Obama’s Walk on the Outside

American presidents don’t often walk the streets of Washington.

Harry S Truman was the last president who often took strolls around town.

But occasionally it happens. Such as today.

“The bear is loose. I broke out of the cage,” President Barack Obama proclaimed today.

The 44th president abandoned the typical motorcade and hoofed it to the Interior Department, a few blocks away, with a few reporters trailing him. Some vehicles were standing by, in case it rained.

The president suggested to a department audience that he’s tired of being cooped up: “I think about the thrill of going on a hike without a security detail behind me. It’s a wistful feeling.”

The last time Obama left the White House complex on foot was Oct. 4, 2013, when he and Vice President Joe Biden walked to Taylor Deli, one very long block away on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, for lunch during the partial federal government shutdown.

Startled tourists from Israel and China got a chance today to chat with the president, who slung his suit coat over his shoulder wearing a button-down shirt and tie.

One of the Israelis, celebrating a birthday, got a shout-out from the president.

The task at hand at Interior was signing a proclamation designating the  Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico.

House Speaker John Boehner criticized the designation, saying it undermines border security.

It fits  well with tourism, the White House said in a message this week: “There is no time to waste to preserve our precious resources and to give a shot in the arm to local communities like Las Cruces.”

Finishing his speech, Obama walked back to the White House, encountering still more tourists.

Yet the Secret Service was on duty.

A woman from the Outer Banks of North Carolina said she was totally surprised. A moment before her encounter with the commander-in-chief, a Secret Service agent approached and said he needed to look in her bag.

 – Written with Angela Greiling Keane, walking with, and smartphone photographing, the president.

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