-lagged and probably still reeling from that shellacking in the midterm election, President Obama can't help blurting out sometimes that the perks of being the commander-in-chief are pretty cool.
So today's third attempt at a visit was only going to last for about 21 hours. But adding insult to injury, the quick stay was even more rushed than expected because volcanic ash spewing from Mount Merapi will likely force Obama's short schedule to be, well, shortened some more. Experts say the ash can be destructive to jet engines. White House officials will likely get the president - and the rest of us - out of here a few hours earlier to make sure Air Force One and other planes in the U.S. delegation can safely arrive in South Korea for the next stop.
But first the president had to deal with a driving rain falling here as he and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived here for the elaborate outdoor ceremonies that are a staple in Asian countries. Then when we got our first real glimpse at Obama beyond just the arrival photo-ops, he showed up at a joint news conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono looking pretty tired and jet-lagged like the rest of us. But when a reporter asked Obama to reminisce a little about his days in Indonesia, his mood seemed to brighten, as he talked about arriving in 1967 and finding the best way to get around town was by riding this "sort of bicycle rickshaw thing" in the streets. "Sort of like little taxis but you stood in the back and it was very crowded," said Obama. "Now as president I can't even see any traffic because they block all of the streets."
It reminded me of another rare moment when Obama previously let his hair down about the perks of the job while staying in of my favorite cities, Las Vegas, back in May 2009. Obama was delivering remarks at a fundraiser for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at Caesars Palace, the casino hotel that then-Sen. Obama had grown to like during his many nights on the Strip in 2008 campaigning against Hillary Clinton in the hotly-contested Nevada caucuses. "I thought I had a pretty nice room [before]," Obama said to laughter. "But now that I'm President, they upgraded me. I got the upgrade. And it's a really nice room now."
I didn't realize just how nice the president's room was until I read Barbara De Lollis' fun blog at usatoday.com, Hotel Check-in, that uncovers fun travel tidbits. De Lollis reported that Obama "stayed in a 22,000 square foot suite - equal to roughly 10 average-sized American homes - in Caesars' renovated Forum Tower." Besides having great views of the Strip, the suite has an outdoor patio with a private pool. I guess it's the type of room reserved for movies like "Rain Man" and "Hangover" - and traveling presidents, who even on a bad day have it pretty good.